Over the past few years, the lighthearted Cómeme label has been a solid outpost for a uniquely club-ready brand of outsider dance music. Founded in 2009, the pan-Latin American imprint started by Matías Aguayo and Gary Pimiento recently announced the launch of a new compilation series, One Night in Cómeme, with the aim of showcasing the label's breadth through a mixture of b-sides, alternate versions, and previously released tracks.
One of the special things about Cómeme is the way in which it manages to sound outside while still maintaining a generally well-produced aesthetic. One Night in Cómeme, Vol. 1 is a testament to this, a collection showing that weirdness doesn't always need to go hand in hand with lo-fi. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find anything on this compilation that could be described as abrasive or raw. These are artists whose quirks come out in a shared zany approach to dance music that's dead serious about being playful.
Though it doesn't start the LP, Alejandro Paz's "Oye" is when it first begins to kick into gear. A previously unreleased track, it's a perfect microcosm of the Cómeme sound. "Hey, tu!" barks Paz over videogame sound effects and a rigid bassline cribbed from 1985. In a way, it doesn't really sound like house at all; it's more like an updated take on Latin new wave—imagine a contemporary music growing naturally out of Liasons Dangereuses' "Los Niños del Parque." This is one side of Cómeme, and it's well represented on the disc. Other works in this vein are Daniel Maloso's militant "Boney," Cowboy Rhythm Box's aggressive "Shake," and DJs Pareja's brooding "De la Cabeza (Philipp Gorbachev Remix)."
The ultimate expression of this aspect of the imprint comes from Christian S, as the comp includes a previously unreleased "beats" version of his recent single "The Power of Now." Originally the arpeggiating title track of a four-song sampler released in April, here it's been redone to such an extent that it's almost unrecognizable. Its hooky banks of synthesizers have been replaced by a transposed cymbal crash. In a way, it's reminiscent of the same kind of old-school, Fairlight-esque approach to sampling that made Ana Helder's "Mugre" so much fun. Playing the crash on a keyboard, he riffs around and solos a demented percussive melody that works a lot better than it should. In fact, in less earnest hands it might not work at all, but why it does is just another part of what's appealing about the Cómeme mystique.
Of course there is a larger scope to the catalog, and the compilation reflects this. Counterbalancing the more punky side is something that goes deeper into house. Opener "Disco Noche" by Sano, previously released as the the a-side on his Chupa! EP, is a moody combination of big drums and noodling synthesizer hits. Listening to the song, the somewhat taboo word "tribal" tends to come to mind. It's almost unavoidable when the percussion takes on such gargantuan proportions, as it does on Alejandro Paz's "Duro (Dany F Remix)." Originally an '80s-indebted, synth-heavy b-side, on the compilation it's been retouched into a quirky and hypnotic club track complete with banging toms, delayed vocals, and a thumping four-to-the-floor house beat. Similarly, Dany F's own "Chalole Batata" gets at a similar feeling, but it's less slick about it—the rhythms are more complex, drawing on lively snare patterns and restless shakers to busy things up a bit.
In the end, it's a solid compilation that offers a window into the often madcap world of Cómeme. The only point of criticism would be that, as a single disc, it perhaps spreads itself too thin while trying to appeal to everybody's taste. Old fans of the label will likely already have quite a bit of the material presented, while new fans might not appreciate the updated versions as much as they would the originals. For that reason, One Night in Cómeme, Vol. 1 isn't really an essential release, but rather one for completists and DJs looking to round out a set with something a little different.