Chancha Via Circuito: The Travels Behind Rio Arriba (ZZK Records)

[Music: Jose Larralde - "Quimey Neuquen (Chancha Via Circuito RMX)". Photo: Chancha in Tiwanaku, Bolivia, which at one point was a precursor to the Inca Empire.]

The sense of mystery and adventure that pervades Rio Arriba are the feelings that motivated Chancha Via Circuito to take the journey that led to this album. He left his comfortable home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires on a mission to rediscover the music of pre-Hispanic South America, starting at the highest region of Argentina, going through Bolivia, and ending in Perú.

“When I travel, I like to go without direction through the mountains,” Chancha says. “Once on my fist trip alone, I got lost. I had started in Purmamarca, Jujuy, and was in the middle of big mountains when the night came. Luckily there was moonlight. After maybe five or six hours walking I found some lights from a small town and was safe.”

[Music: Chancha Via Circuito - "Puente". Photo: Purmamarca, Jujuy, the area in Argentina where Chancha got lost.]

The album is built on field samples, recorded on his M-Audio Microtrack II digital recorder, which captured the likes of music from Mapuches and the Patagonia, and atmospheric samples from Bolivia’s jungle and the city of La Paz. But the album is no academic tomb, no rote reproduction of these people’s sounds. It revels in the diversity he came across with a sense of participation, mixing together the various folk styles and adding new digital techniques to the mix.

“When I make music, I’m like a blender of all kinds of music styles,” he explains.

The artist’s favorite technique is to take ethnic kicks and drench them in reverb. He creates his sound palette through a mix of field recordings, samples from other songs, selections from sound libraries, and playing the occasional live instrument, like the flute. Then he pours all that into Ableton Live and manipulates it with a Nano Kontrol MIDI controller.

[Miriam Garcia & Alicia Solans - "Pintar el Sol (Chancha Via Circuito RMX)"]

The results sound like they could have come from the perspective of ancient astronauts who visited South America long before Cortés and his goons.

But even though the album is part of his country’s history, it’s a concept lost on many in Argentina. “It’s a problem of class. The middle, upper classes, they don’t care about folklore,” he told Cluster Magazine. “When foreigners speak well about you, people in Argentina see you with different eyes, with a little more respect. I think it’s because of prejudice.”

And yet, up until this week, the album was only available for purchase there. Now, 10 months later, the world can support it if they like. As part of this “re-release” of sorts, Chancha is on a U.S. tour. It began in Brooklyn at the Bass Mutations event, and tonight will return to New York at Public Assembly for the iBomba party.

[Stream Rio Arriba in its entirety, courtesy of zzkrecords. Photo: Chancha at Bass Mutations by Zach Dilgard.]

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