Visitante’s Trending Tropics Takes a Hard Look at Technology (and Makes a Robot Sing)

Visitante — Eduardo Cabra Martínez, the producer and musical director of the groundbreaking Puerto Rican group Calle 13 — has a terse mission statement for his new project, Trending Tropics, which will release an album in October. Trending Tropics, he said, is “music without a face in the age of the selfie.”

The lyrics, in Spanish and occasionally English, playfully probe the ways that technology infuses 21st-century reality. The music traverses the Americas — and beyond, with touches of Indian and Arabic pop — as it layers rootsy voices and live instruments atop gadget-generated beats. When Trending Tropics goes on tour, Visitante said, the musicians will be live while the lead singer will be a robot.

That robot will be playing back the vocals from the album’s many studio guests, among them Ziggy Marley, Li Saumet from the Colombian electro-pop group Bomba Estéreo, Pucho from the Spanish indie-rock band Vetusta Morla, the traditional Afro-Colombian singer Nidia Góngora and iLe (Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar), Mr. Cabra’s sister, who sang for a decade with Calle 13 and won a Latin Grammy with her solo debut album, “Ilévitable,” produced by Visitante.
Although English-speaking pop has its share of producer-centered, style-hopping projects with assorted singers (Gorillaz, Mark Ronson), that modus operandi is much rarer in Latin pop. It shifts the focus from the singer to the song. “Almost everything now is about looks,” Visitante said. “We are trying to make something more about the music.”

Visitante spoke between sessions in July at Flux Studios, an analog haven tucked into a Lower East Side tenement. He was with his collaborators on the entire album: the lyricist and singer Vicente García from the Dominican Republic, who won a Latin Grammy as best new artist in 2017, and the producer Fabrice Dupont, who owns the studios. It’s one of the many places where Visitante had been recording Trending Tropics over the last three years, including his home studio in Puerto Rico and places in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Spain.

“Trending Tropics” has brisk, polymorphous, electro-Afro-Caribbean grooves and more singing than rapping. The high-concept songs mingle the perils and pleasures of technology. “It’s kind of pessimistic, but we are not victims,” Mr. García said. “We are just watching it and having a humor thing. We are messed up, man” — he used a stronger word — “but what can we do? That’s life in the Caribbean, how we see life.”

The album’s first track announces, “The future already happened”; others are about smartphones as nonstop surveillance, falling in love with a sex doll, seeking self-help online, and a visit from an alien who goes unnoticed while everyone stares at screens. “The Farm,” in English, is about the so-called “click farms” that inflate social-media statistics with phony views. For the video, Visitante envisions hiring a click farm and showing how the song’s own numbers grow, “so people can see that it was all a lie,” he said.

article posted by:Silvia Guevara, Conga Booking SL