NAFTA, in Argentinian Spanish, means fuel, or gasoline. One thing’s for sure, the tentet (ten-piece ensemble) that makes up this group has no shortage of… creative fuel.
The Argentine press describes NAFTA as a neo-soul band, a description I find too narrow. Neo-soul, there is, but in my opinion, there are also traces of Steely Dan in this NAFTA. Or Brazilian Ed Motta. A desire to make complexity look simple. It’s true that in the first piece, A Salvo, you almost think you’re listening to disco. Binary drum beat, carpet of strings, bouncing bass, discreet funk guitar. But when we add the trio of Spanish-speaking male-female vocalists, rich in harmony and able to switch between major and minor modes, we understand that the music could gain in complexity. However, this groove already puts us in an excellent mood. From the third piece onwards, Andate, the rhythms become less simple, with prog and jazz motifs appearing. In the following pieces, we hear more and more percussion and brass, notably in the excellent La Vida que Sone, where a layer of electronics is added. These ten musicians and their guests are undeniably gifted.
NAFTA lures us in at the start with danceable tunes, but slowly leads us into a more introspective universe. Not a bad strategy. At the heart of this journey are the omnipresent strings. It’s a real ensemble of fifteen musicians who bring a richness of sound. There are also the voices of singer Magamo and singers An Epsil and Abril Olivera, who weave a harmonic web that is very pleasant to hear.
As you may have guessed, Nafta II is the band’s second album. There’s also Nafta Vol. 1, released in 2019. Also very good, but II hints at more musical maturity. There’s also a video version of the album available free of charge. It doesn’t add much, except to make us realize that many of the songs’ lyrics are about love and break-ups. Nafta is further proof of Argentina’s musical diversity. But first and foremost, proof that it’s possible to satisfy both the feet and the brain.
Refined musical pleasure. Let’s rejoice!