Gustavo Lamas: Brotes

Having previously recorded for Traum and Kompakt, Gustavo Lamas now releases Brotes on Onitor. The recording tastefully marries the cool dubby minimalism and precision of Berlin tech-house with a warm, soulful sensuality that, to some presumable degree, one might attribute to his Buenos Aires roots. In spite of these geographical and stylistic contrasts, the result feels like a natural fusion, as the looping drum patterns and subtle house-flavoured bass lines lend the music a spaciousness that complements its languid flavour. In truth, Lamas's tracks are grooves first and foremost, with scant attention paid to elaborate melodies per se. With that dimension downplayed, attention shifts to the arrangements and production style, making Lamas's general template gradually come into focus, a style that finds cool looping bass and drum grooves overlaid by warm, dubby waves that surge and pan. The latter elements account for his music's spacious, atmospheric dimension and connect it closely to the minimal style perfected by Basic Channel and extended by Chain Reaction.

The recording is bookended nicely by tracks of contrasting character. “Sabremos” is a laid-back, piano-driven funk opener that acts as a soulful overture of sorts. At the opposite end, “Naturales” is a beatless atmospheric coda that renders the recording's tropical qualities overt by featuring the ambient sounds of birds and crashing waves accompanied by crystalline organ tones. In between, virtually all of the other eight tracks pair looping tech-house percussion patterns and funky bass lines with reverberant surging waves that are by turns symphonic, billowing, and hazy. The pieces exude a bright, sophisticated sheen and are often enriched texturally by vinyl crackles. The longest track, the nine-minute “Tiernos,” is one of the most satisfying, in spite of it being the most blatantly derivative. Its echoes, waves, and reverb are textbook Chain Reaction, while the beat that churns so fulsomely underneath is in a propulsive, skittery house style. But, no matter how familiar those Chain Reaction elements are, that doesn't negate the delightful sensuousness of their supple, enveloping textures. Only in the gorgeously arranged “Cuidados” does a pronounced melody dominate, one that's simple and joyous, but one subsequently subdued by the multiple layers of glistening percussion and vinyl crackles.

Brotes is a deceptive recording in that it registers as an unambitious collection, one that aspires to be nothing more than ten tracks of solid tech-house grooves, all tastefully composed and executed, and all exhibiting qualities of restrained minimalism and soulful melancholy. A cursory listen suggests that it's a solid release that fulfills its presumed ambitions without fault, a satisfying set with no claim to being groundbreaking. And yet, closer listening reveals that Lamas creates something rather distinctive in a most unassuming manner, namely an organic fusion of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction dub techno with warm microhouse, and the overall result offers listening pleasures that are satisfying if also rather modest.

November 2004