On his debut album, Ralphie Choo, a former chemical engineering student, toys with genres with radical abandon, manipulating sounds like reagents and catalysts in a lab. Across 14 tracks, fluttering flutes, dembow riddims, and flamenco palmas bubble up in a frothy but precisely measured concoction. Ad-libs punctuate the beats like exclamation points. Vocals arrive through aggressive, jagged filters. Everything is glitchy and meandering, gesturing toward familiar genres but never fully surrendering to them. Choo’s music champions fragmented pop maximalism, illustrating what’s possible when you catapult centuries-old traditions into a globalized present. Within the landscape of Spanish-language pop, currently oversaturated with cookie-cutter reggaeton, this freaky confluence of past and present is a welcome respite.
His music may bring to mind other contemporary Spanish pop conceptualists, like fellow madrileño C. Tangana and Rosalía, who slide folk styles like copla and flamenco alongside synth stabs and 808 kicks. Choo’s approach is similarly exploratory and deranged, perhaps even more interested in shredding ancestral practices to pieces. His friends are influences too: Alongside rusowsky, mori, Tristán, and Drummie, Choo is part of the Madrid-based label and collective rusia idk. Their plush R&B and slanted club concoctions exemplify the experimental sounds coming out of the Spanish capital—and Choo is one of the crew’s most gifted international delegates.
Choo is first and foremost a producer, and a masterful worldbuilder. “Juan Salvador Gaviota” threads a bossa nova groove into “NHF,” an aspirated, shimmering R&B tune that stutters into a jungle breakdown. “Total90sNostalgia” radiates a wistful pink glow, like a climactic scene in a coming-of-age film. The piano interlude “Bò” is lissome and pure, even as a cartoonish, helium-infused voice mumbles unintelligibly in the background. These songs melt into a blissful and immersive fog, as if suspended between states of consciousness. It’s just one example of the border-soft magic that Choo conjures in his songs.
Supernova soars when it strips flamenco down to its percussive core, like on “Tangos de Una Moto Trucada,” which is grounded in a palo built out of wooden spoons, knives, and salt shakers and punctured by jarring piano notes. Revving engines and palmas, the hand claps of flamenco, form the foundation of “Bulerías de un Caballo Malo,” but Choo adds cherubic harp plucking, like a banger designed for the kingdom of heaven. The Mura Masa collaboration “Máquina Culona,” which collages brain-scrambling static punches, digital accordions, and clacking palmas, feels like a sudden bout of air turbulence, an exhilarating jolt on an otherwise smooth flight. In the video, a shirtless man cooks a slab of raw meat with a clothing iron, another lights a cigarette in a lobster’s claw, and a third slurps up a bowl of soup wearing a toilet seat around his neck like jewelry. This onslaught of bizarre, incongruous images is oddly satisfying—much like Supernova itself.