For lovers of forward-thinking music rooted in South American traditions, Brooklyn-based record label Names You Can Trust continues to live up to its title and provide a high-quality platform for musicians from countries such as Colombia, Brazil and Argentina to reach diverse and open-minded audiences. The label’s latest release, El Corredor del Jaguar, is a four-track EP from Combo Chimbita, a quartet of talented first-generation New Yorkers from Colombia who were recently featured on our Colombia in NYC program, which examined the diverse community of Colombian musicians and groups who call New York City home.
On the new EP, Combo Chimbita reveals a sound that fuses Afro-Colombian rhythms with an open and psychedelic sonic palette, described in their own words as “cumbia-not-cumbia.” The group is an offshoot of well-established “immigrant band” M.A.K.U. Soundsystem (all four of its members played on the latest M.A.K.U. album), and features Dilemastronauta on drums and vocals, Carolina Oliveros on guacharaca and vocals, Niño Lento on guitar and vocals, and Prince of Queens on synths, bass and vocals. Oliveros is also the lead singer of Bulla en El Barrio, a group dedicated to the practice of bullerengue, a traditional form of music and dance from Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
As Combo Chimbita, the quartet has developed a unique sound, stripped down from the more heavily arranged and structured songs of M.A.K.U. Soundsystem to provide tight, entrancing, and fiercely energetic grooves. The group’s first single, “Puro Show,” was released on Names You Can Trust in 2014. That song’s psychedelic, dubby cumbia sound was reminiscent in some ways of Bogota’s Meridian Brothers, with a calm, cool energy which was critically well received.
El Corredor del Jaguar sees a refinement on that original concept. The sound on the new EP is more energetic and further stripped down, with horns disappearing and Caroline Oliveros’ voice taking a central role, in which she demonstrates her remarkable technical ability (she studied opera and choir at Universidad del Atlántico in Barranquilla, Colombia) while retaining the perfect amount of presence, integrating seamlessly with the sonic texture of the instruments. Among the main strengths of the EP are structural simplicity and sparseness. Each track is built on a main set of rhythmic patterns, with a few carefully positioned and expertly delivered vocal lines and synthesizer improvisations over the top. The guitar playing is a particular highlight, from the intricate Congolese-style lines on “Frio Severo” to the echoing riffs and chords on “Pajaro.” It is clear that these musicians have been performing together for years: They effectively manage to build and release tension throughout each song, setting high expectations for a subtly explosive live performance.
The EP was produced by Greenwood Rhythm Coalition, a duo composed of DJ/producers Monk One (Andrew Mason) and E’s E (Eric Banta), cofounders of and house production team for Names You Can Trust. Their work ensured the warm, clean, powerful sound that is sure to catch the attention of disc jockeys, dancers, and all listeners. We’re thrilled to hear how Combo Chimbita’s sound has progressed since 2014, and look forward to a full-length album from them in the near future.
El Corredor del Jaguar was released digitally and on 7’’ vinyl on Oct. 28, 2016, and is available directly from Names You Can Trust.