Elizabeth Aubrey
The Battles
The Chamber Strings
The Ex
Rosa Chance Well
Señor Coconut
VA: Charm (Soundtrack)
VA: Rarewerks
Wow and Flutter
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el gran baile
Señor Coconut
El Gran Baile
Emperor Norton

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This reissue comes at a time when Uwe Schmidt, aka Senor Coconut, aka Atom Heart, is more popular than ever. The music on El Gran Baile comes from somewhere between drum and bass and Tito Puente, though it's a lot cooler than that description implies. Combining skittering drums with insane drum loops and horn hits, it's a heady, propulsive sound that seems as much at home on a garish Las Vegas stage as it does in a sweaty downtown club.

As with the majority of club music, Schmidt checks the vocals at the door and concentrates on the music. And what music it is! His songs are complex, evolving steadily over their course while continually sounding unforced. Take the opening track, "El Coco Baile", for instance. The evening begins with punches from a brash horn section over the top of a Latin rhythm...but just as you start to get into the swing of things, a Japanese-sounding bass line sneaks in through the back door and steals your partner with a move so slick you just have to stand back and watch as they fly across the dance floor. Things take a sinister turn, however, as the bass line's hand dips into some funky rhythms where only your MIDI cord was supposed to connect. The drummer onstage, however, notices this passion play and rescues you by launching into a roiling drum solo that distracts your opponent long enough for you to snatch your partner back and launch into the original rhythm. The night slowly fades towards dawn, leaving the two of you sweaty and in love as you watch the sun creep into the sky.

If this sounds a bit cinematic, it's because Schmidt's music is cinematic, and on a grand scale. The tracks here mine every bit of music they can get their paws on, and the end result is mighty fine. While this timing of the rerelease initially (and off-puttingly) struck me as a move to cash in on Schmidt's recent successes, the music pushed aside any commercial fears.

-- Ron Davies
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