Sauerkraut & salsa

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Hail, hail to Emperor Norton for emancipating yet another diggable, groovable, downright hip and strange creature of sound, aka Señor Coconut Y Su Conjunto. A native of Chile, Coconut began his career in entertainment as a dancer. Now with El Baile Aleman (The German Dance) he’s proven himself to be an accomplished conductor and arranger as well. In one of his commonplace strokes of genius, Coconut has chosen popular Kraftwerk (of Düsseldorf) tunes as a foundation to showcase his bevy of marimbas, maracas and Latin cha-cha-cha percussions. It’s a cool, repetitive and sterile framework to house Coconut’s warm and organic instrumentation, occasionally reminiscent of Raymond Scott’s cartoonish energy, with periodic Latin–man howls thrown in.

When you listen closely, however, you realize that that warm, South American touch is actually a Latin simulation, full of brass samplings and unnatural stops. We’ve been hornswoggled. Señor Coconut is none other than Uwe Schmidt (aka Atom Heart) of Deutschland, who can’t seem to totally shake the schnitzel off his boots. When it comes to music, Schmidt continually reinvents himself, and this time he’s appropriately done it in the company of Emperor Norton, a label named after a failed San Francisco businessman who proclaimed himself emperor of the United States. It seems everyone around followed suit and treated the emperor like royalty, taking part in the virtual game, just as we listeners can take part in the Señor Coconut game.

Bored by Germany, Schmidt moved to Chile, intent on adding the new musical and cultural influences around him into his already established electronic repertoire, saying, “I prefer to break up the artificial with the natural.” And he has, by melding the music of his homeland with the dance beats of his new land. Who can argue with the success of “Tour De France” as a merengue, or finally being able to cumbia to “Trans Europe Express”?

So if you’re tired of Kraftwerk au natural, add some Chilean spice to those old grandfathers of cool mechanical electronica by tasting a little Coconut. You can’t help but shake your American, posing-as-Latin ass.

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