One of the most anticipated releases of 2013 is Columbian Wunderkind Sano’s eponymous debut album. Sano, which will be released on Matias Aguayo’s Comeme label on 28th October 2013, has been described as sleazy house at its best. I’d go further and say that Sano is a delicious fusion of musical influences. There’s everything from salsa, disco, Latin house and even a twist of techno. Add to this a myriad of percussive delights. During ten tracks, Sano paints pictures with his music. Just like an artist uses his palette, Sano uses his music to paint vivid, evocative pictures. These pictures conjur up pictures of the seedier side of Medellin, Sano’s home town.
During Sano’s ten tracks, Sano is house music’s equivalent of Tom Waits or Lou Reed. He paints pictures of Medellin’s dark and hedonistic underbelly. This is the Medellin where strutting, macho hustlers and hoods populate dive bars. They rub shoulders with shysters, conmen and pimps. To pass the time, they smoke cigarettes, roll dice and play cards. Money changes hands. Sometimes, small fortunes are won or lost on the turn of a card. All the time, the hustlers await their prey with glee. Like a carnival barker, they encourage their prey to enter their world. Dreams can be made, nightmares begin and lives changed forevermore. Meanwhile, Medellin comes alive around them.
The city’s party people come out in numbers. Bars empty, with their patrons high on the happy side, heading for the city’s part quarter. Clubs are filled with pounding, pulsating, house music. Strobes and flashing, flickering lights and smoke machines turn what was a cavernous space into a palace. The dancers are Kings and Queens for the night. Dreams can come true…sometimes. Princes or Princesses can be found. Then as night turns into day, reality strikes and so does the hangover. Medellin is a very different place, but a reminder of the city by night is Sano’s debut album Sano.
For some time, Sano has been a familiar face on the Medellin music scene. He’s established a reputation one of the city’s top musicians and DJs. Sano is part of a collective who are known for throwing some of the best parties the cities seen. These are spontaneous, clandestine and hedonistic. A throwback to the past, the city’s beautiful people rub shoulders with rebels, gangsters and a colorful cast of characters. The city comes out to play when Sano DJs. Often the venue is Medellin’s infamous ghost-club Perro Negro. During these heady, hedonistic nights, Sano is like the Pied Piper, his DJ-ing skills captivating Medellin’s party people. However, there’s more to Sano than DJ-ing. Much more.
Last year, Sano released his debut E.P. Chupa. This was a tantalizing taste of what Sano was capable of. Five tracks of deep, sleazy house Sano was an artist with a big future ahead of him. He was definitely one to watch. Since then, Sano has been locked away in his studio, recording his eponymous album.
Helping Sano craft and hone his debut album, are what sound like the cast of a sci-fi movie. Among them are Cornelio, Little Chucharita and Glad Secret Kazuka. Then there’s Lord Byron, Diegors another Comeme artist Diegors. Last but not least, there’s Wilson, the extraterresstrial dog, who makes a guest appearance on Boqueron. Together, this colorful cast of characters played their part in Sano’s debut album Sano, which I’l tell you about.
Briefly, I Don’t, which opens Sano, reminds me of the Pet Shop Boys West End Girls. Drums with filters and jackhammer hi-hats combine house, experimental and postindustrial. Then the squelchiest of Acid House synths are added to the equation. Add to that an emotionless, almost haunting half-spoken vocal. Percussion is then added to the mix. So are a myriad of sound effects, a gothic organ and filters add to Sano’s musical melting pot. This unlikely combination is then given a stir, and tastes delicious.
Dark, Gothic, eerie describes Sano’s Paranoia. It envelops you, awakens your senses and sets your nerves on edge. Disturbing and discordant, it’s also a sophisticated, wall of sounds and textures. Multilayered, darkness and light sits side by side with dramatic and dreamy plus melodic and discordant. Sounding like Dark Side Of The Moon played backwards, secrets and nuances reveal themselves. It’s as if we’ve taken a wrong turning and are deep in the darkest depths of Medellin’s underbelly, where who knows what fate awaits the unwary?
Me Without You sees Sano paying homage to Acid House. It’s like a trip back to Chicago in the mid-eighties. Drawing inspiration from Mr. Fingers’ Washing Machine, stabs of synths and Germanic vocals are added to the equation. What follows is what sound like five-minutes of vintage Acid House.
A thunderous bass line, pounding, galloping drums and sci-fi synths quiver as Paquidermos reveals its secrets. Synths bubble and squeak, while washes of synths quiver and shiver. As for the bass and drums, they quake, pulsate and reverberate. They play their part in a track that’s variously lo-fi, old school, inventive, innovative and fascinating.
Cotoneate is track where contrasts and influences unite. As drums pound and crack, there’s an eighties electronic influence. The percussion is reminiscent of Latin House, while the dark, eerie vocal is Gothic and Germanic. It has a hypnotic, sinister sound. Having said that, when it’s fused with the beefy bass, pounding drums, percussion and handclaps, it’s a masterstroke. Eighties electronica, house, techno and Latin music seamlessly unite. It’s a track for kittenish, coquettish divas to strut their way across dance-floors to.
Anestesia, is best described as hypnotic and mesmeric. Drums pound, testing the tolerance of your bass bins. Equally hypnotic synths join sound effects and hissing hi-hats. They lock into a trance-like, mesmeric groove. It’s irresistible and anthemic. Within a cavernous club, pounding out of speakers accompanied by a myriad of lights, lasers and smoke-machines, Anestesia would captivate and compel.
Straight away, you realize Matasanos is something special. Stabs of synths and crispy beats combine with hissing hi-hats and dramatic bursts of keyboards. Hypnotic, urgent and dramatic, Sano locks into a groove. From that groove, emits what’s akin to a siren. It’s a warning, warning you to climb onboard and enjoy the ride. Choppy, inventive and mesmeric, this is dance music for the 21st Century.
Dark and dramatic describes Transylvania No Mercy. A fusion of musical genres and influences, it sounds like the soundtrack to a movie yet to be made. Sci-fi and gothic influences sit side-by-side, with cinematic strings. It’s a compelling combination. So is the addition of pounding drums and synths. It’s as if Transylvania’s best known resident, Dracula has headed to Medellin, and decided to take some of his prey on a guided tour of hades.
As drums gallop away, the arrangement to Boqueron takes on a Latin influence. Just thunderous, jack-hammer drums and hi-hats combine to create a fusion of techno and house. Then crackly, jagged synths provide a contrast. Soon, everything from eighties electronica, postindustrial and disco combine with techno and house on this innovative, genre-melting track.
Necrophilic Love which closes Sano, briefly, seems to draw inspiration from Gary Numan’s Cars. As the track bursts into life, it’s an uplifting synth driven track. Synths soar above the Latin percussion, drums and hi-hats. Later, a keyboard solo that’s reminiscent of classic European electronica is added. So too, is a burst of an eerie, sinister, Gothic vocal. The result is an anthemic, hands in the air, floor filler where elements of electronica, Latin, techo and sleazy house unite majestically.
For Sano’s debut album, Sano, which was released on Matias Aguayo’s Comeme label on 28 October 2013, it’s a slick, polished and accomplished album. It’s a ten-track musical journey, which reflects Sano’s musical tastes and influences. Disco, Latin House, electronica, Acid House, techno and sleazy house have all influenced Sano. These influences play these influences and more on Sano, an album that’s dance-floor friendly, anthemic and full of subtle hooks. Sano is also an album influenced by Sano’s musical past.
It seems that Sano’s experience as a DJ, then producer has been put to good use. This taught him what type of music fills a dance-floor. Knowing that, put him one step ahead of other producers. He wasn’t going to make the musical mistakes they did. No. Instead, he was going to create music that dramatic, uplifting, energetic, dance-floor friendly and anthemic. It’s also music that’s Gothic, eerie, sinister, dark and broody, as if telling the tale of the places Sano’s been and the things he’s seen, Despite that, or because of that, Sano features music that’s guaranteed to fill any dance-floor. However, there’s more to Sano than just dance music.
By that, I mean Sano is an album with a strong narrative, where you’re introduced to the Medellin’s dark, underbelly. Just like Lou Reed and Tom Waits, Sano is a perceptive people-watcher. He watches as strutting, macho hustlers and hoods populate dive bars, rubbing shoulders with shysters, conmen and pimps. They smoke cigarettes, roll joints and dice, play cards and prey on the unwary. Then there’s Medellin’s party people who come out to play once a week. They’re either looking for miss or mister right, or just a good time, no strings attached. This is the world Sano tells you about. Remarkably, these narratives are mostly instrumentals. Having said that, the music has a cinematic quality. As a result, pictures unfold in your mind’s eye. It’s akin to A Walk On The Wild Side. In some ways, Sano is a concept album.
Given how ambitious an album Sano is, it’ll be interesting to see what direction Sano’s career heads. Given his background as a DJ and producer, the smart money would be on Sano continuing to create albums that are cerebral, dramatic and dance-floor friendly. This would mean more music like that on Sano. That’s no bad thing. Far from it. After all, Sano with its irresistible fusion of influences, is an ambitious, innovative album that shows the direction that dance music should be heading. Cerebral, with a strong, narrative Sano, dance music’s answer to Lou Reed, takes you on a A Walk On The Wild Side during Sano, where poppy hooks, drama, sleaze and musical genres play their part in what is one of the most compelling, cinematic albums of 2013. Standout Tracks: I Don’t Paranoid, Me Without You and Transylvania No Mercy.