El Origen - Los Macuanos

Nacional Records

There is no stealth in music except for maybe Christian Rock, which is religious music dressed up as secular music. That perceived attempt at deception is why the genre is lost on me.  Music innately reflects all the inspirations and situations that create it. With the release of El Origen by Los Macuanos, affectionately known as the 'Mexican Krafwerk', we also see that music, unlike a mirror, reflects even in the absence of light. The trio was born out Tijuana's recent drug cartel wars, a very dark reality that stalks the kitschy tourista border town. Echoing the narco-corridos, (electro-folk songs that have been written about the drug trade), Los Macuanos are at the core of a movement which informed a style known as ruidison. Sparse and haunting, the electronics of El Origen are peppered with folkloric samples and loops. The rhythms are down-tempo, occasionally livened with norteno or cumbia; otherwise chilled in trip-hop. But, the minimalist backbone of analog synth, Theremin and other electronic music prototypes is what gives Los Macuanos' sound that Kraftwerk sci-fi vibe. El Origen is not an album project. It's a collection of music recorded over their, to date, four years as a band. The trio has apparently since moved away from TJ, finding a home in the burgeoning arts scene in Mexico City. Because it's a collection, El Origen avoids the preponderance of front-loading, making for a balanced listen from top to bottom. Standouts include the opener, El Metralleta (The Gun), a track that sets the tone, time and place for the music in the narco-culture of the drug wars. A personal favorite Pasado y Presente (Past and Present) is an alluring, swirling trip hop composition featuring the whispery vocals of Barcelona singer, Lucrecia Dalt over a psych bed of what sounds like backwards steel pan. Mar Negro is another delicious groove, this time showcasing the talents of acknowledged Thereminist, May Roosevelt. That strikes me as a both a cool gig and the best business card ever.