11th December, 1993

Their second number-one hit off their first album, and if they show no sign of diminishing returns their combination of cumbia rhythms, synth keys and fey vocals was never all that astonishing in the first place. If anything, this melody is even more nursery-rhyme than that of their first entry, and the Casio presets even more goofy.

But their combination of tropical ritmos and electronic playfulness makes me think, unexpectedly, of the most futuristic Latin music I know today, the electro-cumbia propagated by the ZZK club and record label out of Buenos Aires, where sound sculptors from all over the world like Frikstailers and El Trip Selector fuse the urgent stasis of cumbia with up-to-the-minute glitch, microhouse, and acid electro, creating avant-garde dance music that still pulses with authentic heat. Los Fantasmas aren't trying todo anything so ambitious, of course; they're party music for parties without any low end, and they use electronic keyboards and drumpads more because, hey, it's 1993 than on any strict aesthetic grounds. But the joy in bringing out novel sounds and setting them against the old rhythm is the same.

The song is, if not a traditional one, then one that sounds traditional: "Por Una Lágrima" means "with one tear," and the singer is accusing his girl of crying false tears to cover up her unfaithfulness to him, a lover's complaint as ancient as love poetry itself. It doesn't at all match the bouncy music, but in a way that's a relief; we've had enough self-pitying ballads lately. Self-pitying dance music is much better.

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