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While World Music Festival Chicago and the Hideout Block Party are the marquee musical events this weekend, a small gathering in Pilsen also deserves your attention. The Festival of Latin Electronic Music presents some of the Mexican underground's leading lights in a series of concerts and seminars at several venues. The big blowout is Saturday at the APO Cultural Center, 1436 W. 18th: a label showcase for Static Discos, an imprint from Tijuana that carries on the tradition of groundbreaking electronic music that began early in the decade with the Nortec Collective, a crew of DJs and producers who (to oversimplify a bit) mashed up norteño music with techno, putting a distinctly regional spin on electronica.
Most of the artists on the Static Discos roster don't acknowledge local traditions in their work; they seem to be shooting for an international audience, and they prefer a cosmopolitan sound that could've come from anywhere. The majority of the tracks I've heard by the producers performing here this weekend--including Fax, Cubenx, Kobol, and Kampion--is relatively cool, minimal, and chilled out, and even though that's not exactly my scene these days, I can still tell this is all well-made music. I was especially impressed by Extempore, the second album by Kobol--a duo based in LA that includes former Nortec member Ignacio Chavez, aka Plankton Man. A few of its cuts are really excellent, including a gorgeous collaboration with rising Mexican pop singer Ximena Sariñana, whose torchy delivers harks back to trip-hop's glory days.
Also on the schedule is Guadalajara's Carrie (aka Laura Becerra, pictured), a breathy indie-pop singer. The English-language tunes on her latest album, 1981 (produced by Rubén Tamayo, aka Fax), are swaddled by gentle acoustic guitar and warm electronic ambience.
You can find plenty more info at the FMEL Web site.
Sachiko Kanenobu, Misora (Chapter Music)
Various Artists, Nicky Siano's The Gallery (Soul Jazz)
Panda Bear, Young Prayer (Paw Tracks)
Faun Fables, Early Song (Drag City)
Various artists, Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities, 1968-1974, Vol. 1 (Now-Again)