Nortec Collective The Tijuana Sessions, Volume 1

It's hard not to have your curiosity piqued when a collective presents its first release with a manifesto to go. Hailing from Tijuana and Ensenada, Mexico, they are a motley crew of musicians, graphic designers, filmmakers and artists. The compilation draws together 14 tracks from its musicians, which genre bend by experimenting with traditional Norteno, Ranchera and Banda Sinaloense musical forms with techno, hence the name nor-tec. Cut & paste aesthetic has become the method of 21st century music-making and can become tiresome. But Nortec's vision is far from the safe novelty of Latino instrumentation tacked onto an otherwise unoriginal techno track. Bostisch, a moniker for Ramon Amezcua, contributes three brilliant tracks that rival Amon Tobin's soundscapes any day. Terrestre's "El Lado Oscuro De Mi Compadre" is a dangerously paced Mexico trip-hop track with urgent vocal samples, brassy trumpets and wild snare drum rolls. Tucked in between these are the relentless Mextronica techno-house of Hiperboreal and Panoptica. What saves Nortec's debut from being shelved as yet another effort at a la mode fusion is that it maintains a remarkably localised, site-specific mood, even as it hails its across-borders influences of dub, jungle, house and jazz. The breakbeats and slick sampling never upstage the sounds of North Western Mexico. The influence of Norteno street musicians, the meringue inflection or button accordions and honking tubas are ever present. As one vocal sample says, "This is Tijuana." And we had best listen to this border-transgressing music. (Rykopalm)