Cradle and Bed


Andrea Echeverri says an angel appeared after she drank hallucinogenic tea and told her to have a baby. Echeverri obeyed, but unlike at least one other woman who got the news via divine messenger, she’s no blessed virgin.

She named her daughter Milagros (miracles); still, as seen on her self-titled solo debut, sex itself remains a revelation.

The English-only might be forgiven for panning the album. Echeverri seems to have dropped punk androgyny for tidy earth mother pop, and few of the perfectly symmetrical, maddeningly unhurried tracks display the songwriting kink that drew U.S. audiences to her band Aterciopelados. Yet a little translation reveals the accessibility as a ruse for an album that’s both naughty and academic.

Musically, Andrea Echeverri would risk mere pleasantness—Aterciopelados’ most recent set, Gozo Poderoso (2001), had already slowed into a croon, somewhat disappointingly—were it not for the tricky layers of compulsive pleasure seeking. Think Plath’s pregnant poetry done in cumbia lite, or a teasing ivory-tower rock en español.

The songs are supposed to be divided into la cuna (the cradle) and la cama (the bed), but they’re practically indistinguishable. Take “Lactochampeta,” the most restless, whirling track, ostensibly about breast-feeding. It wickedly borrows the champeta genre, whose accompanying dance was banned in some parts of Eche-verri’s native Colombia for being too sexy. In Echeverri’s matriarchal version, she asks only that she be sucked rhythmically.

Of course, Freud always insisted that breast-feeding was an erotic act, but he left the mother’s sensation out of it entirely. Echeverri joins certain feminist critics in having no such reservations. On “A Eme O,” she thanks her two-year-old for making her a better lover, opening her up and unblocking her pathways. Said pathways, Echeverri reminds us, work both ways.

She also channels, probably unconsciously, French feminist Helene Cixous, she of the abandonment of phallogocentrism. Are “Lactochampeta” et al. what Cixous meant when she urged women to write in “white ink”: lactic, practically invisible? (Incidentally, Aterciopelados, or “the velvety ones,” is a de Beauvoir reference.) For those reluctant to play grad school, new mama Echeverri is also cool with kindergarten. Her games can pass for schoolhouse rock, drilling spelling (“A Eme O”) and conjugation (“Ya Yo No”).

Echeverri’s likely not as mannered as all the subtext would have you believe, though she is as precious. She just doesn’t mind her body as text—whatever gets the juices flowing.

Andrea Echeverri performs with Aterciopelados on Central Park SummerStage August 1, as part of the Latin American Music Conference.