We generally use terms like “airy”, “lush”, and “ethereal” to describe music that is ambient and beat-less. Enter DJ Python—aka Bryan Piniero—whose music is often described in such terms despite going heavy on the groove. In Python’s world, few sounds come to us cleanly or sharply; instead, they come bathed in a sleek, vaporous, watery tone, everything smudged and saturated at the corners. Nowhere is this more evident than on Mas Amable, his latest LP for the Incensio label. It’s his first full-length since 2017’s Dulce Compañia, where he first perfected his unique, downtempo style of “deep reggaeton”.
On Mas Amable, everything plods along in a liquid haze. Each song slowly mutates into the next, and each sound seems to become something unlike itself. The album is essentially driven by one groove, but that groove takes so many odd twists and turns that by the end, it’s barely recognizable. Yet these twists and turns occur so gradually, and with such microtonal precision, that the effect is literally hypnotic: you feel like you couldn’t possibly be listening to the same beat, but you are. The whole thing is one long, loopy, continuous dream, drifting but never arriving, sedating but never dulling.
Dulce Compañia began amidst a whirl of soft, slippery chime tones, sedating the listener right away. On the first track of Mas Amable, “Te Conoci”, the effect is even more serene—ambient keyboard pads hover over a foggy array of found sounds, including what sounds like a slowly-churning water mill. The first real melody kicks in around the four-minute mark, driven by piano, but the melody comes on so slowly it’s barely audible at first. That’s a hallmark of this record; unless you’re really paying attention, it’s hard to catch where one sound begins and another ends. Everything is light, buoyant, and elusive. Any sound could skitter away at any moment, changing the whole nature of the piece.
The piano melody from “Te Conoci” takes us straight into “Pia”, where the hi-hats arrive, and the album’s defining off-kilter drum pattern clocks in. Here the keyboard passage fades, leaving the drums to carry their own weight. By the time we reach track three, “Alejandro”, the found sounds and ambient pads are gone. Pineyro throws a Guiro—a Latin percussion instrument that produces a scratchy, ratchet sound—into the mix, in addition to some distant whistling synths. But at this point, a kind of bare-bones techno takes over—naked, skeletal, everything minimizing to a singular beat. The album feels like it’s actively trying to figure itself out as it goes along, shedding unwanted elements, extraneous layers. Is it moving backward or forward? Is it falling apart, or just discarding unnecessary parts? These are questions Mas Amable seems to be asking us. And there are no easy answers.
There is some comfort, however. On the 11-minute “ADMSDP”, the LP’s emotional center-point, we get a guest appearance from poet LA Warman. She offers a kind of guided meditation that tells us, among other things, to “say goodbye to everything in your mind” and “it’s OK to feel hopeless because the whole world is hopeless”. Her words are hardly reassuring, but they feel oddly cathartic, especially given her soft, sexy, half-whispered delivery. Later, she asks, “What would it mean for you to touch your body? To feel how soft you are / How warm you are / How smooth your surfaces?” Her voice radiates warmth, tenderness, a kind of motherly, nurturing sensuality. The beat takes a big switch-up here, becoming slower, clunkier, more polyrhythmic. The clunkiness seems to be the point—just as LA Warman attempts to break down our thoughts, to redirect our perspective, the song itself breaks down, redirecting its central groove.
At times, however, the LP seems almost too reliant on its central groove. “Juntos” follows on the heels of “ADMSDP”, but offers little more than a slight variation of the same chugging beat. A lack of synths, pads, and overall detail plagues the latter half the record. That’s not to say there are no highlights on the second half, though—track eight, poignantly titled “mmmm”, may be the finest moment of the LP. “mmmm” is nothing fancy—here, the beat becomes more defined, taking on a stompy hi-hop flavor. Pineyro tops it off with a beautiful, glistening keyboard passage that sounds like it could’ve come straight from a Beach House song. It’s the melodic highwater mark of the record and serves as a kind of rejoinder to the album’s summery beginnings.
Things come full-circle on the last track, an edit of “ADMSDP”. LA Warman’s voice drifts back into the fore, asking us, “Where was the last place that you felt OK?” before drifting into another long meditative sequence. It’s a fitting tie-in for such a singular record, a record that stays true to its main ingredients amidst a backdrop of incremental, painstaking change. No doubt, Mas Amable is occasionally painstaking, occasionally taxing. It’s an album for the true initiates, unlike its more accessible counterpart, Dulce Compañia. Whereas Dulce Compañia took the listener track by track, Mas Amable is basically just one big track. It’s a track that shapeshifts constantly. But does it so subtly, so imperceptibly, that every little detail feels natural, free-flowing, unobtrusive—like it never changed at all.