Album Review: Sidestepper – Supernatural Love [Real World Records/ 5th February 2016]

Harking back to the traditions of the dance bands of 1970’s Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba and Africa, Sidestepper’s Supernatural Love represents a fresh folkloric direction for the progenitors of electro-cumbia.

Each Sidestepper album has proposed a new sound. That sense of innovation and evolution continues with this upcoming release Supernatural Love. Constructed in La Candelaria, the epicentre of bohemian Bogota, the melodic vocals are driven by beats made with hand drums, seeds, shakers, kalimbas, flutes and guitar, rather than the overriding electronics of previous albums.

Featuring a core line-up of five musicians, Supernatural Love pulses with a joy that comes from making music organically. Sung in Spanish and English, it’s a slow burner – but it will grow on you! If you listen to it in one sitting as I have, you will feel the album ebb and flow beautifully.

The first two tracks warm us up. The opener, ‘Fuego Que Te Llama’, is an appeal to light your internal fire. Eka’s memorable voice coupled with the incessant hand drums, kalimba and big bass synth tickles our toes and makes our fingers quiver from the outset. We then dive headlong into the album’s eponymous track, a feel-good tune with hints of gospel, soul, California sunshine and Latin boogaloo. It tells of higher planes and spiritual paths that sum up the sentiments of this lovingly- crafted album.

Next we are boogying, Bogota-style! ‘Come See Us Play’ sparkles with Anglo-soul melodies imbued with a childlike innocence, whilst ‘Magangué’ sees a West African dundun being used in an abstract yet upbeat tune about oneness. ‘La Flor y la Voz’ then starts to calm us down as we approach the final track ‘Celestial’, where Blair’s resonating baritone is an entrancing showstopper.

Supernatural Love tells the tale of merry-making. It gets you fidgeting, its gets you dancing. It calms your tired toes, and leaves you with a goody-bag as the album finishes – a reprise of ‘Supernatural Love’. The album achieves its mission of rekindling the vibes of the great orquestas from Colombia. Not all the tracks are complete winners, but most are compelling. Joyous in both melody and lyrics, it could not have been made anywhere but Colombia.

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