Listen: La Tortuga China’s Bio-Lento LP [P.R.]

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When Superaquello disbanded, the Puerto Rican music scene lost one of its beloved and most prominent purveyors of awesome, meaningful pop. Nonetheless, that didn’t silence the creativity and tenacity of some of its core members, who developed equally creative solo projects, like Eduardo Alegría’s incredible supergroup, Alegría Rampante. Now, we get to hear the work of another ex-Superaquello, Francis Pérez. With his alter ego, La Tortuga China, he’s debuted one of the most beautiful conceptual albums: Bio-Lento.

Sonically, Pérez has crafted a world of his own that few can rival. The songs in Bio-Lento are stories, some of them with sound effects-–like footsteps and gun shots—that bring a dramatic element to an already charged album. A howling wolf and a gunshot introduce the record in the short, acoustic instrumental “Su nombre es huella,” which paves the way for the brilliantly schizophrenic “Ataque al corazón (Miedo se despierta).” In this track, we hear the ethereal voice of Superaquello’s ex-frontwoman, Patricia Dávila, singing over a bomba rhythmic base. The song is mysterious and sensual, with Pérez mixing the visceral quality of the bomba drums with trip-hop. I never thought I would hear that fusion, but in Pérez’s hands it makes all the sense in the world.

This sonic theme-–along with pieces of Dávila’s vocals—are repeated throughout the album, intertwined with classical elements, pop, and experimental. You can hear this in songs like “Lo que no se pudo decir” and “Coleccionista de caracoles.” In “La Oración,” he sings (a cappella) some of the most heartbreaking lyrics; that sadness made poignant when he returns mid-song with bomba. Ironically, he ends the track sampling the melody from the aguinaldo “La Rosa Blanca,” a beautiful song about finding the love of your life.

Bio-Lento is a self-contained world, full of stories that should be taken as a whole, thought about and processed accordingly. It’s a brilliant effort, one that you shouldn’t miss.

(Photo Credit: Karlo X. Ramos)