With their recent double album, Reves/Yosoy (Warner Brothers)--the title translates to "Backwards/I Am"--Mexico City's Cafe Tacuba make clear that nonchalant style blending isn't exclusive to Brazilian pop. On previous discs, like Re (1994) and the superb covers collection Avalancha de exitos (1996), the quartet established its daring range, fusing traditional rancheras and boleros with alt-rock, pop, and club music, presaging a movement that now includes bands like Plastilina Mosh, Titan, Molotov, Bersuit, and Aterciopelados. But Cafe Tacuba isn't coasting on its accomplishments, and though the new set could have benefited from some editing, it's impressive for its bald ambition alone. The first disc, the vaguely experimental and all-instrumental Reves, was actually intended as a self-contained album, but when the band turned it over to the label last year, Warners reportedly asked for a more marketable complement. The musicians responded with the poppier Yosoy, a collection of songs they'd been tooling with over the previous three or four years. The pairing produced some fascinating contrasts: Reves's "M.C.," lovingly rendered by the Kronos Quartet, is a radical rethinking of Yosoy's "La muerte chiquita," and the fragmented tangle of acoustic guitar and bass of Reves's "7" is fleshed out on its Yosoy counterpart, "El espacio." Throughout, the guitars and percussion are in startling 3-D, and carefully deployed electronics bolster the rhythmic core of the pop songs and serve as an armature for the more experimental tunes. My poor Spanish skills are beginning to frustrate me, but even without translated lyrics, this album is as exciting and fresh as any English-language release I've heard this year. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gonzalo Morales.