Review Bio Ritmo – Introducing Bio Ritmo
Along its twenty years of existence, Bio Ritmo has experimented with different salsa styles, incorporated influences that range from punk-rock to samba, and established themselves as pioneers of the indie salsa movement. Their fusions, along with their great musicianship, have garnered them critical acclaim across the board. But until the last few years, Bio Ritmo had remained one of those acts that fly just under the radar. That last part is changing with the release of their career retrospective, Introducing Bio Ritmo.
The album, as the title suggests, serves as a crash course on the band’s catalogue, collecting tracks from their 1995 debut EP, Piragüero/Asia Minor up to last years’ release, La Verdad. This record might just be Bio Ritmo’s way of giving listeners an introductory course on their brand of salsa fusion. What a great first class!
The collection is by no means a greatest hits compilation. Every track on Introducing Bio Ritmo is curated to illustrate the band’s sound during different periods of their career. The tracks appear in reverse chronological order, starting with some of their latest work from La Verdad. In the homonymous track, Bio Ritmo’s musicians mix in mambo horns and percussion with salsa dura and samba, incorporating midway through the song a Brazilian cuíca. It might sound like a dizzying mix of styles, but Bio Ritmo manages to fuse them seamlessly into an incredibly danceable track. “La Verdad” prepares you for the eclectic mix that is Bio Ritmo’s sound. The song is followed by selections from Biónico, Salsa Sound System and Bio Ritmo, which help us navigate through the band’s stylistic evolution. While it is notable that in early songs like “El Piragüero” the orchestra sticks closer to New York and Puerto Rican salsa, newer songs find them experimenting freely with other sounds, styles and instruments. Going from a son montuno to a bossa nova influenced cha-cha-cha is no easy feat, but Bio Ritmo’s sonic precision make these fusions sound as completely developed genres. As an added bonus, the record also includes an unreleased live version of “El Locutor.”
One of the great things about this album is that, not only does it introduce new fans to the bands catalogue, but it’s also a way for older fans to hear more closely and understand the band’s musical influences. The orchestra’s eleven musicians come from diverse musical backgrounds, including punk, bossa nova, jazz and reggae dub. Their sound is mostly constructed out of the New York, Puerto Rican and Fania Records salsa style but, along the way, Bio Ritmo has separated from it to create their own niche in the salsa canon. Bio Ritmo’s boundary pushing sound may rattle the salsa die hards, but the diversity and urban savvy in the band’s music keeps listeners on their toes trying to guess what’s coming next. Whatever it is, there is no doubt that it will tear up the dance floor.
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