The sea is unpredictable. At one moment, it can be serene and tranquil. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it can become rough and tempestuous. That extreme volatility continually serves as a muse for artists of all kinds.
Colombian-born, Los Angeles –based electronic dance music alchemists Palenke SoulTribe—Juan Diego Borda [Vocals, Sequencer, Bass] and Andres "Popa" Erazo [vocals, synths, gaita]—went so far as to name their second full-length album, Mar, translated "The Sea." In fact, the music comprising Mar mirrors a truly tidal ebb and flow. Organic tribal rhythms seamlessly punctuate pulse-pounding synths as strangely sexy hooks float to the surface. Electronic beats, Colombian flavors, and enchanting melodies converge in one universally danceable style. Get ready to drift off into Palenke SoulTribe's Mar.
The duo's vision for Mar was conceptualized early on. It's the second installment of a trilogy that began with 2009's unanimously celebrated Oro, which means "gold," and will conclude with 2014's Rojo, or "Red" in English. The three records reflect the colors on the Colombian flag in order—yellow, blue, and red. In that sense, there's always been a plan for each album. However, while recording Mar, boundaries didn't exist.
To cut these songs, Juan and Popa holed up in a Los Angeles studio during early 2012 between their rigorous touring schedule. Over the course of long nights experimenting with a myriad of sonic colors, they painted a diverse, dynamic pastiche of sounds.
"There's definitely a Caribbean tropical influence," explains Popa. "We combine that with all of these new electronic dance music elements, and it creates something very alive for us."
"You might call it Tropical Psychedelia," adds Juan. "That sweet Caribbean sound merges with those crazy synths and drops. All of the songs have different characteristics. That's how the ocean is. It's deep sometimes. It's calm other times. It's serious, but it's also fun. We drew so many themes and ideas from that."
Beyond fishing thematic material from the sea, the twosome found inspiration in a myriad of sounds. As a result, the first single "Move It" featuring Naada tempers a sweaty, seductive refrain with truly international production embracing Colombia. It's an infectious dance floor anthem meant to be heard around the world.
"The song is really defined by duality," reveals Juan. "You can interpret the lyrics in a couple of ways. It's about dance and sex, but it's also about how woman can trap you with her magic. The sexual and spiritual sides really come together."
The Palenke SoulTribe ethos is really about "coming together." Not only do they combine numerous musical styles, but they also include three languages—English, Spanish, and Palenquero.
"Even if people don't understand the lyrics, they can hum the melody or move to the beat," affirms Popa.
As for the incorporation of Palenquero, it's a direct homage to the Palenke village in Colombia. Juan goes on, "In the 16th and 17th century, the slaves would escape from the Spanish and create hidden 'Palenke' villages where they could preserve their music and culture. They formed a new language that combined Western African and Spanish. It's called Palenquero. They also formed the first free territories in America later on. It was very meaningful for us to know that. It's a tribute to that lineage, and we even got musicians from the Colombian village to play drums on the record. It makes the songs richer and deeper."
Everything truly comes to life on stage though. Boasting impressive theatrics and larger-than-life production, Juan and Popa bring audiences right into the heart of their tribe. "We think of it as the ultimate carnival," smiles Popa. "The goal is for the crowd to walk away having had the time of its life."
It's no surprise that Palenke SoulTribe has become an electronic dance music phenomenon. KCRW named Oro one of the "Top 10 Albums of 2009. It received rave reviews from Billboard, AOL's Spinner, and MTV's Tr3s. However, everything simply laid the groundwork for Mar.
Ultimately, Palenke Soultribe want everyone to set sail with them. "I hope listeners can go on a trip and travel some place divine within their minds when they hear this," concludes Juan.
"It's about freedom," continues Popa. "It's your moment so do whatever you want. We hope to encourage everyone to free themselves."