Before Argentinean Federico Aubele began working on his latest release, Panamericana, he realized that most of the music that influenced him, particularly reggae, hip-hop and tango, came from the Americas. So the Pan-American Highway, a network of roads that runs from the tip of Argentina to Alaska, became the ideal metaphor for the recording. Panamericana treads the same Latin- and dub-tinged down-tempo terrain as his debut, 2004's Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, only Aubele uses fewer samples and takes over vocal duties on the new album, which was produced by Thievery Corporation's Eric Hilton. We recently asked Aubele about his influences and the challenge of foreign-language lyrics.
Westword: You've called Panamericana more of a singer-songwriter album than Gran Hotel. Why is that?
Federico Aubele: I just wanted to get involved in more of a direct way in the sound of the album. Not just in the instruments, the arrangement and the songwriting — I've got all that already. I definitely wanted it to be more like a singer-songwriting album. Although I haven't entrusted myself enough to sing the whole album, I wanted to go ahead and sing some of the songs. I guess the goal of the next album will be to sing on the entire album.
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You've said you're a big fan of Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla. How has he influenced you in terms of songwriting?
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It's something that's more, like, underneath the whole thing. It's more like a mood or a vibe that comes out of his music. It's not that I would say, 'Well, this song inspired me along these lines' or things like that. It's like this: If you're listening to one of his songs, and it's a rainy autumn day in Buenos Aires and you're walking around or sitting in a cafe, listening to Piazzolla, that creates a whole atmosphere, a whole mood. And you can translate that mood into your music, although it won't directly sound like Piazzolla. But it's the mood.
Since all the lyrics on your albums are in Spanish, do you ever think things get lost in translation?
The thing is, Spanish is not like, I don't know, Swedish. There are a lot of people in the world who speak Spanish, so it's not so isolated, and that helps. The countries that officially speak Spanish are from Mexico down to Patagonia, which is a lot. Then, in the U.S., you get a lot of people who speak Spanish, too. And in Europe — and not only in Spain — there are a lot of people who learn Spanish. For people who don't understand it, I think it's a nice language to hear from the melody of the language. Like, I don't understand French, for example, but I don't even try to listen to the lyrics. I just find it a nice language to hear. Same with Portuguese, from Brazil: It's a nice language to hear. So maybe you don't understand the lyrics, maybe you don't need to see what the song is all about. Maybe you just hear it and you just incorporate it as another melody in the song, and that's it.