Una Y Otra Vez is Sergent Garcia’s musical discovery of Colombia and a crazy patchwork of Caribbean rhythms, pop and hip hop. The result of a trip around the country and collaborations with some of its hottest acts, the record is more upbeat than most parties you’ve ever been. Along 14 songs, Garcia manages to bring together a ridiculous range of genres into a fusion style he calls “salsamuffin.” There’s ska, reggae, rock, hip hop, folkloric, cumbia, balkan, cuban rumba, cuban son, and bolero. If this seems like too much for one album, that’s because it is. Cohesion is not the word to describe this work, but analyze all you want and you’ll still be left with an adventurous record that can take you on a hell of a fun ride. Along the way, Garcia’s joined by some of Colombia’s best.
This is the sixth full-length release by Bruno Garcia, who started his career as a member of Ludwig von 88, a household name on the Parisian punk and alternative rock scene during the 80’s and 90’s. With the adoption of the name Sergent Garcia a new musical identity also followed, crafted by his investigation into Latin music styles such as Colombian cumbia, Puerto Rican bomba and plena, as well as fundamentals of Cuban music. The will to seek inspiration in loco and interact with local musicians has been a trademark of his in early works such as 2003’s La Semilla Escondida, born after a trip to Jamaica and Cuba, and Mascara (2006), filled with urban street sounds he heard on the road, especially in Mexico.
In Una y Otra Vez, his research found a musical treasure in the fertile Colombian scene. Six years ago, when he was there working on an EP, the country was bursting with bands that in a couple of years would turn out some of the most exciting new music in South America. Garcia picked up on that tendency and decided to go back to record a full album. With producer Ivan Darroman Montoya he first set the foundations for the songs in Valencia, Spain. Then proceeded to take the tracks to Paris, where the Sergent Garcia band members had their way with them.
Afterwards, in Colombia, he worked with singer Erika Muñoz, from electro-tropical pioneers Sidestepper, members from La-33; Colombia’s top young salsa band, and many others. “Mi Son Mi Friend,” with guest Li Saumet, the hip vocalist from one of Colombia’s most original duos today, Bomba Estereo, stands out for its perfect mix of electro-cumbia and reggaeton tempered with a Vallenato accordion and seductive clarinet playing by Jacobo Velez, director of the group La Mojarra Electrica. Garcia’s psychedelic blends work surprisingly well on other tracks such as “To Mi To Mi” (where he throws in a Jackson 5 sample among electronic sounds and rapping in French, English and Spanish) or “Ojos Inocentes,” a refreshing song that pairs Balkan rhythms with reggae and hip hop. Those are the moments that live up to the album’s global ambitions, reflected everywhere from the rhythms, the tracks in Spanish, French and English and the translated comments that accompany the lyrics on the artsy booklet.
Of course that with variety comes risk and there are some strike outs here. The “Bolero Nuevo” (first bolero Garcia ever wrote) sounds overly depressing and totally misplaced among feel-goods like “Yo Soy Salsa Muffin,” “Vasito de Agua” and “El Baile del Diablo.” Cuban rumba “En Mi Mochila” is another odd one out with its everlasting minutes of nothing but percussion and voice. Nevertheless, the fun moments overshadow the weak parts in this daring work.