There is a very obvious question which has probably occurred to you by now, which is how on earth I pick which albums I’m going to review on this blog. The truth is, it’s largely random – I let them pick me. There’s a bit of a focus on things which have entered my possession recently, but other than that it’s driven by whatever I feel like listening to and writing about.
B-Tribe are one of those acts about whom I know very little. From my radio days, I have a promo copy of their 1999 ¡Fatal Fatal! single, and it is excellent, so when I saw a full album of theirs in the $1 section of my local record shop, it seemed an obvious one to try.
I’ll be honest before we really kick things off, it’s a bit of a disappointment. By no means is it bad – it’s all relaxing and pleasant, but there’s nothing up to the standard of ¡Fatal Fatal! on here, confusing though that may be. And a fiesta this is not.
After a brief intro, ¡Fiesta Fatal! opens with the the title track, which has three very clear influences:
- Flamenco music
- Enigma‘s first album
- Depeche Mode‘s Waiting for the Night
If you want to try and imagine this song for yourself, combine those three influences in your head, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it sounds like, right down to the heavy breathing and beautiful Spanish guitar meddling. It’s an odd formula, but actually it does work pretty well.
It’s also a general theme which continues throughout the whole album. Nadie Entiende (“nobody understands”) mixes a violent flamenco melody with Enigma‘s panpipes and a very cross sounding lady repeating the title of the song while one of the Gipsy Kings wails over the top.
By Lo Siento I was starting to wonder what on earth was going on here, as the formula was so clearly set out, and it was at this point that I discovered that B-Tribe are exactly the same German producers responsible for Sacred Spirit, an equally formulaic Native American flavoured offering from out of the nineties.
By which I do not mean to imply anything particularly bad about this album – it’s formulaic in the way that only German producers seem to be, but there are also plenty of high points to be found. Una Vez Más (“once more”) is a curiously pleasant if slightly schizophrenic moment.
Love, Tears, Heartaches + Devotion, with its distinctly Enigmatic title, is a particular highlight sitting exactly at the halfway point of the album. Its influences are still clear, but their combination somehow seems to work particularly well on this track.
What the latter half of the album lacks in new ideas, it more than makes up for with repetition, and it’s easy to get pretty bored with the whole thing by this stage. After a series of interludes, reprises, and remixes, you finally make it through to the end of the album with a couple of alternative versions of the title track ¡Fiesta Fatal!
As a bit of an epilogue, though, I thought I should also reacquaint myself with the ¡Fatal Fatal! single. I don’t know quite what it is, I must admit – they seem to have pulled bits from across the entire album for this one track, which is perhaps proof that it may not have needed to be a full album after all. But somehow, straight from the intro, it just works infinitely better than anything on the original album. If you’re going to listen to anything of theirs, I would therefore recommend the single above anything else I’ve heard so far.
B-Tribe (or The Barcelona Tribe of Soulsters, apparently) are, therefore, a bit of a mixed bag. Having started off as a cash-in on the success of Enigma and Deep Forest, they seem to have subsequently found their right niche. But this debut album, although definitely pleasant, could probably be avoided.
This album can be found on iTunes just there.