Frikstailers, the Argentine DJ duo Rafa Caivano and Lisandro Sona, have once again proven their title as the “indisputable galactic emperors of tropical futurism.” Their new EP Crop Circles demonstrates the ways in which cumbia has transformed itself to meet the musical tastes of today’s progressive listeners. The album is heavier on digital instrumentation than any of Frikstailers’ past releases, and it only takes them a short 20 minutes 30 seconds to prove that there are just about no limits to how electronic cumbia can get.
The effort to preserve the genre’s rhythmic, percussive roots is certainly there. Tracks begin with an electronic beat that seems as if it will last the duration of the song, and the energy of the music is dance floor-friendly from the get-go, much in the style of traditional Colombian cumbia. But once you hit that 20-second mark, things begin to disintegrate into the psychic soup, and the basic beats are as good as gone. Rhythms speed up, mutate, overlap. You are suddenly launched on an intergalactic journey during which the dance energy fluctuates wildly, the mercurial vibe summoning echoes of anything from disco to the murkiest, tranciest recesses of dub.
“Intro Orbital” sounds exactly as it reads. It’s extraterrestrial mingling: they’re here, but they’re not here to hurt you. Logically following, “Crop Circles” marks the initial descent, and by the cosmic echoes of “Omeprazol”, you won’t know which way to turn your head. The rest of the album continues on this scheme, with parts of “Kepler” and “Venus” suggesting a suspenseful voyage through an outer-space jungle.
With Crop Circles, Frikstailers synthesize classic cumbia with the digital and sometimes psychedelic elements of today's mainstream dance music. They've not only adapted cumbia to new local cultures and audiences, but they've made themselves tastemakers in the process. Check out the EP and see for yourself below.