Music News


For about a decade, European electronica artists like Jazzanova and Les Gammas have mined Latin American records for punchy rhythms and melodies to heat up their tunes. Under the alias Sidestepper, British producer Richard Blair comes straight from the source -- the music of his adopted hometown of Bogota, Colombia. Blair has infused that capital's nightlife sounds with his unique digital-beat vision on two albums, the most recent of which, 3AM (In Beats We Trust), also finds him taking on the most popular sound of the Caribbean.

Back in 1999, Blair's first album as Sidestepper, the party-aimed and drum 'n' bass-oriented More Grip, prefigured that genre's current Latin craze. Working with Colombian songwriter Ivan Benavides on 3AM, he proffers a more soulful vibe, threading cumbia and Cuban salsa through a melange of Jamaican reggae styles. The duo tucks chugging percussion and chatty singing into the dub beats and plucky bass lines of "Me Gustas (No Me Disgustas)," while giving cumbia a modern dancehall twist on the playful "Más Papaya." Vocals from Latin and Jamaican cultures are key to 3AM.

Blair's reggae/Latin hybrid isn't totally foolproof; the dubby blips and beats seem superimposed on the salsa of "Donde Va Mi Corazón," a tune that works best when it reappears later on the album as "Walking," a bumping, straight-ahead dub version with vocals by smooth UK chanteur Jucxi.

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Ron Nachman