Listen Up: Wednesday, October 26, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Yerba Buena

Island Life (Razor & Tie Records)

By Jimmy Fowler

At its best, the whole postmodern approach to world music — tossing disparate sounds into the sonic brew so listeners will hear each style anew via the power of fresh, freaky context — has made a couple of generations of audiences more sophisticated music consumers. At its worst, the effort reinforces the questionable bromide that “music knows no ethnic or geographical divisions” (aren’t authenticity and history part of what makes furrin compositions so cool?) and causes a chaotic canceling out of the various grooves.

Yerba Buena’s second c.d., Island Life, lumbers through your headphones with great intentions, an overflow of talent, and a weirdly indistinguishable meltdown of styles. This fierce pan-Latino pop-dance ensemble develops techno-friendly blends of traditional rhythms like merengue and cumbia; collectively, the group is a postmodern planetary hothouse tended by maestro producer Andre Levin. Upon entering the Afro-Cuban arena on Island Life, though, the musicians have seriously overcrowded the dance floor and underserved some compelling sources. Songs like “Sugar Daddy,” “Belly Dancer,” and “Te Estoy Amando Locamente” also suffer from too many “special guest star” contributions and samples (John Leguizamo, Almodovar star Rossi DePalma, the late Celia Cruz, Les Nubians) that feel glaringly ornamental rather than integral. Island Life proves that teaching the world to sing (and shake its hind end) requires more than just perfect harmony — what you need is an overarching purpose, a crack arranger, and some restraint. —


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