Indie rock has served many an underground label well, but sometimes keeping a roster fresh requires a little outside-box thinking. Late last year, Thrill Jockey, best known for Chicago-centric post-rock and experimental pop from the likes of Califone and Tortoise, signed black metal outfit Liturgy. And Sub Pop, a bastion of cutting edge sounds in indie rock, has gone global, last year releasing an album by Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, thus marking the first time the label had released an album by an African artist. And in 2011, Sub Pop has expanded its roster to the Caribbean, issuing Laru Beya, by Honduran guitarist and singer Aurelio.
Aurelio Martinez, 39, was raised on the traditions of the Garifuna people, whose origins can be traced back to a slave ship that crashed and left them abandoned on the Caribbean coast. This bit of biographical information is of particular importance to Aurelio, whose music reflects the commingling of Caribbean with African traditions. On Laru Beya one is treated to Brazilian rhythms, Garifuna and French-sung lyrics, reggae and rocksteady progressions. It’s a rich and complex album, not to mention one that leaps from one sound to the next with effortless fluidity.
The melancholy chill of “Lubara Wanwa” sets the stage for the at times chill, at others vibrant and exclamatory 12-song set. Low key and dense, the track is propelled by Martinez’s gorgeous guitar work and its many layers of percussion, not to mention guest vocals from Yossou N’Dour. The title track lightens the mood a bit with its easy-going rocksteady rhythms, while the minor-key “Yange” maintains an upbeat if sorrowful sound via delicate guitar plucks and a persistent groove. “Bisien Nu” is absolutely stunning, however, with some added tremolo effects adding a bit more of a Latin noir feel. And closing track “Ereba,” one of the most joyful of the bunch, finds a happy medium between highlife and samba.
Aurelio Martinez stirs up a wide array of sounds on his Sub Pop debut, Laru Beya, all of them intriguing, and many of them gorgeous. It’s definitely the only album of its kind on the Seattle-based indie label, but they’re doing music fans a huge favor by introducing them to this one-of-a-kind artist.
Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective – Wátina
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Orchestra Baobab – Specialist in All Styles
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.