Santos - Mi Technobanda

Mi Technobanda, Santos
Tropic-All, Mexico
Rating: 76
by Carlos Reyes

Applying the “rule of Three” is important for anyone daring to finger-point to a wave or movement. It’s present in literature (Three Little Pigs), in celluloid (The Three Stooges), in music formation (Los Tres), and in effect, in all subdivisions of the arts. When Los Macuanos and María y José presented ruidosón to the world we all needed a third act to resolve their theory on developing a new sound. At the moment, it seemed easy to attach Los Amparito to the fraction. Time showed us Los Amparito had served a surrogate role to the realization of the sound. Since then, we have turned to Santos and Siete Catorce looking to complete the ruidosón triad (if only for mere romantic reasons as there’s plenty of room for both).

While Siete Catorce is already looking at what’s ahead of/for ruidosón, Santos is introspecting the primal skeleton of the sound and embedding it into long-lived narratives like that of banda music. Perhaps because we have just passed the birth and death anniversaries of Selena, but it’s hard not to think of “Techno Cumbia” when reading the title of Santos’ third album, Mi Technobanda. But whereas Selena was presenting a hybrid for mass consumption, Santos is aware of his resources, cleverly opting to offer a personalized experience of a style of music he’s clearly in love with. A thick, blood-curling organ line traces across the album’s opening piece “El Infierno.” Santos contemplates it for a moment but is quick to approach, confront, provoke and break it down. We can track that same organ line throughout the album, sometimes acquiring visibility (“Luna Llena”) and sometimes percolating as a ghostly echo to make room for vocals (“La Chinita”).

Santos unveils his entire toolbox (horns, cowbells, rattlesnakes) within a couple tracks inside the album. Nothing wrong with displaying your diegesis early on, but by the middle section of the record, Santos’ role becomes that of a stylist –flirting and repositioning his sound, and lacking surprise in the production. Santos’ newfound vocal ambition pays off for that structural flaw in big ways. When was the last time someone nuanced the word “sensual” and actually managed to sound sexy doing it? The vocal unfolding of Mi Technobanda is exciting and heroic; this includes the narcotized voice-of-reason found in “Éxtasis” and a couple conversations with the devil in “San Cristóbal” and “Romeo.” Santos is often referred as an understated artist (particularly when compared to his ruidosón peers). I think he had been been building up to deliver something as fulfilling as Mi Technobanda –an album that proves ruidosón is still going strong at a delightful level of indiscretion.

Bill Yonson - "Chola"

Bill Yonson (Josué Coronado Navarrete) belongs to a new b-level of DIY pop stylists/expressionists making some of the most exciting music coming out of Mexico (Tony Gallardo II, Pájaro Sin Alas, Fonobisa). Via our friends at Matinee As Hell, we learn about his forthcoming sophomore album, El Principe del Mar (in all due honor to El Principe del Rap if you had not figured out by the album cover). While initially alienating and hard to take seriously, Bill Yonson’s new single “Chola” proves to be as deep cutting as it is charmingly weird. “Ese apodo de ojos tristes te queda bien,” sighs a decoded voice as it scratches a platform of casio keyboards and dembow. Affording wittiness on the promotional cut of your album is a very good thing. If Pipe Llorens made a hit out of “Dame Un Besito,” and María y José finally percolated into Mexican radio with “Ultra,” Bill Yonson’s shot at an urban ballad should encounter a similar faith.

MP3: Campo-Formio - "Lola"

Well, we’re only about four months late on this one. People of great taste have been pointing us to Puerto Rican rock power band Campo-Formio for years, and although the pedigree has been obvious, nothing has stood up as remarkably as their latest single “Lola.” The band calls it a power ballad. Off their first full-length record here comes…. Campo-Formio! (via Dead Mofongo Records), “Lola” can be classified as a breakthrough single of sorts. The robust build up of those guitars, the brutal urgency of the drums, and the releasing of that catchy-as-hell, full-on-falsetto vocals shouting “pero yo no soy tu perro,” make up for one very memorable number. The song plays exceptionally well with bulks of grainy youtube footage (with Javiera Mena making the cut) as seen in the fan-made clip below. Download the MP3 of the song for free via Bandcamp.

Hawaiian Gremlins - Girls EP

Girls EP, Hawaiian Gremlins
Sicario Music, Mexico
Rating: 60
by Carlos Reyes

A killer band name, infectious guitars, and tropical sticker aesthetics have made Hawaiian Gremlins one of the most bloggable bands of the last couple of years. The common denominator for most bloggers: it’s a band that offers nothing new but whose feel-good vibes are worth to pass around. While their debut EP Teenage Ways was too scattered in vision for a proper review, their new EP, Girls, brings some focus to their pastiche. Not that the band is heading on the right path (if there’s such a thing), but they’re showing signs of wanting to move past being the flavor of the month.

“All the girls are watching us,” nuances a low-reverbed crooning voice on the EP’s intro. Not so fast on self-gratification guys! It’s easy to tap your foot and consume the music with that happy-go-lucky joy the band offers. But when the novelty wears off, we must ask for some challenge. Even if this is meant to be some kind of homage to Michael Cera, there’s little proposition in Girls. Jangling surf guitars and soft brushes make up for most of the offer, and although at times ingenious (the tippy toeing in “AA AA” is too cute), there’s little revelation at the core of these tunes. Add the fact that Hawaiian Gremlins have yet to realize singing in English (for the sake of it and not having much command of it) is no longer cool, and fall cheesy and flat on their limited vocabulary. Not to mention, one can misunderstand things completely –for the longest time I was under the impression first single “Give It Up” was incestuous (“I want you so bad Daddy hurts,”) but apparently it isn’t.

Past its lyrical fiasco and its all-absorbing redux, Girls (unlike its predecessor) does offer the band with a direction. If they stick with naïve tempos and stripped-down bubblegum melodies (as they have in standout tracks "Give It Up" and "Bright Lights"), they’re likely to encounter more than a few gems in the future. Girls also benefits from a very pleasing construction –it’s a 20minute dose that offers an intro, potential hit singles, fillers, and an outro. The real challenge will arrive when it’s time to transfer the dangerously thin and borrowed discourse to a full-length album. That's bound to be stretchy. Recalling moods and sounds rather than shaping them is a hit or miss game. Hawaiian Gremlins are squeezing from a tree that might not sustain them for too long, but it will do for the time being.