The Rough Guides have been going nuts with the Latin stuff. In two months they’ve popped out three compilations, Salsa Clandestina, Latino Nuevo, and Latin Funk, one after the other, the whole lot compiled by Pablo Yglesias, an American DJ who sounds like a busy man. (He curates art exhibitions! He writes! He percusses!) Some of the musicians manage to be on two or three things at once. Bakú, The Spam Allstars, and Ozomatli are Funk, Salsa, and Nuevo. Cuban Cowboys and Alex Wilson are Nuevo and Salsa but miss out on the trifecta by not being sufficiently Funky. Los Amigos Invisibles are both S. and F. but not N. Etc.
The compilation we’re looking at here is the most general of the three. Its goal is to introduce us to music that is “exciting, innovative” and identifiably Latino (in that it has salsa trumpets or songo beats, say, to go with its more geographically unplaceable rock guitars or fusion remixes) and in this it succeeds. We move from laid-back José Conde y Ola Fresca and “Ride la Ola” to the faster sound of Cuban Cowboys and “Jardin de la Verdad”, then power down to the happy backbeat-and-panpipes lounge of Hector Buitrago’s “Música Somos” and take off again with Rico Pabón whose rap “Lay Em Down” is the most sombre track on the album. Some of the bands have reputations preceding them; others are new. It feels like a studio-polished mixtape, and, as with any mixtape, you’ll possibly like some things a lot and others not quite so much. (For the record, I liked Cuban Cowboys a lot, Welfare Poets less, and was disappointed by the Yerba Buena track only because I’ve heard other songs from this band that I preferred.)