"During the past few years, fans of rock en espanol band Aterciopelados have had reasons to despair. The Colombian duo embraced the trappings of electronica with zeal, and its live performances started to sound icy and dissonant.
An extended hiatus and a couple of solo albums later, singer Andrea Echeverri and bassist-producer Hector Buitrago have bounced back with "Oye," one of the most seductive Latin albums of the year. On Wednesday at the Music Box@Fonda in Hollywood, Aterciopelados was less about trip-hop and more about the moody psychedelia of Andean rock. This exhilarating return to form brings the group back to the late '90s, when its fusion of sweet Latin folk and rollicking pop-rock defined the essence of the Latin alternative movement.
The band's decision to embrace a more organic sound (less sampling, a more tuneful approach on the guitars, and the addition of tabla and various South American flutes) was not only apparent in new tunes such as the tender "Que Te Besen" and the feminist anthem "Oye Mujer." Such nuggets as "El Estuche" (about the beauty of a woman's soul, not her body) and "Bolero Falaz" (a particularly subversive take on sentimental balladry) sounded luminous and revitalized as well.
Within a show that was all about change and metamorphosis, the biggest surprise was Echeverri herself. Her voice was revealed as a wondrous instrument as early as 1996, when the
Phil Manzanera-produced album "La Pipa de la Paz" put Aterciopelados on the map. But her vocal power has only increased with age, and on Wednesday she was positively soaring, displaying an impressive range on "Insoportable," a lover's impassioned plea for saving a jaded relationship.
Aterciopelados' connection to rootsy Latin genres has usually been subtle and peripheral. Not so on "Paces," one of the new album's strongest tracks. A hardcore cumbia that would make Colombian diva Toto La Momposina proud, the track combines electric guitars with the crackling percussive sounds and sensuous chanting of traditional cumbia.
There's something epic about comebacks. In its search for the perfect balance between Anglo influence and Colombian essence, Echeverri and Buitrago may have temporarily lost their way. Now that they have become, again, an indispensable force within Latin rock, it is to be hoped that they will continue on the same path for quite a while."