Just south of the border, it’s Nortec
Tijuana Sessions Vol. 3
* * 1/2
This tribe of border DJs drew international attention when it debuted in 2001 with Vol. 1 of “Tijuana Sessions,” a bold attempt to digitally recycle the dense atmosphere of a town known for its tackiness, violence and corruption. Nortec processed the city’s sounds and sensations through laptops, converting Tijuana kitsch into techno chic.
Down to five acts from seven, the collective returns with its sophomore release, “Vol. 3.” As members told Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the first attempt at a follow-up wasn’t good enough to put out. The extra time and effort paid off. This work marks the maturity of the Nortec sound, making its freshman effort seem in retrospect like a rough practice session.
The current Nortec members -- Bostich (Ramon Amezcua), Clorofila (Jorge Verdin), Fussible (Pepe Mogt), Hiperboreal (Pedro Gabriel Beas) and Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza) -- once again alternate tracks on this 15-song set. Though each writes and produces his individual numbers, as a group they have elevated their sound beyond the droning, automaton quality that marred their first record.
Mastered by acclaimed sound engineer Bernie Grundman (Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Joni Mitchell), this CD sounds much more vivid and dynamic than its slightly muddled predecessor. Instead of simply sampling bits of norteno and banda music as before, Nortec has recruited street musicians to record lines for various instruments -- trumpet, tuba, clarinet, accordion, piano, bajo sexto.
The result is a much more musical approach that highlights humans over machines, adding the heart that was missing. The emotional effect is obvious on a number like “Olvidela Compa” (Forget Her, Bro), which builds on a melancholy accordion to create a soundscape of sadness and loss.
Finally, Nortec achieves what it set out to create: a sonic ambience that evokes the strange, stimulating, scary and promising place its members call home.
Where: Santa Monica Pier,
Colorado and Ocean avenues
When: Aug. 11, 7 p.m.
With Plastilina Mosh
Info: (310) 458-8900