LA-based producer Santiago Salazar brings an impressive CV to his debut album Chicanismo. A key career moment occurred early on when he moved to Detroit and joined Underground Resistance, a development that in turn led to releases on UR and gigs throughout the world. Upon returning to his LA turf in 2006, Santiago founded Ican Productions with Esteban Adame, issued material on both Planet E and Ican Productions, and two years later established another label, Historia y Violencia, this one with Silent Servant. Solo releases on respected labels such as Rush Hour and Macro Recordings also appeared. The man has, in other words, been busy.
Chicanismo isn't, however, a standard collection of techno and house music; instead, Salazar personalizes his LA-flavoured sound by working into the mix elements drawn from Latin and Cuban musical forms. Throughout the fifty-seven-minute set, congas and other hand percussion add steam to the music's rhythmic thrust, and Salazar roughs up the smooth edges of the prototypical techno production with raw vocal samples (look no further than the opening scene-setter “Mama Paz”). In threading such elements into the album material, he amplifies the music's earthy, body-moving character and turns much of it into irrepressible dancefloor material.
Yet Chicanismo doesn't turn its back on techno and house, either, as its ten tracks partake of the production tropes of those genres, too. In its serpentine marriage of electro and acid, “Future Flashback” oozes a lithe swing one might otherwise hear in a John Tejada production (the electro-sparkler “Brownout” could even pass for a Tejada track), while “UKB 2 LAX” and “Clark Park” eschew non-techno elements for shimmering synth-heavy exercises in UR- and Planet E-styled futurama, respectively. Surprisingly, given its title, “Chicanismo” is arguably the album's sleekest production, a cool, electrified house workout that wholly excludes any reference to Latin music.
It's the balance Salazar achieves between the polish of contemporary dancefloor production and the primal earthiness of street music that ultimately gives Chicanismo its distinguishing personality. It's something one hears in “Varrio 2 Varrio,” for example, in the way he merges an exuberant Detroit techno groove and classic string stabs with jazz-tinged keyboard soloing—an exercise in both control and abandon. Only once does a political dimension explicitly emerge, specifically in the closing track “The Farce” where a scathing commentary on the US government's treatment of Latin Americans appears. But that diatribe aside, Chicanismo keeps its gaze firmly cast on the club floor.