Yerba Buena


New York hasn't developed anything noteworthy in the Latin-music galaxy since the days of the Fania All-Stars in the '70s, but here come Yerba Buena. With their debut, President Alien, the seven-person collective has produced an album of such aural ingenuity, such mishmashing of dance styles, and such just-plain-ol' funky fun it should permanently rouse the Big Manzana from its post-Sept. 11 doldrums. Combining Caribbean cadences with hip-hop reflections and African beats that would've made Fela Kuti proud, President Alien is a relentless recording that evolves frenetically as each song progresses. Sardonic flutes hump brave mambo horns that ride never-stopping percussions pounding to an orgasmic conclusion on virtually every track—and then it starts again. The results are dirty and sweaty, glamorous tropical traditions gritted for New York's urban wonderland. Instrumentally, Yerba Buena stray little from a strong Afro-Cuban foundation, although they remember to make stops in Puerto Rico (a joyous "Electric Boogaloo"), Colombia (the postmodern cumbia "Solito me Quedo"), and every bass plunk Chocolate City ever inspired. Fronting this swirl are powerhouse vocals shouted by all members: they alternate between blazing raps, Santanera wails and goofy asides ("All the world, stick your tongue out!" they cheerily urge on "Solito me Quedo"). But it's the husky musings of chanteuse Xiomara Laugart on the bitterly bombastic rumba "Wassamatter Baby?" that bring out the album's message of treating broken souls through a massive dose of sound. President Alien is the best relief package the city they love could have ever wished for.

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