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
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.