Reyna Tropical's music has always been about channeling something bigger than themselves.
Last month, when guitarist Fabi Reyna was asked about her inspirations on National Public Radio's Alt.Latino podcast, she replied: "Recently, I had someone tell me, after a Reiki session, that she could feel that I had ancestors trying to speak through me."
Reyna is a prolific Portland musician and founder of She Shreds magazine. A little over a year ago, she founded Reyna Tropical with Los Angeles producer Sumohair. Both artists immigrated to the States from Mexico as children, and with Reyna Tropical, the duo explore the significance of their diasporic experience.
Cultural ancestry and environmental appreciation are central to Renya Tropical's latest release, a six-song EP called Sol y Lluvia. At 20 minutes long, Sol y Lluvia—Spanish for "Sun and Rain"—is intended as a love letter to the Mendihuaca, an environmentally endangered Colombian river, and all others like it. But the form of activism found on the EP is less like holding up a picket sign and more like holding up a portrait. Reyna's guitar captures the river's vibrance, and her voice etches out its contours. Sol y Lluvia lets nature speak for itself—the music is just the vehicle.
The EP's percussive, Afro-Mexican sound dips its toes in everything from reggaeton to indie. Reyna's gliding guitar is pillared by son jarocho and African high life, and her voice sussurates as if it's singing against a blowing wind. The result sounds like a Latin-soaked Vampire Weekend, or the intersection of Las Cafeteras and Chicano Batman.
Though Sol y Lluvia doesn't quite have the loose, improvisational giddiness of Reyna Tropical's first release, it's no less authentic and exciting. The six tracks act as the layers of the Mendihuaca River and make the duo's portrait pop. The introductory "Calmada" ("Calm") welcomes you into a tropical oasis. Birds chirp along to the lean guitar lines, and children laugh along with the bobbing rhythm. "Calor" ("Hot") envelops Reyna's voice with polysynths that bubble like the rising temperature. The track dedicated to rain, "Lluvia," imbues the typically gloomy weather with a bounce—you can hear the droplets dance as they hit the leaves.
The music of Sol y Lluvia is so vivid, it's practically scenic. Reyna's guitar is nimble and glistening—you almost feel as if you have to block the sun from your eyes. Sumohair's command over the mix gives the songs a texture akin to a forest canopy. And it's hard to resist bouncing to his stirring blend of club kicks and Latin percussion, even when Reyna embodies an environment undergoing destructive treatment like on "Tristeza" ("Sadness").
On the heels of the Amazon forest fires, Sol y Lluvia is a passionate depiction of an essential part of our world that may be fleeting. In a future, dystopian wasteland, Sol y Lluvia could provide us with a vivid memory of what we once had. But hopefully, it serves as a reminder of what we can't afford to lose.
SEE IT: Reyna Tropical plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., dougfirlounge.com, with Y La Bamba and Noche Libre, on Friday, Oct. 25. 9 pm. Sold out. 21+.