It’s a good day when you can hear a trap song that melts your heart and sizzles your soul. Try taking that energy on 15 times. Such is the case in the bursting Mango Negro from Chilean front woman, percussionist and artist extraordinaire, Rubio. This experimental project launched in 2015 and is the brainchild of Francisca Straube. Already her second album, Mango Negro is full of interesting beats, often ambient undercurrents and is a follow-up to 2018’s PEZ. But what Rubio does better than any other is adding a genuine, sensational zest for her environment and humanity. In other words, she feeds off the energy of her life and serves it to her listeners.
There are several bright spots and interesting sonic turns on this album. With 15 songs, Rubio provides many opportunities to transport the listener to moments of Zen mixed with the right amount of peppered percussion. Rubio never feels greedy or too much. She’s not overzealous with her reverb and dropped beats. Her vocal delivery reminds me a lot of Melanie C. There are times when you want to hear more of her voice, but the music bed takes over, and you forget your troubles.
Some of my favorite tracks include the opening “La Pérdida”. I felt like I was chasing echoes of “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns. You might know “Danse Macabre” and it’s taught violin arrangements from Netflix’s Ratched opening. Imagine my surprise to go from this classical-like track to the next song, “Oro” with its heavy beats, it’s a bit of a whiplash. I loved it though – bring on that whiplash.
In the title track, something took ahold of me. I wanted to hear more of Rubio’s crooning. Because she sings in Spanish, I’m not 100% certain what she’s singing, but I feel it. When I listen to a song like this, and in track seven, “Aqua”, I begin to paint a picture of who Rubio is an artist. I think she’s the type of artist that can hear the sound of a bird (as I suspect she does in track three, “Pájaro Azul”) and create this fantastical, emotional connections with beats. Her drumming skills really come into play in all of these songs and as much as I adore her voice, I think she tells an incredible story with the beats and rhythm. I hadn’t encountered that in too many Electronic songs this year. I don’t consider Rubio to be solely Electronic, as she really brews together pop, classical and native sounds. Like most drummers, she feels music and her interpretations are all the better because that beat is the narrator.
Rubio mentions in her press materials that we all have an internal light within us, one that doesn’t depend on material goods to shine. When you’re listening through that lens, the songs on Mango Negro re-assure you that inner peace and confidence is attainable. Even if it’s just dancing to the trap music and moving those shoulders to the bouncing beats, these songs all have the power to ignite endless imagination.
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