Nortec Has Left the BuildingBy: Marcelo Báez
The Nortec Collective, one of the most creative, innovative and renowned group of producers from Tijuana, Mexico—and the world, really—are calling it quits. Thankfully they’ve decided not to go out quietly and Motel Baja, released via Nacional Records on September 16 (Mexican Independence Day), is meant to serve as a sort of parting gift to their fans.
In case you didn’t know, the 15-year-old Collective was, at least at some point, comprised of seven members, all of whom performed and released music together and separately. Motel Baja has been left in the hands of Bostich and Fussible, two of the collective’s most prominent members, along with Uwe Schmidt (Señor Coconut, Atom), Wolfgang Flür (Kraftwerk) and Tom Tom Club as collaborators.
The news of Nortec’s demise is sad, indeed, for they have expertly honed the craft of integrating the banda-norteño sound with electronic music since they started making noise in 1999. Just like stylish penmanship, theirs is a fine, elegant technique not many new producers have been able to duplicate. The sound probably won’t disappear altogether with Nortec, but knowing Motel Baja is their last record becomes even more painful after listening to the 11 tracks within.
Take “No Vacancy,” the second number, for instance. It couples a distorted dial-up modem, nostalgic brass melodies and an analog drum kit to create a beautiful, sad instrumental. Nortec is mostly known as a party band, and “Tele-Vco” quickly picks up the pace. A lot of the collective’s repertoire has shifted from hard techno music—the kind many ravers have schizophrenically danced to—to a more polished bachelor-pad-type of sound, and “Camino Verde,” with all of its quirky instrumentation, is a clear example of the space-age pop influence.
The fun, accordion-led, lo-fi synth pop of the title track features Tom Tom Club, and it sounds very much like them. (Sadly, to verify this information, you have to dig for the writing credits, because the collaborations are not labeled.) And right after it, “Blue Pill” brings the listener back to the Nortec universe’s string-laced minimal techno vibe.
“Moda Makina” features Wolfgang Flür, and it comfortably sits somewhere between Kraftwerk’s own The Man-Machine and Computer World. There’s great vocal performance on the very danceable “Temporary Paradise,” which displays the high, sweet-sounding timbres of singer Kylee Swenson Gordon.
And all too soon we’re down to “El Coyote,” the second-to-last track. Driven by a thick, dirty synth, it contains the type of bittersweet sentimentality Nortec is no stranger to and serves as a party closer. And that’s all they wrote, folks. But here’s a humble observation: maybe this collective has done all it can with the Nortec sound and, I dunno, maybe they’ll start a rock band or a hip-hop project instead. Nope: Mogt (Fussible) already told NPR he’s planning to open a taco restaurant while Amezcua (Bostich) is hoping to go back to dentistry, his first profession.
Motel Baja? Bostich and Fussible should have named their last LP Heartbreak Hotel because that’s where most fans are going to lease a room until they release a follow up.
LOGISTICS: Motel Baja by Bostich + Fussible, available now