Published Oct 02, 2019Inspired by the digital cumbia scene of Buenos Aires, Peruvians Felipe Salmon and Rafael Pereira were compelled to celebrate the folkloric music of their country in a similar fashion, aiming to take it from local dancehalls to modern clubs around the world. The psychedelic-tinged chicha and cumbia music, which combine Afro-Latin rhythms with Andean melodies played on the electric guitar, were reworked in digitized forms. Straight out of Lima, their Dengue Dengue Dengue project was born, and we now find ourselves with their third album, Zenit & Nadir.
While they have previously flirted with the cajón, a wooden, box-shaped percussive instrument traditional to Afro-Peruvian music, it has a much bigger presence here, as opener "Ágni" starts with its earthy timbres that will be put to great use in some capacity throughout most of the album.
Salmon and Peirera have largely abandoned the chicha and cumbia influences, but they continue on a very similar path as before. The cajón does add a new flavour, one that is unfamiliar to most people, yet it doesn't significantly alter their formula, where electronic elements — like the ominous, John Carpenter-esque synths on "Coimú Gqoimú" — are organically interwoven with traditional instruments in stripped-back arrangements.
As always, there can be a close resemblance with the sounds of Argentina's Chancha Vía Circuito, particularly with the walloping bass and how certain tracks have a chilled-out vibe despite the propulsive rhythms, but Dengue are much more trigger-happy with the electronic flourishes.
The final, three-track run that follows "Banyuwangi" (which could be mistaken for a Talaboman track), is the best part of the album. The psychedelic "Pacos" sounds like you're languidly floating deeper into the humid rainforest, lured in by the resonating drums and the haunting chant of a far-off shaman. "Guayabo" picks up the tempo, laying down a lively beat punctuated by monstrous sub-bass stabs. And "Coyurriti" ends things with a riveting, Livity Sound-like vibe, the swerving bass line recalling the masterful productions of Peverelist.
While listening to Dengue's new release, it's hard not to think of Mala's Mirrors, where the dubstep pioneer had also refracted Afro-Peruvian music through the prism of his own production style. Those who were left wanting more should find something to like in Zenit & Nadir. (Enchufada)