Ojos de Brujo, a Barcelona collective whose name means "eyes of the wizard," took worldwide audiences by storm with its first international release, baritone
(World Village, 2004), helped in no small part by prominent exposure on American college radio. By combining insistent flamenco with hip-hop, rumba, North African and Indian rhythms, and other less straightforward styles, the group broke down a huge number of barriers with respect to what listeners have come to expect from Spanish music. Out of the box thinking, as it were.
Out of this world, too. The fantasy inherent in the group's name (a brujo is sort of a dark magic healer) reflects itself in the music. Simultaneously energetic and trancey, neo-traditional and revolutionary, magnetically celebratory and darkly tinted, baritone hinted at Ojos' explosive potential in no subtle terms. Singer Maria la Canillas may be the most obvious voice in the group, but you'll find yourself equally drawn by the guitars and percussion. (Note: in addition to the regular CD version that's available at the usual retail outlets, you can also download the album in mp3 format at the "free trade" download site Calabash.com.)
Somehow this just-released followup isn't all that much of a surprise, given the group's anti-establishment focus on not just bridging styles, but breaking down the walls that separate them. Remezclas de la Casa (which means something like "Homemade Remixes") reworks material from baritone in the form of hypnotic, beat-heavy dancefloor jams that are geared to move sweaty bodies all night long. The prime moving force is DJ Panko, a turntablist with the band who remixed five of the six pieces in 2003 with help from Ramón Giménez. The homemade aspect is no big stretch, given the very same electronica/hip-hop remix culture that informed baritone.
The most exciting and invigorating thing about Remezclas is that it's fresh all the way through. Way too often, remix albums tend to rehash more than they reinvent, and that's certainly not the case with these dub/hip-hop/raga/electronica-flavored tracks. Maybe because they were done by an insider? Panko knows his stuff, he's got awesome starting material to work with, and he turns it into a pure celebration of the black magic stew that has flavored this band's music from the beginning.
It's hard to recommend this recording enough, with the only drawback being its 34-minute running time. But if you're like me, you'd rather they keep it short and sweet than pad the playlist with inferior material.
We'll be hearing from these iconoclastic world travelers again, I have no doubt. But probaby not the way you might expect.