• Danny Wiser

ECUADOR/FRANCE: Siku - Nicola Cruz

Updated: Jan 20

This electronic album, whilst fun and upbeat, could also be enjoyed as an ethnographic tour of the spiritual hotspots of planet Earth

The Andes as a region is famed for its indigenous people’s spiritual cosmology and their belief in the sacred reciprocity they think humankind should have with nature. Nicola Cruz’s second album may at first simply feel like a homage to this aspect of Andean culture, however, delve deeper into the record and one soon realises this is a truly global piece of music that focuses on more than just Andean numinous wisdom. Whilst, of course its overtly Andean influence is prominent throughout, most notably through the use of the instrument that the album is named after (the Siku, which is a traditional pan-pipe from the region), Cruz’s music seems to be more broadly telling the story of mysticism from across the whole planet.

“...his global voyage of both mysticism and music is truly impressive, whilst at the same time it never fails to be entertaining and fun...”

The DJ has created an electronic record that would of course function well on the dance floor, perhaps at a trendy summer terrace party, but maybe flourishes best as an introspective journey that one might go on, doing nothing else but immersing oneself in the sounds that I believe have the capacity to create a deeper resonance on the spiritual level, much like one of our favourite albums we have reviewed on Around The World In 200 Albums ­- Ágætis Byrjun by Sigur Rós. Whilst I personally do not find Siku quite as moving, nor as transcendent, as the aforementioned Icelandic album, I find it rather similarly still paints a vivid imagery of nature in my mind, and what separates it from much other ethereal music is that it also makes me want to move my body whilst it almost attempts to hypnotise you.

Whilst other electrónica selvática albums I have listened to often seem to rely on nature sounds - for example, bird song - to evoke imagery in the minds of its audience, Cruz does not appear to depend on this, but rather makes some fascinating production choices to perhaps connect his listeners to the spiritual realm that not only could conjure up images of nature for them, but conceivably taking them on cultural expedition across the world. The album seems to follow a geographical chronology, with the exception of Señor de las Piedras. It perhaps would have slotted in better at the start of the album amongst the other more panflute-based songs Arka, and the title-track Siku, both reminiscent of how one might imagine the tribal sounds of indigenous communities, which are often associated with the tradition of shamanism in countries like Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. After Siku comes El Diablo Me Va a Llevar, a track with house inflections that relies on a shift from emphasising the panflute to shakers and other more percussive instruments that bridge perfectly into the musical direction journey of the next song.

In my opinion, the subsequent track is the best song on the album. Hacia Delante, whilst staying in the Andean region, has a very distinct influence from the previous songs. Colombia is the second stop in the voyage as it has a palenque beat to it that is not too dissimilar to my favourite song on the recently reviewed Lido Pimienta album Miss Colombia, Quiero Que Me Salves, in which she is joined by Sexteto Tabala. In that song, she performs music that speaks of the Afro-Colombian experience. In the same way, Hacia Delante uses this exact style of harmonising with a very simple beat that becomes repetitive and trance-like. The Afro-Latino cultural experience is still told in the next track, Criançada, but this time by way of Brazil, with a very soft samba beat that the palenque from the previous track blends into perfectly.

This is where the album takes its first unexpected turn. Joined by the Swedish/Colombian duo Minük, Cruz’s next track is a floaty quasi-devotional tune that, to me, aroused images of glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, and caves due to the use of its high-pitched melodic reverb. Perhaps this is meant to take Cruz’s audience away into another Latin American soundscape, like that of Patagonia, or maybe this is a move to Scandinavia in Cruz’s first big jump away from the region he is more familiar with. However, the next two tracks Siete and Obsidiana are clearly meant to bring to mind South Asia and perhaps another realm of otherworldliness with the use of the sitar. Ignoring the aforementioned bizarre choice to include the more Andean sounding Señor de las Piedras at this point in the album Cruz takes his audience with him to Africa in his final two songs Okami and Esu Enia in which the use of the balafon (a West African xylophone prominent in a lot of music from the region), as well as the percussive choices that Cruz includes in the latter of the two tracks mark these songs out as particularly evocative of African tribes. Overall, his global voyage of both mysticism and music is truly impressive, whilst at the same time it never fails to be entertaining and fun, even if one is to disregard the thought process that I have hypothesised Cruz made in order to make his music especially profound.