Album Review: Buscabulla – Regresa

[Domino; 2020]

When Chairlift suddenly called it quits in 2017, music fans the world over mourned. Given that Patrick Wimberly had always stuck to the musical and production side of things, it seemed certain that he’d pivot towards another supporting role. Still, if you’d asked me where he’d gravitate to, I wouldn’t have had ‘producing a criminally underrated Puerto Rican pop duo’s proper debut’ on my Wimberly bingo card.

Enter Buscabulla. Following two delightful EPs, they were certainly deserving of the professional touch, and the result of their collaboration with Wimberly – Regresa – is a smooth, charming leap forward.

Raquel Berríos and Luis Alfredo Del Valle’s journey towards experimental pop bliss began as it does for so many foreign artists: with a move to New York City. Nonetheless, they never lost sight of their homeland, with Puerto Rico remaining always in the forefront of their minds and music alike.

Needless to say, both by design and right-place-wrong-time fate, this makes Regresa an incredibly timely release. With the recent disasters to befall their homeland, and Donald Trump’s heartless, ignorant handling of the entire catastrophe, the album’s powerful, pointed themes feel truly vital.

Even the album’s title speaks to mixed emotions for the duo; Regresa translates to, essentially, “return” or “come back.” In the midst of their greatest step forward yet in regards to their musical ambitions, they were elated to be able to return home, but, naturally, troubled and deeply saddened by the state of their territory. When vocalist Raquel describes them as “very hard, weird” times for Puerto Rico, it’s painfully clear her words carry far more weight and fatigue than she’s capable of expressing.

This return home was far from figurative, with Regresa recorded entirely in the duo’s home studio in Puerto Rico. From this neglected perch, they tapped into all the raging, confusing emotions of their homeland at present, all while digging into numerous social issues facing both their territory and the world at large. These topics take them from upbeat, in-your-face calls to action (see opener “Vámono”) to moments of hesitant surrender (“No Sabemos”). They also find time to honor their home’s musical greats, with “Nydia” both paying tribute to and featuring beloved chanteuse Nydia Caro.

Their musical concoction itself is alluring, with Raquel’s graceful vocal stylings seeming to veritably float over Luis’ twisty basslines, warm and murky all at once. Categorizing their blend in simple terms isn’t easy, with the duo taking in influences ranging from house to Somali funk, but it’s most clearly rooted in the musical traditions of their surroundings, with Salsa prominent amidst their melancholy-yet-efferesvcent grooves.

Regresa is a perfectly produced, fully realized debut from a promising, intriguing act. Its vibes couldn’t be more relevant in 2020, and beyond its vital plea for compassion, justice, and progress from a duo hailing from a cruelly maligned place, on a more simple level, its music is simply damn enjoyable, and the perfect salve for those of us looking for something genuinely clever and respectful of its listener to dance along to. Whether you’re looking to take a long, hard look at our rotting society, or simply vibe along to some infectious grooves, Buscabulla have you covered.