Music Review: Congo Sanchez – Volume 1

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Congo Sanchez
Volume 1
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.

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