Santé Les Amis will make you care about Uruguayan electro-pop

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The music of Santé Les Amis is not meant to be listened to. It’s meant to be experienced. The Uruguayan band’s new single, “Como Animales” (“Like Animals”), is a perfect example, and a top-notch addition to their growing body of work. It fully makes its impact only while being danced to, preferably in a dark room deluged with light effects and fake smoke. With its complex yet accessible sound, its seductive rhythmic sequence, its sparse, thoughtful, rather bleak lyrics, it aims to induce a particular state of being: elated, yes, joyful even, but also a little guarded, a little cynical, a little dark.

The release of “Como Animales” is great news to the growing ranks of Santé Les Amis’ fans, who have waited almost four years for new work from this innovative musical partnership. Founders Diego Traverso, Nicolás Demczylo, and David Stabilito, sought from the beginning in 2007 to create original music from a synthesis of rock, pop, and electronic music. What set them apart from many alternative bands was their insistence in making their music danceable for the mainstream, rather than just the niche consumers of progressive or alt-rock. Over the years they have collaborated with drummers Gonzalo Tassende and Carlos Esteban López, and most notable with keyboardist Santiago Marrero, a member of the legendary Uruguayan rock band Cuarteto de Nos.

Over a decade they made their name in dance clubs across Uruguay and later abroad, performing with such headliners as Franz Ferdinand, Calle 13, and Café Tacvba, but had only released two EPs and one full album titled “Sudamericana” in 2014. Their track “Brasil” caught the attention of the right people and was included in the soundtrack of the EA Sports soccer video game FIFA 2015. They’ve certainly made enough noise to inflate expectations for their long-awaited follow-up.

“Como Animales” is the first release from this as-yet-unnamed sophomore album, and it delivers. Like “Brasil,” it’s carried by a series of alternating upbeat rhythms. At first it seems as if the electronic effects will dominate, but in fact, the sound is closer to the rock en español created by Argentine musicians such as Charly García, Gustavo Cerati, and Andrés Calamaro. The vocals accentuate this sense, taking on the well-worn tonalities of urban Buenos Aires or Montevideo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6ZsqBqkQ-0

Santé Les Amis favors a scattered approach to lyrics, in which short, often unrelated phrases are bunched together in seemingly haphazard patterns. But their self-awareness shines through, beginning with the ambiguous title, which could be taken as a positive, “people are in many ways like animals,”  or a negative, “people act like animals” (in Spanish, “como animals” can also be taken to mean “I eat animals”).

Like many of their Argentine and Uruguayan predecessors, these lyrics carry a decidedly existential feel. “I don’t know who I am today,” goes one line, “we are lost.” The band members have described it as an “anxious groove” about “instincts and how to get along with them.” In short, Santé Les Amis is not looking for cheap emotion or giving the audience what it wants. They have a clear point of view that transcends pure sound and reaches towards philosophical and psychological depth.

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