This week I was all set to write about another artist entirely and then I started listening to Matias Zundel's new album, "Amazonico Gravitante," and I couldn't wait.

 

I interviewed Mati in Buenos Aires in 2010 for his first ZZK Records' release, Bailando under the name Lagartijeando, the record that introduced him to the U.S. and Europe. We spoke about his field recordings in Bolivia and rural Mexico. He is of that rare class of hip musicologist who transmits folk-spun art gospel to the world at large. Speaking with him I was struck by his passion and respect for the indigenous treasures he'd dug up in various rain forests and villages along back routes through Latin America. He talked about how the meticulous process of documenting local rhythms through field recordings along rural routes under tropical or desert conditions with a microphone in tow. That he could take those gems and translate them for a broad audience is a rare skill. He was making club music with ZZK, but from his travels it morphed into an anthropological form that put him in a separate category even from stellar label peers like Chancha Via Circuito.

 

2012 finds Zundel featured on NPR and ready to take the jungle to the northern capitals across the western hemisphere. Give an advance listen to the new king of electro cumbia and Tron-tinged folklorico. Mandolin-sized guitars from various mountain folk lilt over wood-thumping bass and echoing pan-flutes. A Peruvian lady shaman guests on one song, a testosterone-charged MC the next.

 

Mati is from a country town in Argentina but the songs stretch across the continent from Chile to Ecuador. The same spinning, acoustic strum that accompanied Manu Chao hits shows up in well-crafted songs with a global appeal. There is the common thread of reggae-meets-Latin on some tracks but Amazonico Gravitante spans a vast spectrum. Songs feel almost familiar but they manage to transport you to the farthest-reaching realms of South America, to its most exotic pockets of people and their sounds.

 

Meet Mati the sonic butcher:

 





Get an insider's view to Mati's travels in Bolivia, where he engages in the business of empanada contraband and instigates a public fervor with a tiny guitar: