There’s an irrefutable excitement that emerges around a new Federico Aubele release. The Brooklyn-based Argentine continues to showcase his profound ability to write songs, balance music arrangements, play instruments, and even sing. But his most important asset continues to be in his ability to partner with other female vocalists (particularly Natalia Clavier, who happens to be his other half) to unearth the true appeal of the electronic and dub sound. Mr. Aubele’s fifth full-length release, aptly titled 5, steadily resonates which much of his material released to date.
Marking an important departure from the ESLMusic (Eighteenth Street Lounge) label which reared much of Mr. Aubele’s career, 5 remains a consistent balancing act of Argentine folk and ambient trip hop. However, the opening, “Somewhere Else”, seemed more promising in rhetoric than reality. While the track employs the vocals of Melody Gardot, it remains subject to Mr. Aubele’s strict rubric of downtempo. It is a pity, for Ms. Gardot’s unique point of view is a pivotal component in contemporary jazz today. Frequently compared to Nina Simone, her ability to scat, in addition to her smoky contralto, would have injected a much needed dose of excitement and piquancy to Mr. Aubele’s now rather staid sound. That being said, “Carrousel Sin Fin” is one of 5’s limited triumphs. Leaving the vocals to Ms. Clavier, Mr. Aubele waxes electronic nostalgic, toggling between machine like wrenching sounds, guitar, and an evocative harmonica loop that repeats itself over and over.
5 has some very minor shifts from Mr. Aubele’s previous work. The changes seem so faint they unfortunately come across as trivial. Mr. Aubele’s next sound desperately needs to have him take more explicit musical risks. He need not shelve his troubadour tendencies, but it’s best he leave the vocals to a featured artist instead.