Senor Coconut Gran Baile

Every Emperor Norton release seems to be shrouded in so much arcana and apocrypha that it's pretty much impossible to distil fact from wild fabrication, so we'll dispense with any biographical or career details and go straight to the tag line on the back of the CD package: "Triggering the Latin subconscious." Sure enough, Gran Baile sounds like a crazy reverie of Latin music gone brilliantly off the rails, as if stumbling upon a dream collaboration of a pre-revolutionary Cuban bandleader with Warner Brothers cartoon composer Carl Stalling and half of Ninja Tune's stable of DJs. In other words, it's just clever enough for its own good. The sense of play is infectious, but kept above the impulse to be zany for its own sake; the sense of groove is stronger still and there's a full, multicoloured spectrum of Latin grooves: mambo breakbeats, frenetic clave rhythms, wistful, slow bossa grooves and the vaporous, blunted dreaminess of a Kid Loco track. It could be a template for future hybrids of global grooves with playful DJ culture, except that it works with such cheeky intuitiveness that I doubt anyone would really be able to follow it. (Emperor Norton)