The Hotel Caimanera in Cuba. It's painted yellow and blue. Arches, French windows, wooden floors. A swimming pool with a shallow section for children. There are thousands of these. The inoffensive, packaged resorts we task reggaeton with filling. And even by those standards, Caimanera is gaudy. It looks like somebody tried to represent Luis Fonsi's 'Despacito' in sculpture.
It also happens to sit less than a mile from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. Caimanera's website boasts that you can see the base from their balconies. If they have a poolside playlist, Kelman Duran had better be on it.
It's all too easy to compare 13th Month to the work of British producer Burial. Both artists make use of heavily obscured vocals. Both use the pops and scratches of vinyl as percussion. Both provoke strong feelings of loneliness. But that's where the comparison ends. Substitute Burial's midnight cityscapes for lush natural environments. Transform the depressiveness into searing anxiety.
A seismic shift emerges occurs between the two works' content. The loneliness of Burial has always belonged to the listener. Duran's work transposes this onto the imagined subjects of his work. Pursued, harassed, endangered. Given form by some stunning vocal collaborators. You hear the urgency of people whose lives are nothing but running, running, running.
The vocal samples themselves fall like footsteps. Short, sharp explosions of sound that complement 13th Month's dembow riddims. There is something of Swedish DJ The Field here. Where their loops are ordered and robotic, however, Duran's are wild and frantic.
This panic, scattered over so many styles, imitates the unsolvable vastness of social disparity. 13th Month is a moral assault. Voices of victims drowned in noise. You are culpable and unable to help. The suffering blends into a formless and ungraspable whole.
The album closes gently. Rhythm gives way to atmosphere and ambience. Have they stopped; given up? Did they fall? Or is this an imagined future in which nobody is forced to run? Duran leaves these questions hanging in the silence.
In the spirit of The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual, Gaika and with sprinklings of The Field. Available for streaming and purchase here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe