Federico Aubele knew he wanted to purchase records with the money he got for his ninth birthday, but he had no idea what to buy. A record store clerk suggested Diver Down.
“I don't like Van Halen, but I was so excited to have my first record that I guess it didn't matter who the artist was,” he recalls. “I must admit that back then... I was completely fascinated by these rock 'n' roll riffs. It was better than playing with my Star Wars action figures.”
Since, Aubele's record collection has evolved to include artists like the Kinks, Mozart and Wes Montgomery. It was his father who turned him on to Argentinean tango composer Astor Piazzolla.
“I was finishing high school in Germany, and feeling very far away from home when I bought my first Piazzolla record,” he says. “I would skip school and go for a walk in the snow with my Discman, and then I understood how representative of Buenos Aires his music was. It was a melancholic and at the same time great experience.”
Aubele invokes Piazzola's spirit throughout his stunning debut, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires. Produced by downtempo lounge duo Thievery Corporation, it's a captivating journey through the cosmopolitan city, blending hypnotic dub and hip-hop beats, delicate acoustic guitar, laidback percussion, haunting bandoneon melodies (a German instrument that sounds like an accordion to undiscerning ears) and breathy Spanish vocals.
“It is the soundtrack for my vision of Buenos Aires,” Aubele explains. “Some other people might have a different view of the city, but this is certainly my Buenos Aires: sensual, charming, chaotic, politics, romance, the night.”
As aural collage, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires not only displays Aubele's talents as a proficient musician (he plays most of the instruments on the album), but also as an experienced producer and DJ. Aubele has DJ'd at clubs throughout Buenos Aires and the world, but his current tour marks the first time he's played with a live, six-piece band.
“I started working on electronic music pretty late. I was more used to writing songs with vocals. It was Eric Hilton's [of Thievery Corporation] idea to focus more on the songs rather than on instrumental tracks, and I think it was a good idea. That's where my roots are: writing songs.”