Colombians Together Again

After six years dedicated to solo outings and relentless touring (which didn't stop rumors of an imminent breakup), the Colombian rock duo formed by Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago finally emerged with an album of new material, Oye, which has the band returning to the more acoustic roots of earlier works such as its second release, La Pipa de la Paz.

"It took five years to make a new Aterciopelados album because I had a baby, and after that I made an album talking about being a mother [the Latin Grammy-winning Andrea Echeverri], and after that Hector made Conector, his solo album," says Echeverri via e-mail. "Although we both participated in both projects, they were conceptual albums that reflected specific moments of our private, separated lives."

The Atercios, as they are known by their fans, are among these rare Latin rock musicians who, like Mexico's Maná, have gained recognition beyond the stateside Spanish-speaking communities in spite of never having made an English-language crossover disc throughout their eleven years as recording artists. "We talk in Spanish and dream in Spanish," Echeverri explains about their approach. "Part of our work has dealt with constructing our identity. Our culture is endangered by imperialism, and singing in Spanish is our way to face it. I like music in English, I like Brazilian music — why wouldn't you like music in Spanish?"

When they began recording the songs for Oye, Echeverri and Buitrago did not have a very definite concept. "The only clear thing we had on our minds was to use live drums again; the last two albums were based on programmed drums or loops," she says.

The result of this five-year layoff is an incredibly inspired album that reflects on various subjects close to the band's heart. "Canción Protesta" makes a strong point against being a with-us-or-against-us patriot, while "Don Dinero" wonders if a healthy bank account is more important than the simpler things in life. As Echeverri ponders: "Do we solve all of our problems with money? Does money fulfill all of our needs? Sometimes it seems like it."

One of the disc's strongest tracks is "Oye Mujer," a straight rock tune that waxes critical on the media's constant objectification of women. "I have always felt threatened by the way we women are used and portrayed on TV, movies, ads, music," says Echeverri. "Sometimes we are not even conscious of it. Since it can change the way we see ourselves, if we are not critical and clear about it, we could end up buying it. We are not pieces of meat. We do not have to look like anybody else to be loved. We all are beautiful and unique."

The album also has a strong percussive element — something Buitrago explored on his solo album, which was made almost immediately before Oye. Their first disc featured a strong punk influence reminiscent of Buitrago's brief involvement with the genre (he played in a band called La Pestilencia), but they gradually began exploring other genres and sounds.

"When I started playing with him, it was my first musical project, and I didn't really compose," she said of their 1995 début, El Dorado. "The disc is completely raw, and there is an enormous difference that can be felt on the second record ... where we explored a lot of bossa nova and folk influences.

"Gozo Poderoso, however, was totally in the direction of electronic music. It is an important fact that it was the first time that Hector produced, after having worked with [Roxy Music's] Phil Manzanera on the previous record."

Their live set will showcase material from their solo discs and from Oye while also giving a nod to their best-known tunes from previous years. "We hope to be heard, listened to," Echeverri says of their expectations for the tour.

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Ernest Barteldes