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Aterciopelados
Gozo Poderoso
BMG/Ariola 2000

The lounge music industry routinely throws up acts long on attitude, short on talent, "all hat, no cattle" as the old cowboy might say. Columbia's Aterciopelados, the Veleveties, the collaboration of bassist Hector Buitrago and vocalist Andrea Echeverri, hardly lack attitude, but Gozo Poderoso presents plentiful evidence of cattle, that is, musical talent. Arrangements are bass-heavy, percussively insistent, and contrapose traditional Latin elements with loopy electronics, a joyous contemporary echo of Esquivel's "sparkling planet" textural stylings of the 1960s. The key to this recording's pleasure power is Echeverri's vocals, seductive with their rich, deep, velvet hum, precise intonation, crystalline articulation, and passion unsullied by stridency.

"Luz Azul" starts with restrained synth and a crisp shuffling beat, a virtual wall of plush sound arriving with Echeverri's vocal, the whole suggesting bossa nova even on driving choruses, fading and returning with a lazy syncopated beat, mutating smoothly back to the chorus, an enticing performance. "El Álbum" features a tight pop-tango beat with salsa-like piano on verses, a dramatic chorus blending back into verse via a neat minor-key transition. "Uno Lo Mio y Lo Tuyo" is almost goofy with its bouncy pop beat and dizzy synth, Echeverri swallowing hard vowels on the chorus to odd but entrancing effect.

The title track opens like a Prince song, falsetto chorus against a slouchy hip-hop beat, Echeverri's vocal in its lowest registers, all proving remarkably compatible with acoustic guitar and scratch on choruses. A brooding synth freakout opens "Esmeralda," resolving into an irresistible stuttery beat on snare and high-hat behind a lively chromatic guitar figure, Echeverri's multi-tracked vocals flowing like syrup. On the brief, ironic "La Misma Tijera," Echeverri engages in coy conversation with a mixed chorus. "A Su Salud," the closing track, is funky kitty-kat lounge in the Betty Boo tradition, an upbeat farewell until the next album. Lyrics are non-trivial, but appear only in Spanish in the Gozo Poderoso package, which is also beautifully embellished by contemporary Colombian graphic art. - Jim Foley

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