Puerta Del Sur
Blazing a trail by playing some of the hardest-hitting and far-reaching modern salsa for 23 years now, Bio Ritmo have grown into one of the most intriguing and influential Latin dance bands of the last two decades. They are true rebels who have defied being pigeonholed and have helped pioneer a new generation of musicians (aka Nueva Generación) that thrive on the spirit of experimentation that once defined the '70s Latin sound that became known as "salsa." From hipster rock clubs in Brooklyn to "salsa bars" in Cali, Colombia, Bio Ritmo keeps the bodies on the dancefloor with their nitty-gritty, vintage grooves while turning heads with their experimental synth tones, innovative harmonies and thought-provoking lyrics. They convert the skeptics who only know the overly commercialized, tacky veneer of Latin music and challenge the purist who hitherto believed the genre died during the '90s. They have a fierce, almost punk-rock DIY ethos that pervades their attitude and style, releasing their records either by themselves or on indie and hip-hop labels like Merge, Fat Beats and, Electric Cowbell. They cite Stereolab and Brazilian psychedelic music as influences in the same breath as name-dropping Ray Barretto, Roberto Roena and classic Fania records. It's no surprise that their new record, Puerta Del Sur, is presented on Vampisoul, a Spanish label whose mission is to resurrect "lost" Latin music. The title of the record, Puerta del Sur, which translates as "Door to the South," addresses Bio Ritmo's unique and seemingly incongruous placement in the locale of Richmond, Virginia. It's a cosmic coincidence that has nurtured the group for its entire career. "It's where we're from. We're a southern band," Puerto Rican-born lead singer and composer Rei Álvarez posits. Each track on Puerta Del Sur takes the listener on a different journey through Afro-Cuban and other rhythms, mixed with far-reaching harmonic movements blended with vintage keyboard sounds, analog synthesizer surprises and sophisticated, stylized horn arrangements. '"Codeína," the final track, stands out as the most unique and innovative song on the album. Written in the aesthetic of a Latin bolero-meets-1960s Egyptian-classical, it features a string section, Farfisa organs and various Arabic percussion instruments. It is a collaboration between Bio Ritmo's main writers Giustino Riccio, Álvarez and pianist and composer Marlysse Simmons, who cite inspiration from their obsession with '60s and '70s Arabic, Greek and Turkish music. Bio Ritmo are true Latin music visionaries. The group's innovative and unique approach to the genre puts them at the forefront of the "new generation of salsa music."