Diego Bernal: For Corners

Two things immediately tip you off to the style of Diego Bernal's music even before a single note plays: the CD itself simulates a dusty old 45-RPM single, and track one's titled “Diego's Donut (RIP J. Dilla).” If that ain't clear enough, it definitely will be once For Corners' first dusty groove rings out. What we got here are nineteen samplings of crisp hip-hop jams packed into forty minutes in a debut full-length album from Bernal, by day a San Antonio , Texas civil rights attorney and by night a beatsmith who loops soulful horns and crackle-drenched samples into succulent low-riders. Half-remembered snippets and styles of decades past—‘60s Motown, acoustic Latin swing, proggy flutes, B-boy electro-funk, jazzy vibes and horns—elbow their way to the music's surface. “Damn You” and “Dusty Sanchez” riff on the same kind of Latin material heard on the Inner Current EP Ill Padre by RD Granados & Ino Miranda, while “Fat Sal” almost buries its swaggering beats, flutes, and strings under a sea of vinyl crackle. Time traveling further, the crude squawk of mid-‘80s synths and drum machines rolls through the funk of “MC Rakim Cool Kane and the DJ Furious Boyz Crew (1986)” after which “The Pause Tape Trainer” waxes nostalgic for bass-heavy funk and “Velcro Flow” visits a slinky disco. In addition, “I Have a Long... Resume” and “Momma's Boy” call to mind On The Corner's wah-wah funk and the wail of gospel soul, respectively. A violent altercation involving police and protesters is heard during “May Day” but Bernal otherwise parks politics at the door. Best of all, the kind folks at Exponential have made the album available as a completely free download.

May 2009