Dreamy dembow: Bushwick band from Puerto Rico blends dreampop and island rhythms

Photo by Kelly Smalls

Would you like to ride with their beautiful Balún?

A Bushwick band will play its blend of dream pop and Puerto Rican beats to launch the 2020 House Sessions concert series at Bric on March 5. Balún layers synth-laden sounds over a popular 1990s Caribbean rhythm known as dembow, creating a new sound the musicians dub “Dreambow.” The music connects them to their native island and to the past, said the band’s frontwoman.

“There was certainly an element of nostalgia that came in but it was also a way for us to reconnect with the island,” said Angélica Negrón, who sings and plays accordion for the band.

Negrón and her bandmates formed as an indie-rock group in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s and they released their debut full-length record “Something Comes Our Way” in 2006, shortly before moving to Brooklyn. Their music already had a subtle influence from dembow, which Negrón attributes to being surrounded by reggaeton and other popular music of the Caribbean.

While in New York, the band’s Puerto Rican influences stood out from their peers, and the band began to deliberately highlight those elements, adding the accordion and traditional string instruments like the tiple and the cuatro to the mix, according to Negrón.

“It was something we just took for granted, but when we moved out slowly it just became more of something we carefully thought about,” she said. “It came out very naturally. It was almost a stream of consciousness.”

In 2010, the band published “Memoria Textil,” inspired by early 8-bit video game music, but the group’s 2018 album “Prisma Tropical,” brought all their eclectic influences together for a powerful sound.

“We’re embracing the totality of who we are more,” Negrón said.

Negrón’s lyrics, which are all in Spanish, often deal with the experience of living between two different places, the musician said.

“That connects to being part of a diaspora and this experience of going back and forth between places you call home, this kind of push and pull,” she said.

At the March 5 concert, the band will open for Chilean musician Álex Anwandter, who will bring his 1980s-influenced dance music and songwriting to the show.

“Balún” at Bric House Ballroom [647 Fulton St., at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene,  (718) 855–7882, www.bricartsmedia.org]. $18 ($15 in advance).

Out of the bottle: Balún’s lead singer, Angélica Negrón, also plays accordion and small percussion instruments. Photo by Kelly Smalls