Various Artists: Blue Sueños

[17 October 2005]

By John Bergstrom

PopMatters Associate Music Editor

Mañana Coming Down

Blue Sueños is a strong contender for Comedown Album of the Year. You know, something that soothes your soul and body while you recover from that wicked hangover or ugly argument or brain-freezing day at the office. This simple collection of eleven different takes on languid, Latin-flavored mellowness does a great job of maintaining a mood without necessarily putting you to sleep. Nothing more, nothing less; but, in a time when baffling, ineffective mixes are commonplace, it’s appreciated.

The compilation’s curator, Lisa Richardson, the popular DJ from Los Angeles’ KCRW, has put together a selection of tracks that complement each other nicely and seamlessly mix traditional elements with modern electronics. Here, gentle solo guitar pieces can coexist with beat-driven trip-hop; KFC-coifed guitarist Buckethead (yes, Buckethead!) and prog-minded dubmesiter Bill Laswell can both contribute without either sounding out of place. If this sounds like a weird, wonderful place—it is.

The nice thing is that each track has its own identity, yet Blue Sueños avoids the “what the hell?” kitchen-sink approach that a lot of “chill out” comps have taken lately. Where those releases seem to be compiled with the broadest possible marketing cross-section in mind, Sueños is content to fill its little niche. And that’s no problem when you have tracks as inviting and varied as Buckethead’s “Planeta”; which, with its electric lead meandering through gently strummed acoustics, sounds for all the world like it should be soundtracking the tragic post-shootout scene in a Robert Rodriguez movie. Or Kevin Johansen & the Nada’s “Cumbiera Intelectual”, a warm, seductive co-ed pop song that successfully employs Jim Jarmusch, Jean Cocteau and lazy slide guitar.

If Roxy Music had ever done a cha cha track, it might have sounded something like Cha3 & el Totopo’s “Ella Uso…”. The arch, Ferry-like vocals and off-kilter organ provide an intriguing counterpoint to the swaying rhythm and syncopated percussion. If you want a slightly more techno approach, try Charles Webster’s remix of Noro Morales’ “Tuyo Soy”, which recalls early 808 State, or Fat Jon’s hip hop-inspired “Risk It All”. There’s also the techno-norteña “Paraiso” from veteran Latin goth band Terlenka, but the melodramatic, nearly operatic vocals are the one spot where the album gets off-message.

The fact that Blue Sueños so successfully maintains a particular mood limits its appeal; the album is best appreciated from a reclined position. But its very existence means you can cash in all those hackneyed “chill out” comps in your collection.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/various-bluesuenos/