Available now on ESL Music (April 17, 2012)
There’s a hotel in Palm Springs, California, where the stars of mid-twentieth century Hollywood went to escape fame. Poolside, they relaxed in the sun, put cocktails on their tabs, listened to the latest breed of jazz. Still in operation, the getaway has perfected the art of retro-modern. Today, the young, hip, and rich sit in chairs designed by Eames and Saarinen, listening to an endless supply of remixed lounge. This summer, they will be listening to Congo Sanchez’s Volume 1.
But here’s the secret: Sanchez sounds just as good in a lawn chair by a kiddie pool. As with other albums from Eighteenth Street Lounge (home to Thievery Corporation and Ursula 1000), the music of Congo Sanchez surrounds its listener without necessarily drawing attention to itself. Sanchez claims a blend of Afro Latin dub, but that’s more of a garnish on ambient-electronic tracks like “Democrazy” and “Ghost Dance.” Cuban influence is more distilled in the rhythms of “Oleada Calor,” while the horn section of “T.E.T.O. (strut)” is clearly inspired by Afrobeat. All of this blends together in a seamless, worldly carnation of jazz.
What we have here is practically a soundtrack for running through the sprinkler and grilling burgers. It’s as relaxing with a lemonade as it is with a gin and tonic. It is made of familiar ingredients, and yet you’ve never heard it this way. The percussion energizes, the bass line grooves, the synthy melodies and echos offer relaxation. My only complaint is that, at four tracks adding up to just over 17 minutes, it ends too quickly.