Review Axel Krygier – Pesebre
Pesebre, the fourth album by Axel Krygier, is is his boldest to date. On previous releases he flirted with the electronic tango and digital cumbia scenes in Buenos Aires (he has appeared on compilations with Bajofondo Tango Club’s Supervielle, as well as on ZZK Sound Vol. 2, a primer for electronic cumbia.) On Pesebre he creates a musical landscape of his very own making. He builds on his previous work, which has always had a highly inventive, idiosyncratic approach, by adding elements of hip-hop, Balkan music and soul, and even throws in a hugely original Argentinian folk song.
Most of this progression can be evinced on the first quartet of songs, beginning with opener “Cucaracha”, a foot-stomper straight from the shores of the Balkan sea. The influence of Balkan music in Argentina is growing all the time (helped by the incredibly good Club Bubamara night in Buenos Aires.) Here, Krygier’s cries of “Cucaracha” (“Cockroach”) are driven along by a beat as infectious as anything by Gogol Bordello. It’s on “Campo de Marte” and “Pesebre” when the hip-hop beats really make an impact. Think The Avalanches seminal “Since I Left You” album or the world of El-P. With “Pesebre” it’s also impossible not to utter the words ‘farmyard funk’ but this betrays just how good the song is. Sheep sounds augment a huge synth riff which works perfectly in its accompanying video, which also shares artwork with the album. A manger scene with Jesus playing the melodica, a lamb with its hooves tied and a bull making love with a donkey are all images on the inlay, and give some idea of what to expect, at least on this title track; a cross-eyed nativity scene where literally anything goes.
The highlight though from this opening batch of songs is “Serpentea El Tren”, a road song that could easily have been written by Buck 65, which in my eyes, is the highest testament I can pay. Bustling drums, stinging guitars and the surrounds of the Andes give it a restless spirit that evoke the scale of Argentina and its pampa as much as the great work of Argentine folk singer Atahualpa Yupanqui.
The rest of the album continues to surprise. Up-front drums, horns and organ mark “Esclavo de Olor” as a mix of “Monster Mash” and Huey Lewis, which in anyone’s vernacular means it’s a great party tune. “La Fiera” once again mines a love for Balkan music, the sheep return on “Tucumana” before the song transforms into a dub-lite tango, while “Llega Enero” perfects the trick of creating hooks from vocals and any other sounds at hand.
What’s great with this album is the freshness which Krygier brings to many of the songs. His ideas seem to stem from an internal logic rather than pampering to whoever his audience may be. Almost all instruments on the album are played by Krygier himself, which makes you want to start throwing the ‘genius’ word about. Maybe this is a little premature, but what is for certain is that he has proven to be one of the most innovative musicians in Argentina, and South America, at the moment. There are very few people able to play with the forms of tango, cumbia and Argentine folk song as Krygier does here, each time imbuing it with his own personality. The only criticism could be that sometimes the songs sound like too much of an arrangement, it becomes clear when one section starts and another ends. Yet this is a problem with a lot of electronic music, which can fail to have the organic feel of a band, and some may question whether it is necessary to share this criticism at all. What is certain is that with Pesebre, his first international release, he should gain far more supporters. It’s an album too idiosyncratic to become a phenomenom but is certain to win over a devoted following.
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