The hot pastrami came out of the warming oven at El Cuchitril de Villa Crespo and was quickly slathered with mustard and pickles before the owner slid it onto an onion roll. Andrés Schteingart, better known as El Remolón, dug in to the New York-style sandwich that found its way to a Buenos Aires spot at the corner of old school Jewish and new school hip (think Williamsburg without the bike lane battles). It was good enough to hold him over, he said, for an all-night studio session.
His public persona have undergone a kind of shamanic transformation as his appearance has shifted from disheveled music geek to psychedelic visionary.
Marathon nights recording, mixing, and producing are definitely the norm for El Remolón, who deftly defied his nom de plum – it means “The Lazy One” – with a 2014 chock full of releases. In an era of ephemeral mp3 singles, he released an impressive fifth full-length album, Selva, in March on ZZK Records, the label that emerged from the forward-thinking digital cumbia club night of the same name in the Argentine capital.
Selva showed the artist’s ability to pivot from a purely dancefloor orientation to something more introspective that retains a steady beat, what he likes to call “really conceptual bangers.” It harkens to his IDM roots recording under the name Drole while still incorporating a stripped down version of the cumbia shuffle he has worked successfully over the years. The album was also inspired by an ayahuasca ceremony that he underwent – and recorded – in Peru. Since then, everything from his music to his album art to his public persona have undergone a kind of shamanic transformation as his appearance has shifted from disheveled music geek to psychedelic visionary.
He remains a studio rat at the core, and Selva left plenty of material on the cutting room floor.
There is also more traditional fare like a mid-tempo remix of Miss Bolivia’s “Bien Warrior” – she also appears as a guest vocalist on Selva proper. Indeed, El Remolón works with an impressive slate of female and queer voices, including Lido Pimienta, Kumbia Queers, Mariela Gerez, and Iv Anna. The latter, who also records in the acoustic trans-friendly duo Bife, lent her talents to the loping “El Chamuyero.” The duo first collaborated three years ago and returned to co-write cryptic lyrics that promise a “cumbia negra y furiosa.” It delivers with a haunting male-female duet co-sung by El Remolón himself. “In porteño slang, a chamuyero is a liar, someone who makes things up, tells all kinds of lies, isn’t loyal,” he explains.
It’s the closest thing to a cumbia rebajada on Selva while also punctuating the background with vocoded voice samples that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fade to Mind or Night Slugs release at twice the tempo. With this combination of old and new, “El Chamuyero” proved ripe material for a remix EP that also landed in September, this time on Dutty Artz. The Chants remix leaves a light footwork touch that propels the slow original in a toe-tapping direction, while Atropolis’ rework hop scotches from note to note, rhythm to rhythm in a dynamic reinterpretation.
His industriousness is the admirable output of a dedicated musician, reflecting the constant need to stay relevant in a changing global scene.
If El Remolón’s 2014 release calendar wasn’t busy enough, he also promises a full remix album of Selva late this year or early next. He’s already lined up local talent like Chancha Via Circuito and Barrio Lindo, as well as international contributions from Australia’s Cumbia Cosmonauts, Ecuador’s Nicola Cruz, and Belgium’s Max le Daron. He just wrapped up a nine-city European DJ tour and if fans are lucky, they may catch his full band down the road. El Remolón y Su Conjunto “only plays a few times a year,” he says modestly, but features guitar, keyboards, synth, melodic flutes, drumpads, and other percussion to give life to his complex productions.
While El Remolón’s industriousness is the admirable output of a dedicated musician, it also reflects the constant need to stay relevant in a changing global scene. It’s been ten years since cumbia digital put Buenos Aires on the music map for something other than tourist tango, but that original generation of fans has started to move on. “There are small scenes in various Argentina cities,” he says, “but it’s easier to make it abroad than locally.” While cumbia remains popular, especially among the Argentine and Bolivian immigrant working class communities, the forward-thinking take that producers like El Remolón bring to the traditional rhythm have always had a niche audience. To keep afloat for the long haul in a hype machine of global bass flavors of the month, it takes exactly the kind of banner year that 2014 has been for El Remolón, laziness and all.