N.A.A.F.I – NAAFI X Review

Mexico’s most innovative club label celebrates ten years since their conception with a slicey and succinct ten track compilation, showcasing some of their top players. 

Originally intended for release on Onda Mundial, this self-released compilation comes at an unusual and dark time. Covid-19 puts a particularly huge strain on music collectives, labels and dance communities worldwide, and N.A.A.F.I had to deal with it first hand through the cancellation of both their release agreement with Onda Mundial and an upcoming 30-gig global tour. While many artists and collectives chose to postpone their releases until after the storm, N.A.A.F.I decided to self-release as soon as they could, because who better to soundtrack the apocalyptic nature of the COVID-19 era than them? 

The result is a great compilation of dark club tunes with boastful rhythms, standalone synths and environmental embellishments that reminds us why we love this label so much. The style of the album is consistent with their rhythmic and stylistic roots and genres such as cumbia, tribal and reggaeton, but it isn’t overly-decorated or exoticized to appease external, non-latino crowds. Although many of the elements between the songs are similar, every member gives it a defining twist that makes each track an experience in itself and reflects a wider array of regional sounds. 

Uruguayan Lechuga Zafiro starts by remixing Brazilian baile funk icon Linn Da Quebrada (again) in a slow, pulsing intro track, accompanied by a video where volcanic explosions and flowing lava prepare us for the wild, explosive and powerful influence of nature in the rest of the compilation. 

In the second track, Debit showcase her computational composition skill with a machine learning-powered song, the most dynamic and alive of the release. Lao follows it with a gentle, textured, stormy lullaby, and Omaar opts for a drummy track with idiosyncratic N.A.A.F.I alarm sirens. 

TAYHANA, Lyo XS and WRACK contribute with high-energy, ravey tracks, all dependent on piercing, distinctive melodic lines (typical of certain N.A.A.F.I releases, like TAYHANA’s “Tierra del Fuego,” from just a couple months ago). Imaabs’ “Ocho” is also very energetic but more teary and intimate, with a steeper progression towards the hard-hitting last minute of the song, and Wasted Fates brings in breaks and satisfying metallic clanks in his spacey “Sub Complex.” 

Finally, Zutzut finishes with a perfectly packaged club track, as we’ve come to expect from him, slicey and complete (what does it mean?) with even the subtle addition of femme sex moans that producers and audiences alike love. 

Although the compilation might be less boundary-pushing than some of their bootleg compilations or individual releases, it really emphasizes their strong identity and the high musical standard that they hold themselves to. It’s also the perfect opportunity to support a label and collective that over the past ten years has thrown some of the most exciting parties and created some of the most forward-thinking club sounds at a time when they most need it. Since the release of the compilation they’ve even made some of their older releases by Omaar, Imaabs, Lao and more available for stream and purchase on Bandcamp. Be sure to check them out as well. 


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