Review | Songlines

A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

Rating: ★★★

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Album and Artist Details

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Shika Shika

July/2020

From Radio 4's Tweet of the Day to Sam Lee's nocturna nightingale sessions, ornithology has gone mainstream. Sadly, the renewed interest derives from the destruction of habitats and the demise of many species around the world. Latin America, together with the islands of the Caribbean Sea, constitute a twitcher's nirvana, home to thousands of species, many of them colourful and eccentric (the bright orange Andean cock-of-the-rock) or big and beautiful (the roseate spoonbill). This fundraising album (monies raised will support three bird-related projects) features ten tracks and ten birds, from eight countries, including Belize's black catbird, Mexico's yellow-headed amazon and the Jamaican blackbird. Species were chosen because they are endangered, rather than for their sweet songs, but all provide intriguing samples around which fine bands such as the Garifuna Collective, Siete Catorc and Time Cow build cool, looping electronic soundscapes. Conceived by Shika Shika label co-founder and former Greenpeace campaigner, Robin Perkins (aka El Búho or ‘The Owl’), this is a follow-up to a widely praised 2015 South American birdsong compilation.

The album's PR puff chucks around terms like ‘psychedelic chicha’ and ‘glitchy folktronica’ to describe the fusion of tech and tradition, but, neologisms aside, this is more than mere lounge music; somehow, whether it's Ximena Obregón's vocals on the track supplied by Maracuya of the Dominican Republic or Guatemalan Di Laif's pulsating percussion, these songs reach down to the roots as well as up high to the canopy. An entrancing, trippy flight into new Latin and Caribbean music and, also, a more than worthy cause.

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