various artists,
Beatwave Argentina
(Sonic360, 2004)

Beatwave Argentina is a solid compilation dance-album and an intriguing example of how technology is revolutionizing recorded music from performance to distribution. The release features electronic instruments, rhythm tracks, vocoding, samples and loops. We've come a long way since the Edison Cylinder -- not to mention the bone flute. The release also reminds us that influences are no longer only local. Thanks to recordings and digital networks Argentine artists are as likely to hear what's happening in Europe as in Buenos Aires. And finally, Beatwave Argentina is only available by download from the Sonic360 site. The music world is in big trouble if the grid fails.

All this technology can be used for good or evil. It's not the gun, it's the shooter. At least that's what Charleton Heston told me. With the world on an iPod, composers and arrangers have many more sounds and ideas to incorporate into their own national style. When it works, they grow and create stronger music. If their own art disappears under the weight of foreign influences, we lose something unique.

The sound here is more house than tango, but most of these Argentine shooters are hanging onto their heritage. The tango is often sensual, dark and driven, and so is electronic club music. It's not hard to make the combination work. Those performances I like best use South American colors for spice and variety alongside steady and insistent house beats.

The first track is a good one, but an odd choice to start the trip. It's "Minim Jobim" by Meesiva and closer to samba than tango, as you might guess from the title. The piece is short and foamy, bringing a little Brazilian cheer into weightier Argentine surroundings.

The punning title of the next tune is also a tip off. It's "Bando-lero" ("bandit") by Index. I dig the mysterious Ry Cooder-like entrance, the repetitive bolero bass line and light bandoneon accents. (The bandoneon is similar to a small accordion and the instrument you're most likely to hear in a Buenos Aires tango club.) Index does a super job of showing how much sense the album concept makes. House repetition is perfect for the trance-like state dancers get into, but can get monotonous if you're not dancing. The rhythm and color touches here make for richer listening without sounding out of place.

The sound of "Abusada (Abused)" by Burnin' Vibra belies its title. It is lighter -- closer to a pop song. It features a tango beat and one of the few vocals on the release. The group hasn't cut its own album yet, but shows more mainstream potential than others here.

Beatwave Argentina includes 10 tracks by 10 producers from all over Argentina. Though many are close in sound to European house music, all at least suggest where the recordings were made by including a hint of Latin in the bass line or among the rhythm instruments. The varied artists, moods and tempos keep your attention. If you like electronic club music and are looking for something a little different, give this one a try.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 5 March 2005