Review Capitol K – Andean Dub

4 Stars

There is one constant along Capitol K’s musical career: his sound is anything but predictable. Experimenting with different production methods, and a myriad of genres within electronic dance music, London born producer Kristian Craig Robinson manages to incorporate influences and reinvent his sound every chance he gets. His sixth record, Andean Dub, is no exception. Following a 7,000 kilometre journey through Perú, Bolivia and Argentina, Capitol K’s new album is itself a trip through the world of Andean folk music and city-style cumbia beats.

Robinson is not the first of the digital cumbia musicians to be inspired by sounds and experiences gathered along a South American journey. Similar stories have been told by Mati Zundel and Chancha via Circuito, whose music is sampled in this record. Nonetheless, the sonic product of those travels is what sets each musician apart. Andean Dub’s 11 tracks chronicle how Robinson fell in love with Andean folk, indigenous flutes, and the burgeoning digital cumbia scene in Buenos Aires.

One of the most appealing things about this album is that Capitol K doesn’t seem to be interested in bombarding us from the start with the heavy dose of bass characteristic of many new electronic music productions. The first track, “Celestial”, eases the listener into the album by providing an ambient like introduction that is later drowned out by cumbia’s traditional 2/4 rhythmic base. The follow up “Yo Tarzán, Tú Jane”, is a slowed down cumbia villera banger. The song, with its playful synth lines and trumpet samples is accentuated by a dirty bass made to vibrate under your skin. Even though cumbia villera style synths are prominent in this record, Capitol K doesn’t draw exclusively from the genre, incorporating Peruvian electro cumbia in the process. The different sounds that the musician sampled along Andean Dub show that Capitol K has an understanding and appreciation of the nuances of the different styles in the region.

Even though the record is branded as “100% Cumbia”, one of the album’s most infectious tracks is not a cumbia at all but a variation of the huayño style, indigenous to Perú and Bolivia. The song “Huayno” is Capitol K’s beautiful adaptation of the original sound, and a welcome mid-record break. The next track, “White Steal”, is a return to form, with the thick layering of bass and dub. The added punch comes from the heavy guitar riff that drives the song, sampled from Archie Bronson Outfit’s track, “Magnetic Warrior”. In “Andean Dub”, the album’s namesake, Capitol K fulfils his promise by giving us a haunting sound that is equal parts reggae dub, equal parts bass and wobble, mixed in with beautiful Andean flutes and drums, among other instruments. The song itself functions as a mixture of hot and cold; the Caribbean and the Andes sharing one sound.

Andean Dub is a big sonic departure from Capitol K’s last production. In his 2008 effort, Notes from: Life on the wire with a wrecking ball, Robinson hinted at South America with one of the album’s tracks, “Acid Favela”. But Andean Dub is a full immersion into the instruments and sounds of the continent’s southern cone, with Robinson demonstrating great artistry by using electronic music to complement, as oppose to drown out, the genres and instruments he’s sampling. The record is a seamless demonstration of technique, knowledge, respect and appreciation for the region’s music and culture. This doesn’t minimize the album’s danceable qualities. On the contrary, Andean Dub is an incredibly fun record that also gives you time to think about what you are hearing.

Andean Dub can be listened to in full at with more information on Capitol K at Andean Dub is also available from Amazon and iTunes

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