Although Englishman Robin Perkins has a degree in Latin American studies, his musical project El Búho is where his fascination for the region and its cultures really manifests. It was his time living in Buenos Aires back in 2009 that acquainted him with South American folklore, through the works of collectives and labels like ZZK. Since then, El Búho has developed his signature sound, a collision of electronic beats and organic textures. For him, this adventure has unraveled both on- and offline, with trips to Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, and Argentina to collaborate with local communities of musicians, both traditional and contemporary.
After years of releasing EPs, remixes, collaborations, and even launching his own Shika Shika imprint with peer Argentine artist Barrio Lindo, Perkins is finally ready to drop his first album through Brooklyn-based imprint Wonderwheel Recordings. Titled Balance, the album shows him harvesting the seeds he’s planted in all these years making music, as it features a long list of collaborators who have helped him realize his vision. From Bolivian legend Luzmila Carpio and Mexican poet Citlali Malpica to fellow Shika Shika members Kaleema, Jhon Montoya, and Lulacruza’s Uji, Balance is a communal – and international – affair.
Album standout “Chucum,” premiering today on Remezcla, is one of the few solo tracks on Balance, but Perkins’ naturalistic samples still make it feel larger than life. His signature field recordings of birds and breezes will transport you to the middle of the forest, while piano strokes, guitar strums, and harp plucks cast a mystical spell. The song references the chucum trees of the Yucatán peninsula, where moist broadleaf forests flourish. The wordless cut-and-paste vocal melody slithers to the beat of a cumbia-adjacent rhythm with graceful subtlety.
Meanwhile, Nicola Cruz’s take on “Chucum” dims the lights and takes the beat to a foggy dance floor. But it’s the vocal harmonies, provided by singer Gorka Molero, and additional instruments, like sikus and charango, courtesy of Julio Vicencio, that truly make the song shine, offering a remix that’s as strong as the original. “This was not a ‘planned’ remix; it all happened quite out of the blue and organically,” says Perkins about Cruz’s track. “His remix is what remixes should be: A fresh take on the track without losing sight of the original elements. I just love the instrumental parts he added; it takes it to a whole other place.”
Balance is out on November 3 through Wonderwheel Recordings. Pre-order the album here.