Bloque | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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Rock-en-espa–ol bands are frequently noted for their eclectic approach--they tend to toss disparate styles together like Paul Prudhomme with an extra set of hands. The Colombian band Bloque isn't averse to a few exotic spices, but it's more coherent and focused than most of its peers. On Bloque, its forthcoming Luaka Bop debut, the band achieves the difficult feat of mixing deadly accurate hard-rock firepower with the buoyant, danceable rhythmic flexibility of salsa. These guys know their roots: a few years ago the popular Colombian singer Carlos Vives hired Bloque's singer Ivan Benavides and guitarist Teto Ocampo to play on his La Tierra del Olvido (Mercury/Polygram Latino), and the contemporary kick their contributions gave the album never compromised its traditional foundations. Rhythms from Colombian styles like cumbia and vallenato can be heard on Bloque's own tunes, like "No Volvere" and "Ay Donde Andara," and the group's cover of "La Pluma"--originally recorded in the 70s by cumbia legends Peregoyo y Su Combo Vacana, modernists who first brought electric guitar to the form--is sung with great soul and passion. But atop the propulsive percussion we also get lacerating electric-guitar lines from Ocampo, who can scream like a classic rocker one moment ("Nena" swipes its acoustic intro from Led Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You") and murmur sweet liquid Afro-Caribbean nothings the next ("Majana"). It's a potent but unflashy blend executed with head-spinning precision, and reports of recent New York performances indicate it's even more intense onstage. Friday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. If you're reading this on Thursday, October 1, you can also catch Bloque at 9 tonight at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-252-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Juan Manuel Garcia Torres.

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