Album Review: El Búho – Balance [Wonderwheel Recordings; November 2017]

Born and raised in Northern England, Robin Perkins (aka El Búho) developed a profound connection with Latin American culture, nature and its beautiful sounds, through his studies and his experience as a Greenpeace advocate.

Like his colleagues Nicola Cruz and Mateo Kingman, El Búho’s music is deeply rooted in the exploration of traditional rhythms, instruments and musical styles from South America in order to re-invent them in combination with contemporary electronic influences. With his first LP, the producer proved to have an impressive knowledge and understanding of the sounds of South America – at first listen, you’d undoubtedly think of him as a local, despite his British origins.

Balance, out on November 3rd for Wonderwheel Recordings, is a work deeply tied to nature and the harmony between the elements that are part of it. Perkins conveys his vision through soft and dreamy melodies, often accompanied by diverse voices, like the one of Colombian singer Luzmila Carpio in “Madre Tierra” and Minük in “Corazon de Rubi” – where birds, falling rain and the sound of leaves moved by the wind meet flutes and guitars, two typical instruments of Latin American tradition.

Collaborations are a key feature of Balance – every track has at least one – and with each of them, El Búho proves the value of bringing in diverse inputs that each time gives a different shade to his music. “Complete” is one of the most interesting outcomes of his collaborations – the producer managing to seamlessly blend middle-eastern melodies with Andean flavoured rhythms, with the voice of Egyptian singer Dina El Wedidi chanting in Arabic over a lulling rhythmic background.

Sounds of nature permeate the entire album, catapulting us to a flowing river or in woods surrounded by the intertwined melodies of tropical birds hiding in trees. El Búho’s ability to blend these natural ambient sounds with elements of electronic music is remarkable. “Ynglingtal”, featuring Jhon Montoya, is arguably one of the peaks of the album, and one of those songs that you’d listen to forever; with its delicate piano chords and ethereal high-pitched guitar slightly reminiscent of the sound of Bonobo and the XX.

Balance is a seamless flow, like a brook that quietly makes its way through the nature of the Andean hills. Flutes, birds, shakers and rainsticks are our companions in this hour-long journey through El Búho’s musical vision. The overall sound is so natural and organic that all the electronically sampled and digitally produced elements smoothly blend in, while still enriching every track.

Even though its sound is not as compelling and mature as some of his colleagues, Balance has its own harmony and identity which will definitely make you want to go to South America this summer.