The dance band collective known as Sidestepper haven't been heard from in recent years, but new album Supernatural Love aims to change all that. The brainchild of UK DJ/producer Richard Blair and Colombian singer-songwriter and producer Iván Benavides, the band have been committed to an earthy yet electronic musical exploration ever since 1997 debut album Southern Star. On this 11-track project, they mine traditional musical sounds from Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba and Africa — kalimbas, flutes, guitar, seeds and shakers —with electronic dub grooves.
Richard Blair has returned to basics. He moved to Colombia as a producer and studio engineer in the mid-90s to work with the magnificent Totó La Momposina, but stayed on to mix Colombian styles with drums, bass and electronica in Sidestepper. The new album presents a startling contrast to earlier work such as 3AM (In Beats We Trust). The beats are still there, and as insistent as ever, but they are now provided by hand drums, shakers and tambourines, matched by a largely acoustic lineup that includes kalimba and flutes.
The Anglo-Colombian troupe led by Richard Blair have been pioneers of the electro-Latin sound, mixing beats with Colombia’s loping, accordion-led cumbia. Here, Sidestepper take a contrary turn with an essentially acoustic set shot through with unobtrusive electronica and led by melodic female vocals. There are hand drums, shakers, flutes, call-and-response chants, and a palpable atmosphere of Bogotá’s historic quarter where it was cut.