A pair of industrious Swedes add their special touch to world dance music, rebouncing and remixing their way to an interesting result.
The two young Swedes that are S.U.M.O. (Swedish Underfed Music Operators), Combo and Alf Tumble, call themselves "rebouncers" instead of "remixers" to emphasize their main goal of creating music for dancing. Fortunately their new release is not a "dance" project where the remix is limited to pumping up the bass and adding clichéd electric beats.
Ironically, these types of projects face an inherent contradiction. An inert listener will be more aware of the repetitiveness of the beats than someone dancing to a DJ's mix. S.U.M.O. gets around this to some extent by working with source material that is naturally rhythmic, if not specifically created for the dance floor. They have a respect for melody, and minimize the "disco breaks" of extended bass and "boom boom" drums by incorporating a skillful, albeit light, touch.
The beats here are polyrhythmic, crafted with subtlety rather than from the tired techno blueprint. These guys have a feel for the African and Latin music they work with; many times they mix loops of acoustic percussion with electric keyboards, giving the tracks a more natural nuance.
The first song, "Zwakalani", benefits from added melodic guitar work by Andreas Oberg. The African guitar riff gets a bit repetitious on the Latin song "Natural High", but the beautiful vocals of the original come through. Meanwhile on Truby Trio's "Make a Move", the duo brings in additional trumpet, trombone, bass, and percussion players to enhance the Latin feel.
Some of the tracks are closer to new recordings than proper remixes. The group Dalminjo recorded a new version of their "Despacito" to be remixed here. "Bare Brass" was built around a sample of the original band. The flute by Gunnar Bergsten that is mixed in adds tasty jazz to an average-sounding Latin workout.
The CD sleeve says that S.U.M.O. only had a vocal track to begin "Spirit of Drums". Since this consists of recitations that include "I define - I redefine" and "the way - the truth - the life - the drums", this lively world creation seems to be an improvement to the original.
"Skindo-Le-Le" and "Free (Deep Samba)" pump up the percussion and bass a bit too much. Still, S.U.M.O. displays their love of Latin music by going easy on the electronic effects and emphasizing the coordination of different rhythms.
"Bahia Groove" is less successful, as Alf Tumble admits that he was influenced by Miami Sound Machine for the remix; there is a reason that those overdone beats are no longer with us. "Living My Life Underground" also suffers from disco days, with bass and drum overkill and their version of "Where Are You Going" brings up the guitar in the mix to replace bland vocals.
Overall this is a successful CD, with a lot of variety and generally good source material. A case might be made that sometimes the remixes were unnecessary. For example, the S.U.M.O. rebounce of "Ever After" just adds different beats, without really enhancing the light-as-a-feather feel of the original. On the other hand, many of the artists redone here are unjustly obscure, so this CD acts as a re-introduction if not an actual introduction.
For the most part, S.U.M.O.'s wrestling with these tracks has created grooves that are worth exploring.