Album Review: Compro Oro – Suburban Exotica [Sdban Ultra; October 2019]

compro ora suburban cover

Self-described as “a twang-American psychedelic underground road trip to Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas”, Compro Oro’s Suburban Exotica (out on Belgian label Sdban Ultra) delivers ten tracks of groove music that draw on a multitude of genres. The instrumental album dishes out credible elements of Ethiopian modes and Cuban rumba percussion but is also happy to get down and dirty with funky electronic dance music and crunchy guitar solos.

Band members Wim Segers (vibraphone, marimba), Bart Vervaeck (guitar, oud), Falk Schrauwen (percussion), Matthias Debusschere (bass), and Frederik van den Berghe (drums) are proficient jazz musicians based in Gent, who debuted their eight-track Transatlantic in 2015, though you can find Live at El Negocito released in 2013 on their Bandcamp.

The track ‘Dark Crystal’ features Joachim Cooder (Mavis Staples, Ian Ball) – son of Ry Cooder (Buena Vista Social Club) – playing mbira. This song is a great example of the band’s ease in weaving between soothing melodies and then a fierce intensity. The lull of harmonious soft sounds escalate into a powerful growl of Spaghetti Western guitar, and the whole thing feels like a dream.

The music is evocative, each track conjuring new and exciting soundscapes, which makes this album sensational to listen to as a whole piece or to hear the tracks separately. While the songs journey through these motifs, however, there are not too many refrains or hooky choruses for the average listener. You are on the journey Compro Oro want to take you on!

Produced by Dijf Sanders (Imagine Raymond, Blackie & the Oohoos), the sound is distinctively modern, yet with a clear appreciation for time-honoured classics. Reminiscent of artists like Cal Tjader and Orchestre Baobab, the album is also for fans of Khruangbin or Sinkane. This album is neither one thing nor the other, but the band put it perfectly, as it is a soundtrack for a road trip across the world through their eyes.

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