I'M IN AN ELEVATOR WITH TWO ARGENTINES, DANTE Spinetta and Emmanuel Horvilleur, and I'm not sure what to do with what I'm seeing. Spinetta's got his long black hair twisted into a single serpentine braid, and he's wearing a backward Kangol, red track pants and a black leather jacket. He's got a porno mustache. So does Horvilleur, who's also got long hair, but wears it wild like a pretty-boy pre-NRA Nugent.
Spinetta is trying to put on the second of his two silver-link ID bracelets while he raps, over and over again, "Goddamn, muthafucka, goddamn muthafucka." Then he starts to beatbox, drops the bracelet on the elevator floor, looks at me, and in English says, "I'm dope."
Spinetta and Horvilleur call themselves Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas (a mixed nod to The Man From UNCLE and futbolista Carlos Valderrama), and the goofy elevator cipher/fashion show is a pretty good welcome mat for the music they've been making since 1991. And it's an even better one for the sticky, horny funk boudoir bash they've just finessed with Leche (as in Got Milk?, mother's milk, or cum -- choose one according to your ideological sympathies), a finely chiseled South American dance-floor fantasy of north-of-the-border blackness.
IKV are always hip, super stylee, usually charming and sometimes offensive -- they do politically ambiguous hipsterism at its most dangerously addictive, the kind of stuff you wish was tongue-deep-in-cheek ironic but probably isn't, so what do you do now that you're dancing to it?
Some background: IKV are boho b-boy superbabes with serious pop-cult pedigrees straight outta Buenos Aires. Spinetta's dad is '70s rock nacional icon Luis Alberto Spinetta, and Horvilleur's is a photographer who shot album covers for Luis Alberto and other rock nacional icons (stadium Britpoppers Soda Stereo, Lennonite rock poet Fito Paez). But to the chagrin of many rockeros, IKV's first album, Fabrico Cuero, was anything but rock -- the tinny ready-for-TV drum-machine result of a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old rocking the m-i-c after listening to too much Michael Jackson and Run-DMC.
Then they flipped it with Horno Para Calentar Los Mares -- Kid Rock without the cowboy pimp limp but with songs about Chevys and Abbey Road -- and then flipped it again with 1995's Chaco, a bien lo-fi hip-hop psychedelia trip that checked into the last indio region of Argentina and emerged looking like a '70s Hallmark card and sounding like a pretty and pissed-off Odelay prototype minus a few Dust Bros. sample tricks.
"Chaco is a mystic place, and nobody's ever paid attention to it," Spinetta explains as he sprawls out on a bed in a Burbank hotel that's littered with new Star Wars toys. "The Indians' world is very Illya Kuryaki. It's karate. There's a jungle, and a city named London that's in the middle of nothing."
Through with overt social consciousness, IKV then kept it as unreal as possible on 1997's Versus, an airbrushed turn-off-the-lights-let-me-love-you-down masterpiece of brass-and-strings soul escapism complete with foggy nymph-littered cliffs and erotic Xanadus. One song used a pseudoBarry White spoken prelude, another was all about an expedition to some imaginary place called Klama Hama, and Bruce Lee showed up as a half-man/half-butterfly.
The stuff on Leche isn't nearly as out there (and there's not a single slo jam), but not many records can say they've got this: a horny ode to Jennifer Lopez recast as a swamp-dwelling Argentine girl-next-door, an Arthur Golden Orientalist body-mover dubbed "Latin Geisha," and "Coolo," a salsa-teased ass ã valentine that's spawned a video where the boys, done up in fringed leather vests, remake The Warriors on a Handicam with Latin America's most famous shortie, Nelson de la Rosa, as their co-star.
All said and done, it's a damn freaky electro-funk record that pretends not to be all retro and nostalgic but is really good at it, loaded with chirping ladies'-night horns, slaphappy bass lines and panting synths. The boys even trekked to Cincinnati to do "DJ Droga" with Bootsy Collins, who alternates between dropping "José, can you see?" and "Keep the funk alive." Spinetta on Bootsy: "He lives in a funk rocket. There are pictures of dogs and God all over the walls."
The only glitch on Leche is that it goes haywire with the English-to-Spanish mistranslation of "funk" as "fuck." The sleeve photos work '80s Playboy (naked gringa farm girls, Latina secretaries and guerrilleras), and on the cover the album title is written in white milk on a pair of black breasts. You could write it off as interracial kitsch, but IKV won't let you. They actually mean it.
"It's cool for us," Spinetta tries to explain. "It's what funk looks like to me. Some of our women friends don't understand the concept. It's made with love. It's not that we think that women are only meant to be naked. Women are our mothers, too. Leche is that: the food that you need for your life. And it comes from a woman, naked."
They must have been looking for Mama the night before the elevator incident, then, because the two skipped out on a Moenia show to visit the Hustler store and stock up on Naomi Campbell pictorials and Playboy collectibles. Spinetta's description of his Hustler run cuts to the heart of why, despite its artistic contradictions and occasional racial and gender bullshit, Leche is still worth drinking: It's exquisitely processed make-believe realness, graphic and hot, yet perfectly manufactured -- glossy, fetishistic porno-funk for aesthetes who should know better but don't.
"I don't like the raw magazines," he says. "I like the ones with fantasy shit where they are all perfect women. And all Photoshopped."
ILLYA KURYAKI AND THE VALDERRAMAS Leche | (Universal)
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