Mezcla is an unruly album both by design and default, and that is just as it should be. After several years and four albums, New York-based M.A.K.U. Soundsystem decided to record live in the studio in order to capture the intangible reality and connection found watching a live performance. You can only do that when the collective energy is anchored by rock-solid chops and clear arrangements. M.A.K.U. Soundsystem has both, witnessed right out of the gate with “Agua,” a blistering opus questioning the right of anyone to “own” and copyright seeds. Echoes of Colombian champeta are heavily laced with Afrobeat and funk, topped off with a retro synth line and cumbia-style vocals. Unruly indeed, but it works well due to the commitment the players express and the sheer power of their delivery.
This is a formula that could easily fall apart, but it holds together to a great extent because the intent of this album is to represent both the band and the immigrant population in raw and honest terms. The edges may be rough but the spirit is strong and tracks like “La Inevitable” and “What Do You Wish For” are proud and righteous proclamations of the new immigrant experience. Curiously, the track “La Haitiana” is the most cumbia-inflected of them all, while the Haitian influence sounds strong elsewhere, particularly in the circular choral vocals in “Thank You, Thank You.”
What sets M.A.K.U. Soundsystem apart from the crowd is its unusual sound palette. Moog synthesizer lines snake through Afro-Caribbean rhythms and horn lines ripped straight from P Funk, resulting in a juggernaut of fun that must be great to see live.
By the time you get to the end of Mezcla you get the distinct feeling you have been on a journey through some distinct but very closely knit territories. They may be abroad or they may be in your back yard--and that is exactly the point that M.A.K.U Soundsystem wishes to make. Out May 27 on Glitterbeat Records.