Currently Listening To: 2019 Mid-Year Edition

I have had a few artists on a heavy rotation these past couple of months as I weathered my final semester of coursework at SDSU:

Frikstailers – Extrasolar

The Argentine duo forced us all to wait six years for a new album, but it was worth the wait. One could argue that they made us wait only two years as the duo released an album of music under the name Klik & Frik for musical aesthetic purposes. That album, Telepat, however, was a slight digression towards a sound stripped to nothing but electronic beats, sans the direct Latin American influences and genre mixture Frikstailers are known for. This album under their original moniker brings them back to their original sound with the help of musical guests Mateo Kingman, La Yegros, Aterciopelados, and Marrón.

Vudufa – Congorito

Vudufa is the name of this new project by Lima-based producers Pounda and NoModico. Their debut album, Congorito, features eight tracks of a sound they’ve dubbed “Afrobass with Peruvian flavor,” which is a darker version of the already-dark tunes of Dengue Dengue Dengue and Animal Chuk. What differentiates Vudufa from their peers is their focus on African beats and rhythms with nary a hint of cumbia.

Gustavo Dudamel – Celebrating John Williams

I interviewed Dudamel of the LA Philharmonic for FLAUNT magazine (you can check that out here) and, thus, spent days listening to much of his work. My favorite is the recording of his concert at Santiago de Compostela where he conducted Beethoven’s 9th with the Galician Symphony. His latest album is a live recording of his tribute concert for legendary composer John Williams with the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall in January 2019.

Capsula – Bestiarium

Capsula is a band I’ve covered extensively throughout the years since first learning about them many years ago. I think it was at SXSW eight years ago. In any case, they released a new album earlier this year. Bestiarium is a concept album based on numerous mythological creatures of ancient folklores and some damn good rock n’ roll, as always.

If These Trees Could Talk – The Bones of a Dying World

I learned about this band and album thanks to the Radio option on Spotify. Now before anyone accuses me of crafting a sponsored post without attribution, Spotify is my main method/app to listen to music and podcasts followed by Podcast App, Mixcloud, direct streams, and good ol’ fashioned terrestrial car radio.

Anyway! This band has been one of my favorite instrumental bands since I learned about them. It’s great music to study to, to drive in the rain to, to cure writer’s block to, etc. If anything, give the song “Earth Crawler” (my favorite track) a listen.

Crim – Pare Nostre Que Esteu a L’infern

Crim are a punk band from Tarragona, Spain who I learned about thanks to a concert flyer I found while in Barcelona in April (more on that in a forthcoming post). They’ve got a political slant as any good punk band does with lyrics that focus on many of the modern social problems in their home country.

Arpaviejas – El Último Cartucho

Arpaviejas are also a punk band from Spain but these guys are from the outskirts of Barcelona. JR Kubensis founded the band in 2000 and continues today as his pet project feat. a rotating cast of musicians that form his band.

Gustavo Dudamel: The Maestro Cometh

Friends, enemies, & the aloof: I present to you my first magazine cover story!

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In the Cause & Effect issue (number 165) of FLAUNT magazine, I interview LA Philharmonic director & conductor Gustavo Dudamel. It’s available now physically and also digitally here: https://www.flaunt.com/content/gustavo-dudamel.

An excerpt:

“Think about it. What is art, ultimately? What is culture?” he asks, gesticulating with his hands as if conducting, though in a much more subdued manner than when he takes the podium. “It is a people’s identity. Do you know what I mean? The great artists, the geniuses, no matter where they live or where they were born, gave all of humanity a gift… This means that when we play Beethoven in Peru, for instance, we can play him as a European composer with a Peruvian identity, or a Venezuelan one, or Argentine, or Japanese.”

For L.A.’s Mexican-American Metal Fans, Todo Es Metal Was a Lineup for the Ages

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Transmetal at Los Angeles Theater. Drew Gurian/Red Bull

The Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway first opened its doors in 1931 with the world premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. No one who attended that opening night could ever in their wildest dreams have imagined that the 2,000-person capacity venue would, decades later, host an event like Red Bull Music Academy Festival’s Todo Es Metal showcase this past Saturday, Oct. 21.

The event united rock bands from Mexico with their long-haired peers of the American diaspora for a night of thrash, grind, death, black and heavy metal. Southern Californian acts Mictlantecuhtli, XLesionsX, Scrapmetal, Blue Hummingbird on the Left, Volahn, Letum Ascensus, Sadistic Intent, and Terrorizer L.A. shared the bill with Thanatology, Disgorge and Transmetal from Mexico.

Read the rest at LA Weekly.

How Helado Negro’s “Young, Latin and Proud” Became a Generational Anthem

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There will be a point this coming Thursday night when Helado Negro, the musical alter ego of Roberto Carlos Lange, will kick up a wave of high-pitched sounds off his synthesizer and lead the crowd at the Regent Theater into a chorus about being “young, Latin and proud.” The song, which turns 2 years old this summer, continues to serve as an anthem for a generation of Latinos growing up in Trump’s America, a development Lange never expected.

“Absolutely, it caught me by surprise,” the multitalented Lange admits over the phone. “The song was made for me and was more of an intimate song. We had a few shows and, kind of the way the world works in trying to get people to know that you have a new show coming up, we thought it would be a good idea to release a new song, and I thought, ‘Oh, this would be a great song for summertime.’”

Lange released “Young, Latin and Proud” just as candidate Trump was calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. “A lot of people have commented to me that they found the song to be somewhat of a reinforcement of an anti-Trump idea,” he says. But he insists the song wasn’t intended as a response to Trump: “It was just music that I was making that I’ve always made since day one, since the first record. A lot of my music has been covering the same themes. People pick up on it later in time.”

Read the rest at LA Weekly.

The Future of SoCal Indie Music Looks Bright — and Latino — at Viva! Pomona

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Cuco is the future!

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and there’s nothing about Viva! Pomona that needs to be fixed. Founder Rene Contreras celebrated the sixth birthday of his little festival that could in Pomona this past weekend with yet another stellar lineup of local and international independent artists that struck a perfect balance between Latino artists and everyone else.

The annual two-day festival brought a range of artists from different genres, with acoustic weirdos such as Juan Wauters and Tall Juan sharing floor space with their musical opposites like punk group The Coathangers and fuzzy surf-rock duo Surf Curse. It’s a formula that has worked since the festival’s inception, a depiction of the diverse tastes of Contreras and others like him.

The two worlds that the festival brings together have always coexisted well, although the disparity between the two seemed stronger this year than it has at past Viva! Pomonas. It was far from a Bloods and Crips or greasers and socials situation, but the line between the Latino segment of the festival and the rest stood out more than it had in other years.

One reason for the disparity was the star power behind some of the new names on the bill — specifically, Omar Banos, whose musical alter ego Cuco is more insanely popular than anyone who isn’t a teenage Latino from L.A. obsessed with emo and romantic ballads realizes.

Read the rest at LA Weekly!