Nortec Collective


Monday, March 16, 2015
Nortec Collective – “Cetron” from Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich and Fussible: Tijuana Sound Machine (2008 Nacional Records)


It’s worth checking out the roster of North Hollywood’s Nacional Records if you haven’t. It’s a label I discovered quite by accident some years back when I stumbled across the Nortec Collective and the Mexican Institute of Sound at about the same time, downloading releases from each via eMusic. I’m not sure what the impetus was at that point — maybe an NPR story, maybe something on Sound Opinions, maybe a random eMusic recommendation — but I’m glad to have found those releases, as they opened my eyes to the Tijuana DJ scene and its hybridization of traditional Mexican and modern electronic forms of music.

It was only today that I put together that both of those artists were on the same label, and honestly, I’m guilty of grouping them both together in my head, which, it turns out, isn’t fair — Nortec Collective is based in Tijuana, while MIS is from Mexico City. Those are two very distinct locales.

Anyway, in looking at the Nacional Records website (which again, I recommend), and their WIkipedia page (which you probably don’t need unless you’re writing a music blog or something), there is a lot to discover. First, they have an enormous roster of artists from all over Latin America and beyond, including (but not limited to) the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (I’ll admit to being curious), Venezuela’s La Vida Bohème, American giants of new wave Tom Tom Club, man of the world Manu Chao, and a million other artists who, like these, I know criminally little about.

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but in 2008 (the year that this album was released), “Nortec Collective ceased to function as a proper collective” (to borrow a surprisingly well-crafted phrase from Wikipedia), which is a little confusing as they continued to release music in the years since, often with the “Nortec Collective Presents” tag that this album has.

So it’s not the full four-member group — absent are Hiperboreal and Clorofila — but Bostitch (Ramón Amor Amezcua Sánchez, often considered the creator of the genre) and Fussible remain. The album has definitely received mixed reviews, and a lot of that is based on the context of other albums, and considerations of how the songs work together as a whole. Thankfully, my job isn’t to parse all that out, but rather to discuss one song.

“Cetron” sounds like you might expect a hybrid of traditional Mexican and electronic music to sound. Most prominently, at first, is the tuba. There is a fast-paced polka beat with a tinny snare drum that often threatens to come off the rails in a fashion that is almost-but-never-quite punk rock. There are also breakdowns that have a more electro-house beat. Musically, there’s not a super clear narrative arc, more like what the jukebox at your favorite taquería might sound like if hacked by Cyriak, but it has feet in two worlds, and you can dance to it, kind of like Tijuana itself.