Cholu Records, 2021


REVIEW BY: Max Kaplan


With their debut album, Okuté pays homage to the deep traditions of Cuban music and paves their own way in what is otherwise hallowed ground. The group’s blend of horns, hand drums, electric instruments, and tight polyrhythms leads to a downright infectious groove. The sonngs could almost be mistaken to feel as though every member were playing a drum of some sort. Whether it be guitar or organ, their rhythmic parts become the center of attention despite their complicated harmonic parts. Even the vocals come across this way, with their enthusiastic calls and responses. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The inclusion of electric guitar can be irritating at times alongside an otherwise entirely acoustic ensemble; however, Okuté’s use of the instrument is fantastic. Although admittedly jarring, the guitar lines feel like a shaking call to action. Riding along the top of the album besides the horns, the action that feels most appropriate is to dance

The percussive element of this album is what truly moves the songs along. Several hand drummers and other percussionists are presented throughout the album. At times, the instruments seem to be reflecting off each other in a way that melts nicely with the upright bass. The band is truly expressive without the presence of horns. However, when the horns do arrive, they add another layer of polyrhythmic goodness. With the horns, one can almost imagine a second story being added to the house that is this album.

The mix of the record is notable as well. Each instrument stands in its own area, yet the entire band seems to blend nicely in a way resembling the tape recordings of yore. It is warm and deep, with the instruments panned quite nicely in a rounding stereo.

Okuté is a wonderful way to pay homage to the magnificent music of Cuba. Okuté has found their own unique sound without losing the sonic space that made old Cuban records so magical. The inclusion of electric Hammond “The Doors-ish” organ is a nice touch as well.

Rating: A-

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© 2021 Max Kaplan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Cholu Records, and is used for informational purposes only.