Argentine producer Chancha Vía Circuito (aka Pedro Canale) crossed over to international notoriety three years ago as one of the founding members of Zizek Collective, the conglomerate of avant-guard electronic musicians from Buenos Aires who pretty much put the word “cumbia” in the mouths of DJs, bloggers, and taste-makers of the northern hemisphere for the first time. Cumbia, an Afro-Colombian dance-oriented genre of pop music, used to be widely regarded as low-brow and kitsch until the guys at Zizek (first a nightclub, then a label) made it hipster-friendly via mash-ups, remixes, and artsy electronic experimentation.
Río Arriba is Chancha’s second official release and it marks a turning point in the history of the collective. This time he’s stepping away from the cumbia format to embrace other South American folkloric sounds, more in tune with the Andes natives than the African Diaspora. Consequently, it has much less dance appeal than other Zizek releases. Granted, unlike other label partners (Frikstailers, El Remolón), Chancha was never too focused on the dance-floor. Rather, he was known for manufacturing down-tempo tunes on his bedroom PC.
What made Chancha stand out as a producer was his attention to detail and his minimalist use of percussion. He often replaced traditional instruments with noises borrowed from sound libraries or sampled from real life, and that’s more easily appreciated on headphones than at a dance club. But will the “gringos” who adopted new cumbia as the “exotic” rhythm du jour keep supporting him? That remains to be seen. (ZZK Records)