For nearly eight years, Sega Bodega has been patiently crafting his own concoction of experimental chaos, sleek garage beats and intimate storytelling. Otherwise known as Salvador Navarrete, 'Romeo' is a reintroduction to the artist, who separates his prolific work with Shygirl, Coucou Chloe and Oklou by carving out his own space in the music industry. It’s a tribute to the guardian angels we never get to meet, soundtracked by some wonderfully cold breakbeats and endless moments of surprise.
'Romeo' rarely rests on an idea for too long, which mostly works in its favour given the inventive production that changes at whiplash pace. Bodega particularly excels in the songs that deliver one incredible groove after the other, such as lead single ‘Only Seeing God When I Come’. Here, hushed confessions are mutilated amongst hard-hitting breakbeats and smooth synths, until the line between the religious and the sacrilegious blur: "Only seeing god when I come / I’m a living hell on the run..."
Occasionally, this strategy doesn’t land; ‘All My Friends Think I’m Too Young For You’ sees Bodega toss multiple ideas into a song, all of which fight against each other. Some elements are fantastic, such as the sticky bass and the glitching Skype sample that sounds like a giant red flag for the relationship Navarrete discusses. The demonic vocal performance, on the other hand, is too obnoxious and ends up competing with the already in-your-face production rather than working with it.
Some of the most exciting moments involve Bodega parting ways with his trademark sound to involve some excellent guitar work. This results in standout collaborative and individual work, particularly in the highly-anticipated ‘Cicada’ (ft. Arca). It’s the guitar that makes ‘Cicada’ one of the best songs on the album with its dreamy acoustic riff that situates the song in some sort of picturesque flamenco hellscape. But it’s Arca’s verse that gives the song its incredible edge, as her mangled words descend into an abrasive instrument mimicking the sound of the insects themselves.
As much as 'Romeo' is beautifully expressive, there are multiple moments where tracks are feel too underbaked for an album of a lifetime. ‘I Don’t Need Anything From You’, although nicely structured with its swells of Autotuned choruses and intimate nature, could benefit from a better vocal performance. Title track ‘Romeo’, on the other hand, is too conventional in its pop-trap fusions compared to the rest of the tracklist.
If you can forgive the album of its vocal blemishes, Romeo is a wonderful sophomore album that presents some slick club beats and compelling experimentation with a stronger attempt at songwriting. It’s an improvement from Salvador, and one that points Navarrete into some interesting future directions.
Words: Alex Rigotti
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