Los de Abajo ‘Mariachi Beat’ (Wrasse) 4/5

los-de-abajoMexican roots meet rock, electronica and more besides band Los de Abajo personify the eclectic approach to music in twenty-first century Mexico and this latest project is an intriguing one for it is a modern update on the myriad traditional sounds of the country. No single CD could ever capture the sheer diversity of music available in Mexico, but this covers quite a few styles and in a thoroughly contemporary setting. One of the strongest numbers is the funk-tinged ‘Ya me voy’ which has Latin percussion and horns that might reasonably grace a salsa recording. Equally there is a salsa feel in the intro to ‘Toro y Regina’ where flamenco and modern drum beats collide to great effect. For some rootsier material, the fast paced ‘Cicatrices’ works extremely well with lead singer Tania Melo in the ascendancy while the sound of the accordion, often associated with the Tex-Mex genre, is heard on ‘Mexicano’. Cumbia is a hugely popular style that Mexicans have in the first instance borrowed from Columbians and then made into their own unique variety and Los de Abajo expertly fuse this with some Chic-esque rhythm guitar on the opening section of ‘Turn Off’. Only the rock-electro flavoured ‘Downtown’ disappoints to any extent with the melody lost amidst the instrumentation, though even this may track be club land destined. For jazzier flavours, the flute and saxophone in the intro to ‘Mexican Underdogs’ impresses with the title a nod, perhaps, to the famous Charles Mingus autobiography title and a musician who regularly sampled Mexican music in his own work. All in all a typically fine album from a group at the heart of Mexico City’s creative hub.

Tim Stenhouse