Album Review: Joaquín Cornejo – Las Frutas EP

[Earthly Measures; 2021]

Ecuadorian sound artist and producer Joaquín Cornejo is here to make you feel better. Or, at least, to make you feel it. What is ‘it’ you might ask? If you’re asking, it might already be too late for you to understand. That ineffable vibe, the feeling of leaving the club when the sun is already up, sitting on some random bench talking to someone you just met, holding hands, discussing your dreams and fears.

Sure, none of that is fucking possible with COVID, and that’s why we need Joaquín Cornejo. His latest EP, Las Frutas, is here to take us to places we can’t go, spaces we can’t occupy, mentally or physically. This music exists in some bizarre cavern between dance and meditation, footwork and slowed-down dub. It’s most importantly Latin, tropical, rain-drenched, and innately determined in its pride. Here, Cornejo is exploring new corners of his sound, ever slithering between genre boundaries and tempos.

Opener and title track “Las Frutas” is mysterious and flirtatious at once, drifting in and out of view, with Spanish singer Alex Serra making the most out of his translucent appearance, almost seeming to float in and out of the track rather than simply singing over it. Staticky sounds in the backdrop play like windshield wipers, keeping the listener ever present as they traverse through a sea of texture: dub chords, brass, kicks, you name it, Cornejo pulled out every tool in his kit.

“Spatial Request” is more insistent, once again calling on dubby sounds, but all being propelled by a strong Dominican Merengue rhythm. It’s as focused on movement as it is reflection, and the results are truly delectable. “Eso” brings the drums back in a propulsive way, with Venezuelan singer Gotopo arriving in grand fashion, with forceful, dominant vocals. Strong 808 kick drums and her omnipresent voice lead to the most African-influenced track here, effortlessly combining Latin dance with those sounds.

Next up arrives English singer Wabi Sabi on “Shadow”, offering the sole English-language vocals of the EP, carrying us to Las Frutas‘ darkest nether. “Shadow”, much as its title implies, lurks in the background, seeming just about ready to strike. Sabi wails with emotion, creating a wall between herself and the listener, all while inviting them closer to her pain.

Finally, we’re left with the vapor remix of the opening track, a lighter world to sift through, almost alien in its mournful, yet beautiful traipse, coaxing us directly back into the the delicate yet assured universe of Las Frutas. Tantalizingly ephemeral, as effusive as it is sneakily reticent, it implies a considerable future for Cornejo. It is a significant, slight, and above all, exploratory footwork treat.