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*** PLASTILINA MOSH "Juan Manuel" Astralwerks

October 15, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER

"I see the future, and it's getting better," muses a somber voice at the beginning of "Arpoador," one of the most effective tracks in this moody second album by the electronica-based Mexican duo.

Indeed, the future of Plastilina is getting better and better. When Alejandro Rosso and Jonas toured at the time of their debut album, "Aquamosh," a few years ago, they stood on stage with frozen smiles on their faces, accompanying their monotonous, recorded rhythms with rudimentary bits of keyboards and guitar. The message was quite clear: Plastilina Mosh was a prank, and the joke was on the audience.

Co-produced by Beastie Boys associate Money Mark, "Juan Manuel" (due Tuesday) paints a strikingly different picture. Now signed to a record label whose acts mirror its own eccentric sensibility, the duo has elevated its sonic collage to a new plateau of cohesiveness and sophistication. Some of the silly disco doodling is still there, as in the naive "Human Disco Ball." But the textures have become more abstract, the upbeat moments more fleshy and furious, and the contrast between aggressive party vibe and lounge inflection dramatic and thought-provoking.

On the lovely "Shampoo," Plastilina sounds like a cousin to Venezuela's Amigos Invisibles. Although conscious of their roots, neither act wants you to experience Latin music as it really is. Instead, their goal is to reproduce what the Latin sensibility sounded like to the American mainstream many decades ago. Plastilina's aesthetic resurrects the exported cha-cha-cha craze--with a couple of broken-down drum machines haphazardly thrown on top.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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