Argentinean native Gustavo Santaolalla is best known for his film scores (Amores Perros, The Motorcycle Diaries, Brokeback Mountain) and his production work (Cafe Tacuba, Gipsy Kings, Juanes), but on Ronroco he turns his attention to writing and playing a set of low-key instrumentals. The album’s title refers to a South American string instrument that is similar to the charango. (The charango is sometimes made with an armadillo shell, has a set of double strings, and is related to the lute.) The ronroco and the charango, as well as other traditional South American instruments, figure prominently on the album which uses older sounds as a foundation for the eclectic material. Anibal Kerpel’s vibraphone and melodica nicely complement Santaolalla’s battery of string instruments. “Way Up” brings to mind an Andean variant of ambient minimalism, while parts of “Lela” and “Del Pago” have affinities with son jarocho, the fiery musical style from the Mexican state of Veracruz. “Coyita” hints at the courtly air of Early Music, and “Jardin” creates a magical atmosphere with its dancing vibraphone and string tones. In its own quiet way, Ronroco South Americanizes everything it touches.

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