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Maria Usbeck Amparo Labrador Records

An exotic soundscape of bird calls and Latin-style percussion opens Amparo, the debut solo album from former Selebrities vocalist Maria Usbeck, whose new project sees her put to the side the heavily Cure-influenced, guitar-laden dreamscapes for a more rooted sound. Reminiscent of traditional bossa nova classics like Girl From Ipanema, the Ecuadorian-born singer aims to restore ties with her native South America with
an album that takes inspiration from Ecuadorian music alongside field recordings of beaches and jungles.

For those familiar with Usbeck’s work as part of Selebrities, the album will come as a surprise, as primal drums pulse as steady as a heartbeat, while instrumentals consist mostly of flutes and harps rather than guitars and synthesisers. From the nostalgic chordic slides of Isla Magica, named after a theme park in Spain, to the unusual breakdowns of Uno de tus Ojos, Usbeck takes elements of South American music and adds her own pop-infused touch. This is achieved in part through the album’s production, which comes courtesy of Usbeck’s friend and Chairlift member Caroline Polachek whose signature irregular Ch-Ching beats and sonic asymmetry play a vital part in Amparo’s overall tone.

In Camino Desolado, Usbeck’s voice dulls to a hushed whisper, held only by the sparseness of a kick drum, before blooming into a sensual dream sequence of vocal delays and ‘Ay yai yai’s’. In combining these fleshly Latin elements with Western-sounding production, Usbeck succeeds in creating a wholly original sound.