Friday, September 19, 2008

Bionic Band: Bio Ritmo CD Release Parties

Bio Ritmo gets the party started for their new album, Bionico, tonight in Brooklyn. They are bringing the party home Saturday night (9/20) to the Capital Ale House in Richmond, Virginia, together with friends Soulpower and the No B.S. Brassband.

Bionico is the culmination of a metamorphosis for the classic salsa band. They emerge from a period of intense songwriting and studio work with master salsa engineer Jon Fausty expressing more of their experimental side. They seem to be reaching for a heartier piece of the World music piechart, with a sound that approaches the hip, funky dance fusions of New York-based Latin bands such as Los Amigos Invisibles and Yerba Buena. They've been spending a lot of time in Brooklyn lately, and the urban village seems to suit them.

If you're a dancer, don't despair. They may have rebuilt themselves better than they were, but Bio Ritmo remains a salsa band with 100% all-natural cojones (and hearts and brains), made in Puerto Rico, and points beyond. They've simply completed a trajectory they, as artists, were always on.

It's the same spirit that drove "classic" salsa in the '70s, from Roberto Roena's Cuban experiments to Willie Colon's Brazilian touches, to the seminal rumba variations of Grupo Folkorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino, and La Sonora Ponceña's jazz sounds and spacious song structures. Our urban guajiros have always experimented with the plugged-in and the organic, the native and the import, the music from the street or barrio next door and that from faraway "home" islands.

Electric sounds have blended before with the shimmy of beads on the naked gourd, the elemental resonances of hierro y cuero, metal and skins. I think of Larry Harlow putting charanga strings and psychedlic interludes into an Arsenio Rodriguez song like "Lo Que Dice Usted," or, as critic Ed Morales recently pointed out, the way Tito Puente dug up mambo sounds from pop culture.

The subtext for these borrowings is often just how "Latin" our pop culture really is. From Star Trek to The Six Million Dollar Man, what's a big adventure-flick or TV theme song without bongos?

Besides, Bio Ritmo's cover of The Six Million Dollar Man theme isn't really a cover. It's a big gulp, an incorporation of who we are, in this generation, into what came before. By daring to fuse new expressions in the salsa idiom, Bio Ritmo is keeping the art form alive in ways that have nothing to do with virtuosity. Plenty of exhilarating bands are producing museum-quality standards, but la musica del pueblo has to continue to speak new things.

Bionico is now available here on iTunes and at all digital retail stores as of Sept. 23. You can purchase the digipak with CD, poster, etc. on the band's website, Their next Triangle tour date is Nov. 7 at the Local 506.

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