Music Review: Congo Sanchez – Vol. 1 (2012, ESL Music)

Somewhere between Tony Allen, War and Thievery, Congo Sanchez  blends Afro-latin with Downtempo music to offer a relaxing yet stimulating instrumental journey

Genre: Latin / Afro-Dub / Afrobeat / Psychedelic

Region: Washington DC, USA

Artists Website: Congo Sanchez

Label: ESL Music

This is a short piece of beautiful music: rhythmically rich without being overwhelming, chilled without being slouchy, masterfully blending sounds not merely ‘mashing’. Congo Sanchez, being adherent of the multiethnic musical scene of Washington DC, has gathered enough experience from his jamming sessions with Thievery Corporation, Funk Ark and The Empesarios to let his solo career commence. In those 17 minutes of ‘Vol. 1’ we can hear Afro-Latin percussive music with funky guitars and vintage keys with a strong laid back, psychedelic, Afro-dub vibe.

This EP is all-instrumental, primarily ‘organic’, focusing and stimulating the listener’s mind. Bring in mind the border-repealing funk of War or even Mandrill as well as the afrobeat vibe of Tony Allen (especially in T.E.T.O.) from the spacey, dubby downtempo prism typical of the ESL imprint. ‘Democrazy’ sets the beat with precise afro-drumming, subtle guitar work and otherworldly synths and samples. Stunning in its simplicity, something that holds for the whole EP.

Oleada Calor’ continues in the same direction but with the keys pronounced. With retro sound, directly from the 1960 and expanded by a contemporary dubbing production, the keys are charting refined timbres – a ground for evasion from here and now. What becomes noticeable also in the sonically-similar number, ‘Ghost Dance’, is that Congo Sanchez has been forging his own musical territory – a balance between riddims and dreams.

The final song, ‘T.E.T.O (strut)‘., brings on the surface what has been manifesting before underneath the layers of laid-back melody: it is an outspoken afrobeat song that could fit even in an Antibalas set. Assisted by the impressive Ikebe Shakedown’s horn section (sax, trumpet and trombone) and his own melodic textures and multi-layered percussions, Congo Sanchez adds another startling piece in an already outstanding EP.

This music works well for both music listening and as a background for work or any other activity. The production is great, ‘flattering’ the material and what is remarkable, is the consistency of Congo Sanchez in forging his own solid style. For those familiar with the sound of ESL as well as with the artists mentioned above ‘Vol. 1’ will be a satisfying experience. Nonetheless this music is pleasant and uncomplicated, therefore it could be enjoyable to anyone with an interest in real music.

The EP will be out 17 April 2012 on ESL Music.

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