Synth-driven electronic cumbia.
This year, Turbo Sonidero unveiled a new project called Grupo Jejeje, with the Persian-British producer Arrabalero ("jejeje" is the sound of laughter in Spanish). Their self-titled LP is the first release from the Los Angeles label Discos Rolas, which aims to "explore the cosmic sounds of Latin America through art and anthropology." You can hear the influence of cumbia editada on the album, with its woozy rhythms and sludgy sub bass. You can also hear the influence of cumbia poblana, from the nearby state of Puebla, a regional variant known for wacky, colorful melodies. But there's a third element to the duo's sound that makes it so memorable: the way they use plasticky polysynths reminiscent of producers like Fatima Al Qadiri, Nguzunguzu or Elysia Crampton.
Some tracks are slow and some are really slow, but for the most part we get the same chun-chaca-chun-chaca cumbia beat for 40 minutes. That constant, unshakeable rhythm means Grupo Jejeje can go absolutely nuts on the melodies and samples—and they do, especially on tracks like "Citlalli," with its synth flute arpeggios, or "Sitlalan," where they seem to experiment with wrong notes on purpose. "Virgen Del Carmen" borrows a vocal refrain from the '90s Mexican rap group Viva La Paz, a nod to Turbo Sonidero's past life as a hip-hop producer. "El Llanta Del Faraon" is peppered with machine-gun sounds, sexy noises and sinister laughter—silly canned samples that are true to the sonidero tradition, which involves DJs layering over their music in real time. The album closer, "Escarabajos," is like a storm of shimmering synthesizer lines, all competing for attention while a rowdy reggaeton beat loops underneath. At a time when many producers are obsessed with the minutiae of sound design, it's a strong argument for focusing on big-picture ideas.