Intriguingly, Reid Speed and Dinesh both bring a "deep" sensibility to 2step's glossy-surfaced instantaneousness ("deep" being house/techno code for "not blatantly tuneful") by focusing on less songful stuff—all plinky xylo/marimba-style B-lines and tuned percussion. DB, being an English expat and a populist, is comfortable dropping such ultramelodic tracks as Shanks & Bigfoot's "Sing-A-Long" and the remake of soppy piano-rave anthem "Sweet Harmony." Feline was authentically British in playing Big Tune after Big Tune, but her mixing was often sloppy and she didn't exhibit much flair for set building or vibe escalation. Still, the sheer implacable density of Big Tunes—B15's "Girls Like This," Shola Ama's "Imagine," Gabrielle's "Sunshine"—kept the converts on the floor. These high-pitched melisma selections also showcased another crucial aspect of 2step: the way that extreme treble can be as intense as extreme bass. The sensation is head-spinningly effervescent, like you've got champagne running through your veins.

Speaking of which, I didn't see one sign of the U.K. garage raver's fave tipple. Other differences: The dancing was more energetic, fluid, and expressive than the taut shoulder/hip/butt shaking you get in London clubs. Most striking of all was the utter absence of we-be-the-baddest-clique snootiness. In this respect, if no other, the fledgling American scene has the edge over its Brit blueprint. —Simon Reynolds

"Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh!": Traoré gets a leg up.
photo: Hiroyuki Ito
"Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh!": Traoré gets a leg up.

Alternative Nación

If you ask me, Latin alternative really pops with the sight of Julio Briceño, lead singer for Los Amigos Invisibles, racing across the stage into a high-speed electro-merengue called "El Sobón," or Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas's Dante Spinetta Zalazar making like a displaced breakdancer in an imaginary Bronx salsa club. But the genre's fan base also welcomes Monterrey's Nortec (exploding mad samples and loops of norteño danzón), Austin's Vallejo (stacking Marshall amps for an attack of Lynyrd Skynyrd with a Santana underbelly), and Nuyo-Dominican tropical triphoppers Si Se—all of whom performed at shows as part of the first-ever Latin Alternative Music Conference.

With crossover fever in the air at Central Park SummerStage on August 12, disco-funqueros Los Amigos unveiled their new English tune, "Amor," a three-chord soul-jazz anthem that answers the question "What is love?" Digging deeply into the soulful slink of bugaloo, the Amigos unveiled the mixed-tropical underpinnings of their upcoming Arepa 3000. Still, the obligatory Venezuelan flags didn't come out until lite-porno standards like "Disco Anal" and "Ponerte en Cuatro" brought their set to a rousing climax. Argentina's Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas took the stage, having evolved from faux-cholo lowriding rhymers into Funkadelic Boricua MCs. Cowled in 'do-rags and turbans, IKV's Dante Spinetta and Emmanuel Hourvilleur kicked Joe Cuba montunos on old favorite "Abarajame" and Leche's "Coolo" and "Jennifer del Estero."

But not everyone is enamored with tropical funk rock, especially the payaso at Irving Plaza on August 14 who splattered Hourvilleur with beer in the middle of his Earth, Wind, and Fire falsetto in "Lo Que Nos Mata." Performing at about the same time Rage and Ozomatli fans were getting gassed in L.A., rap-rockers Molotov got the crowd punchy—several rowdies were ejected. Expertly sticking to the rawk part of rock, Molotov—with their echoey fireworks and craftily crude rhymes—cemented their dominance as poster boys for alienated Latino youth.

The songwriters-in-the-round set at Nell's belonged to Latin rock's queen divas, Julieta Venegas and Andrea Echeverri. Venegas was a revelation, her off-the-cuff, bored melancholy conveyed so edgily by her raspy wisp of a voice. She performed on solo piano and acoustic guitar, then stood with an accordion doing her Tom Waits-meets-Carlos Gardel Tijuana tango "Casa Abandonada." These tunes were reprised in the Café Tacuba-style arrangements of her new album, Buen Invento, at the Banda Elástica awards show August 15 at Irving Plaza.

Venegas's auspicious New York debut couldn't steal the luster from the best unsigned band of the moment, Colombia's Aterciopelados. Head 'pelado and Latin chanteuse of the '00s Andrea Echeverri stopped hearts with an acoustic version of her classic "Bolero Falaz." At Irving Plaza her exquisite, cosmic-goddess voice was unruffled by Atercio's new electronic configuration; Echeverri and partner-in-música Héctor Buitrago transformed the punk anthem "Florecita Rockera" into a deep house trance-athon. Ecstatically imploring the faithful, Echeverri stirred up the unlikely mosh pit, swinging her arms to the beat of an ancestral drum we all had heard in our dreams. —Ed Morales

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