Presente (which include liner notes written by Enrique Lopetegui, the Current's music editor) is a giant record. Beyond its runtime (78 min.) and the size of the band that made it (an eight-piece), it's an album that audaciously aims to integrate trip-hop, tango, classical, pop, folk, and a capella with relative coherence. That Bajofondo get the chemistry right is high praise. More impressive, however, is that Oscar-winning composer and bandleader Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) and his Argentine and Uruguayan band managed to make it so damn catchy. Comprised primarily of instrumentals with a handful of fist-pumping vocal numbers thrown in for good measure, its blend of synthetic beats, rock guitars and violins puts Presente far outside anything on the American musical landscape today. But the effect is not alienating, thanks in large part to its incredible arsenal of hooks. Of course, Presente's outsized ambitions don't always pay off, particularly in regards to its ridiculously slick big-budget production. For a band world renowned for the power of their live performances, Presente sounds like something assembled in ProTools, with little flesh and blood to be found in its meticulously assembled tracks. Though it'll be a pleasure to see Bajofondo sink their teeth into this material live (they'll be at Austin's Auditorium Shores for a free SXSW March 14 concert with Mexico's Molotov and Café Tacuba, both produced by Santaolalla), it's a shame the production so hampers an otherwise stellar and uniquely intriguing record.
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