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Salvadora Robot

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Album Review

Bogota's Meridian Brothers have always been as much a legend as a band. They were created by composer, multi-instrumentalist, and strategist Eblis Álvarez (also a member of Los Pirañas, Ondatrópica, and Frente Cumbiero). He composes, produces, and plays everything on the studio records but is backed by a real band when playing live. The meld of electronic music, production savvy, Pan-Latin rhythms, psychedelia, classical composition, and vanguard methodology has drawn Anglo comparisons to Frank Zappa as well as the Residents. It's flattering, but not accurate. Salvadora Robot, MB's sophomore outing for Soundway, differs from its predecessor Desesperanza. That work focused almost exclusively on putting Álvarez's quirky strangeness to work with salsa and cumbia rhythms. Here he employs a range of mostly Caribbean rhythms; with others (such as cumbia) often woven into their fabric. All ten tunes are illustrated by killer guitars, innovative electronics, vocal treatments, and sharp humor. Percussion is organic and sampled; guitar tunings are unusual, as are notions of timbre and pitch. But it all grooves. "Somos los Residentes" uses Dominican merengue, but its mix of repetitive reeds, clattering drums, frenetic bassline, and chanted vocals brings the tradition forward into a hallucinatory world. The title track uses Peruvian guitars atop driving cumbian percussion, loopy keyboards, and an angular bridge that transforms it into a tropical party tune. "De Mi Caballo, Como Su Carne" is psychedelic 21st century Latin bugalu with reverbed guitars, punchy electronics, and piano-playing montunos. "Doctor Trompeta" employs vallenato in a hip-hop-esque vocal delivery with a taut, modern son groove, stretched by the mix to the breaking point. The instrumental "El Gran Pájaro de los Andes" combines Peruvian, Bolivian, and surf guitar styles, Trinidadian rhythms, loops, Farfisa, and synths. Its effect is akin to cartoon serial music. "La Tristeza: Invitando a Salvadora" begins with champeta, caressed by minor-key synths and guitars as the drums and loops evolve into reggaeton. "Baile Ultimo: Del Preso Que Va a la Silla Eléctrica por Ofensa a la Moral Colombiana" is the album's finest moment. Its satiric narrative about a man sentenced to the electric chair for dancing to too much reggaeton offers a wicked commentary on Colombian culture's notions of "good taste." Álvarez uses the form, but warps and twists it through blistering electro. Salvadora Robot is not just for Latin music fans. Its weirdness, humor, and rhythmic invention are very accessible; it's a hell of a lot of fun to listen and dance to. Further, his compositions, arrangements, and production are intricate, detailed, and adventurous. The guitar and organic percussion playing are astonishing. The musical discipline and creative imagination at work in these songs places this album in a league of its own.


Formed: 1998 in Bogota, Colombia

Genre: Latino

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Bogota's the Meridian Brothers are the creation of Eblis Álvarez, who writes, arranges, produces, plays, and sings everything on their recordings, though when the band plays live he is aided by other musicians. Their music is almost unclassifiable, a bracing meld of electronic and organic instruments, influenced by Latin rock, psychedelia, Frank Zappa, the Residents, modern vanguard electronic music, and South American and Caribbean folk traditions and rhythms. Created in Bogota, Colombia in 1998,...
Full Bio
Salvadora Robot, Meridian Brothers
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