Siete Raíces is in turns tender, tough and powerfully psychedelic, but it never feels scattershot. Album highlight "Guarida" is a slow, spacious ballad featuring singer Sara Van. The production is razor sharp, the songwriting stirring and Van's low voice hangs in the air like cigarette smoke. It's surprising how easygoing it is compared to Dengue's usual party music, but they pull it off with style. "La Rama De Tamarindo" samples the 90-something Colombian singer and percussionist Magín Díaz, splicing hand drums and shaker phrases into interlocking grooves. The richly textured rhythms make the simple melodies feel more poignant. Using one basic chord change and a handful of synthesizer notes, the duo leave room for the drama to play out in the drums.
Siete Raíces has a fair share of club tools. "Murdah" and "The Enemy" are both influenced by the quick kick drum patterns of Chicago footwork, the former sounding like a South American response to Addison Groove's 2010 anthem "Footcrab." The weighty "R2" places babbling tambor rhythms over a thick bedrock of sub-bass, and it's elegantly mixed to make the organic and synthetic textures congeal. There are, however, occasional issues with sound design and some unimaginative sample work. Hearing a soundbite of some Jamican man saying "badman" or "murdah" at the end of a four-measure phrase feels downright cliché compared to how thoughtful everything else is. Those moments, along with a few plastic synth patches, make for occasional bumps on an otherwise thrilling ride.
The range of emotions maneuvered across these ten tracks is impressive. On one end, there are bass-forward bangers, and on the other are almost spiritual tracks like "Amazonia," a sweet, melody-driven collaboration with Mexican producer Toy Selectah and Enchufada label boss Branko. Dengue have clearly expanded their vocabulary since their previous album, experimenting with a variety of new tempos and emotional tenors. They achieve what many musicians hope for on their sophomore album: that sweet spot between growing as an artist and sticking to a style of one's own.