Ileana “iLe” Cabra has been associated with the great Calle 13—the Puerto Rican reggaeton duo that quickly morphed into a polystylistic juggernaut—from its very beginnings in 2004. Known as PG-13, she’s the sister of cofounders Residente (aka Rene Perez) and Visitante (aka Eduardo Cabra), and she consistently adds flavor to the duo’s albums, primarily as an additional rapper. Earlier this month Cabra dropped her debut album, Ilevitable (Sony Latin), and it captures a dramatically different side of her musical personality.
The lush recording updates old-school Afro-Caribbean styles—boleros, boogalos, mambos, danzons—and delves into various nostalgic strains of American popular music. The arrangements are often unapologetically old-fashioned—there’s “Quien Eres Tu,” with its elegant Cuban flair and a brass sound straight out of the Buena Vista Social Club, and “Triángulo,” with its bittersweet ranchera vibe, otherworldly atmosphere, and leisurely waltz rhythms—and Cabra consistently demonstrates infectious ease and ebullience with the material.
With the exception of the sun-dappled ballad “Out of Place,” cowritten by the singer’s father, Joey Cabra, all the lyrics are in Spanish. As sunny as the music seems, though, I can pick up on darkness behind it. The video for the first single, “Caníbal,” features Cabra grating her hands and taking slices of her skin off in the kitchen, preparing a meal of herself. The video for today’s 12 O’Clock Track, “Te Queiro Con Bugalú,” celebrates female sensuality with some very explicit sexual metaphors—watch it below. iLe makes her Chicago debut on Thursday evening, headlining Pritzker Pavilion. She takes the place of veteran Brazilian combo Azymuth, who canceled due to visa issues.
Ensemble Dissonanzen, Dallapiccola/Petrassi: Musica da Camera (Mode)
Bobby Avey, Be Not So Long to Speak (Minsi Ridge)
Bryan Eubanks & Stéphane Rives, fq (Potlatch)
Erasmo Carlos, Sonhos e Memórias 1941-1972 (Polydor, Japan)
Catherine Lamb, Three Bodies (Moving) (Another Timbre)