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Review Campo – Bajofondo Presenta: Campo

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In late May, Uruguayan super producer and Bajofondo co-founder Juan Campodónico unleashed his newest musical adventure under the stage name Campo. The record, Bajofondo Presenta: Campo, is the producer’s take on the recent explosion of South American folklore and electronic music fusions, but with a twist. With Campo, Campodónico created his own genre, “subtropical music”, which explores the sonic intersections between British pop, rock, bossa nova, neo-tango, cumbia villera, Cuban bolero, cha-cha-cha, and experimental electronic music. What he ended up with is a stylish study of contrasting sounds and influences that will not only make a few ‘Best of 2012’ lists, but will also be remembered as an innovative pop record for years to come.

It’s one thing to jump on the whole folktronica bandwagon while it’s still rolling, but Campodónico has managed to neatly avoid falling in the trap by straying from the “old+ new” equation. As he describes it on his website, the record is a mixture of “South American sounds out of context” looked at from a pop perspective. That is part of the reason why the record plays more like a mixtape than a cohesive album. The tracks rarely relate to each other (sonically or thematically) and that is not a bad thing, mainly because it doesn’t impose an order or a theme on the listener. On the contrary, Campo is one of those albums that lets the listener choose what he/she is in the mood for.

Take for example the opening track “La Marcha Tropical”, with sultry vocals by Swedish singer Ellen Arkbro. The song itself starts with cumbia’s percussive base and then morphs into an electro tinged neo-tango with a bossa nova feel. It is interesting to note that while Arkbro’s intervention here is in Spanish, she doesn’t speak the language. Nonetheless, her vocals don’t feel forced, as her diction is near perfect and she seems to know when to put feelings and accents into the words. The musical fusion found in this track doesn’t repeat itself on the album. The nearest cousin to this sound was released as the record’s first single, “Cumbio”. But, this song is whole different monster, as it juxtaposes cumbia villera with British new wave synths and indie pop underscored by a killer bass line.

“Devil Waits (For Me)” and “El Viento” fall closer to Campodónico’s work with Bajofondo in the neo-tango front, each offering a pop music update while still maintaining tango’s aggressive sensuality. “Zorzal” is a beautiful mid-record breather where Campodónico embraces an experimental electronic music approach. However, one of the biggest achievements of this record is the song “1987”, featuring longtime collaborator Jorge Drexler. The track fuses Cuban bolero with guitar rock and electronic music. Drexler’s vocals sound like they could’ve been recorded by Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, had Gahan possessed Drexler’s dark sensibility and weary optimism.

As a whole, the record embodies Campodónico’s concept of “subtropical”: music that feels at home in the warmth of the Caribbean as it does in the coldness of the Southern Cone. The album’s sound is also aided by the colour palette Campo has chosen for the record sleeve and videos. The interstitial for “Cumbio” is full of washed out reds, oranges and yellows, while the videos for “La Marcha Tropical” and “1987” turn to the coolness of blues and greens. The record, along with its accompanying visuals, offers a full aesthetic experience for those willing to look into it a little deeper.

Bajofondo Presenta: Campo features most of Bajofondo’s musicians and longtime collaborators, including Verónica Loza, Martin Rivero and Pablo Bonilla. It was also produced by Campodónico and multiple Grammy winner, Gustavo Santaolalla. On December 7th, they were nominated in the “Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative” category for the 2013 Grammy Awards. You can also find amazing remixes by Pablo Bonilla and Santé Les Amis, as well as the English cut of “1987” as free downloads in Campo’s Soundcloud page.

Bajofondo Presenta: Campo is available from iTunes


 

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