It’s been three years since Ozomatli first took a bow with its self-titled debut, a disc so musically diverse, a sequel would be hard pressed to follow in its footsteps.
Embrace the Chaos, Ozo’s second album, is not only a suitable follow-up, it actually stakes out its own creative stamp.
This album exudes more energy than its predecessor and is packed to the hilt with Latin rhythms and heavy hip-hop beats, melodic African percussion breaks and outbursts of horns.
The more traditional rock backbeats that informed Ozomatli’s debut are noticeably absent on Embrace the Chaos — this is strictly a Latin affair, with a little bit of help from a bunch of hip-hop friends.
And therein lies in its inexhaustive energy.
Latin rhythms are some of the most difficult to navigate, and singer/trumpeter Asdru Sierra charts them well when he pits his melodies against the band’s tight arrangements.
The rather inaccurately titled “Timido” and “Dos Cosas Ciertas” don’t let up on the dance rhythms. “Mi Alma” switches back and forth between a kinetic waltz and a straight-forward drum machine. “Sueñnos en Realidad” is the booming percussive song Paul Simon should have written around the time of The Rhythm of the Saints.
“Vocal Artillery” is perhaps the most interesting sonic collage — a hip-hop beat lays the foundation for a dark, Klezmer-like trumpet line, over which three rappers freestyle.
Ozomatli was born out of activisim, something not altogether played up on the last album. The title track on Embrace the Chaos, however, takes listeners straight to Ozo’s roots.
Samples from the aftermath of the band’s interrupted performance anchor the song’s opening and conclusion. It’s an interesting experiment that works musically but also seems a bit heavy-handed.
In the end, Ozomatli is all about the band’s namesake — the Aztec god of celebration.
Embrace the Chaos is an invitation for listeners to embrace jubilation, exuberance and joy. In this case, chaos isn’t a bad thing.