May 19, 2024

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CD review: Antonio Sánchez – Shift – 2023: Video, CD cover

Renowned Mexican-born drummer Antonio Sanchez is a prominent bandleader (Migration is probably his best project) and valuable sideman (Gary Burton, Pat Metheny) with an eclectic taste. 

The themes are sculpted with some rhythmic provocations, but as a whole, this work is less successful than what I was hoping for, struggling to maintain momentum. The mix of styles presented here is definitely not my thing, and while some collaborations gain an unschooled spark, others curb the impetus by adopting a fairly restrained temperament.

The album opens with the words of Sanchez’s grandfather, the 97-year-old Mexican actor Ignacio López Tarso, on top of a light and cool instrumentation. Yet, the standout tracks are: “Eh Hee 2.0”, a glamorous push into a sort of trad-rock arena featuring the American singer-songwriter Dave Matthews (who penned it) and the iconic crossover jazz guitarist Pat Metheny; “I Think We’re Past That Now”, a dark and muscular ebb and flow of industrial rock and electronic music with Nine Inch Nails’ members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on board; and “Alambari”, a dreamy sound cloud fronted by Portuguese singer Maro, which starting with odd-meter disposition, is ultimately rounded up to a symmetric cycle.

There’s also “The Bucket” (feat. Becca Stevens), which probes an alternative pop/rock style driven by shifting textures and peculiar beats; “Trapped (Red Room)”, whose mysterious and dark tones à-la NIN are embraced by Croatian American vocalist Thana Alexa; and the nu-soul incursions of “Waiting”, a solo effort, and “Comet Come to Me”, where Meshell Ndegeocello sings atop of a strong dub vibe and exotic rhythms.

Sanchez is a drummer and composer hailing from Mexico City. His new album Shift (Bad Hombre, Vol. II) is the thematic follow-up to Bad Hombre which was released in September of 2017. This project is unbelievably diverse in style and has a collaboration in almost every track. Artists like Dave Matthews, Silvana Estrada, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (of Nine Inch Nails fame), and Kimbra (featured on 2011 hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye) are featured on Sanchez’s new project.

With such star power and talent, it is no wonder why this album has succeeded in creating an album that is unique and creatively spectacular. There was undoubtedly pressure to make a record worthy of being considered the follow-up to the 2017 Bad Hombre, which was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at The Grammys. Sanchez and his collaborators offer up a very impressive and thoroughly pointed sixteen-track record that is certainly worth praise.

The album has a very thematic feeling to it. The songs with female singers are noticeably different from the tracks sung by male collaborators. Take for example, “Eh Hee 2.0” (feat. Dave Matthew and Pat Methany) vs “The Bucket” (feat. Becca Stevens). The two tracks sound as though they could come from two different artists, albums, or even time periods. However, these stark stylistic differences between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ songs could be intentional, perhaps highlighting the gender expectations that are prevalent in Mexican culture.

Tracks like “Risa de Mujer” (feat. Lila Downs) and “Alambari” (feat. MARO) are flowy, smooth and beautiful. The lyrics invoke images of beauty, usually a type of beauty associated with femininity like ‘una flor’ (a flower), that is sung in “Risa de Mujer.” “El agua y la miel” (feat. Silvana Estrada) feels like a sister track to “Risa de Mujer,” as they are both stylistically similar.

Contrasting the feminine tracks are songs like “Eh Hee 2.0” and “I Think We’re Past that Now” (feat. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross) which present a more masculine tone. These tracks are more instrumental-based and rely more heavily on production than the vocals or melody. Some tracks on the record are mainly instrumental like “M-Power” (feat. Rodrigo Y Gabriela) or “Waiting,” which only features light background vocals.

Sanchez is a jazz artist at heart, and it’s a lucky thing that this inspiration is not lost through the collaborations. Whereas some tracks feel more jazz-inspired than others, all of the songs on SHIFT (Bad Hombre, Vol. II) are created with the same principal idea of creating something different – something new. The collaborations on this album make it beautiful, but Sanchez’s talent and ingenuity are what make the record outstanding.

Personnel – Antonio Sanchez: drums, percussion, electric bass guitar, keyboards, mandolin, synthesizer, ukulele, vocals + Guests – Dave Matthews: vocals; Pat Metheny: guitar; Ana Tijoux: vocals; Becca Stevens: vocals, guitar; Trent Reznor: vocals; Atticus Ross: synth; MARO: vocals; Thana Alexa: vocals, beat box; Lila Downs: vocals; Meshell Ndegeocello: vocals, electric bass; Silvana Estrada: vocals; Kimbra: vocals, guitar; Rodrigo Y Gabriela; guitars; Ignacio López Tarso: featured artist.

Album Review: Antonio Sanchez - SHIFT (BAD HOMBRE VOL. II) - mxdwn Music

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