It’s rare that a claustrophobic mix makes sense for a pop song, as more often than not using such a production scheme results in an insulated sound that doesn’t bolster the level of depth that a more scooped EQ would. This cannot be said of Labán’s new single “Dueños de Aquí.” In this song, listeners are squeezed between the dirge of the drum and bass backdrop and the unclouded assault of Labán’s vocals, and while being in the eye of the storm can have its drawbacks, there’s no better vantage point to observe the internal mechanisms of a composition. Labán has a lot to say in this track, which is politically charged and provocatively stylized, but he doesn’t get self-righteous in his pleas. “Dueños de Aquí” can be boiled down to a single flashpoint that it contains midway into the song; the out of this world harmony, which takes equal parts Latin groove and American style R&B to make a delightful concoction for all of our senses to appreciate. Stirring and unafraid of taking a few eccentric risks, the first official cut from Labán’s new album Todos Somos Dueños de Aquí is a scorching lullaby for the urban pop fan looking for something new.
The tempo of “Dueños de Aquí” is mind-numbingly tense, to the point where if it weren’t for Labán’s cool vocal interlude it could be deemed frothily ambient, overindulgent even. Labán cuts the tension down with the verses, which attempt to smother the drone of the bass with a bright harmony sung in a quiet, endearing voice. The guitar is another point of relief, even though it spins as much contemplation our way as the lyrics do, sans the educated prose of the singer. As an independent artist, Labán faces a lot more pressure than his mainstream contemporaries do in releasing this single right now. Latin pop music hasn’t been a bankable genre for big labels since the late 2000s, but nothing about this song implies that it’s trying to live in the past or recreate something that just isn’t relevant anymore. Structurally this has a lot in common with the Latin vibes of yesteryear, but Labán’s method of execution is anything but a throwback.
This single is more fascinatingly abstract and contemporary than most anything that I’ve heard in the style lately, but Labán gives us more than enough familiar grooves to ensure that the first offering from his upcoming record is invitational rather than dauntingly urbane. I fell for the rhythm of this track the first time that I played it, but as I wrestled with the lyrics I came to understand that Labán’s work is about so much more than inspiring a swing in our step. It’s about educating us about what he’s seen, where he’s been, and what he thinks should be done about the grave state of our planet. You can argue whether or not his music connects with the taste of modern listeners, or you can take it for what it unequivocally is – contemporary R&B that makes as much of a statement in its words as it does its blazing harmonies.
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