Sidestepper is the nom de musique of UK producer Richard Blair. If one assumes his latest is dub music (or a variant thereof) or a set of cavernous, somewhat abstract electronic sounds because of the words "sound system" in the title, one couldn't be more wrong. The 'stepper/Blair is much more than remix royalty or a turntable tippler. He plays keyboards and constructs actual songs with a very high danceability factor, not soulless "dance music" with snatches of melodies interspersed. Further, he doesn't bludgeon the listener with thudding monolithic beats. La Buena Vibra does share affinities with reggae (and its offspring dub), namely echo and the use of previously recorded songs (of his own) as the basis for new ones.
Sidestepper/Blair draws his inspiration from various styles of South American music — he lived in Colombia for a spell — for his dance-floor mélanges. "Me Voy Andando" has tantalizing touches of dub and crunchy metal riffs behind a hypnotic dancehall-flavored chorus. The sleek, percolating "San Juan" highlights the African origins of some southern Latin sounds; if it had a punchy horn section, it could almost be a Fela Kuti track. "Hoy Tenemos" features some flashes of early-1970s fusion jazz (think Chick Corea, early CTI productions), some tasty, lyrical acoustic piano, and a delicately driving and darn catchy Afro-Cuban rhythm.
The organic-sounding, upbeat La Buena Vibra Sound System is recommended more for the eclectic lover of Latin music rather than the X-fueled clubster. (Quango/Palm Pictures)
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