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Review: Chicha Libre, Canibalismo

Chicha Libre
[Barbès Records (2012)]

Chicha is Spanish for any variety of fermented beverage. In the late 1960s, it was also a fermentation of various musical styles that were “loosely inspired by Colombian cumbias but incorporated the distinctive pentatonic scales of Andean melodies, some Cuban guajiras, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, wah-wah pedals, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers.” The style could easily be forgotten about by now, but, thanks to Chicha Libre’s ongoing efforts, it’s slowing entering the North American consciousness.

The second effort from the Brooklyn-based sextet is an all-original, mostly instrumental affair loaded with action-impact arrangements that mix traditional cumbias with surf guitars, mesmerizing Latin rhythms and elements of psychedelic pop for an explosive world dance party. The group’s heart and soul is Joshua Camp, who alternates between jamming on electravox, mellotron, and synthesizers and often enters into spellbinding call-and-response interplays with guitarist Vincent Douglas. The array of Latin percussion, electric and four-string quarto guitars, and arcade game sounds causes the dense soundscape to shift and change constantly. At time it feels like a spaghetti western soundtrack with its background vocals trailing off in the distance. On the suave “L’age D’or,” a rumbly, gravelly male voice conjures up images of a self-appointed sexy, hairy bare-chested Latin male adorned with gold chains stirring potent cocktails for his heavily hair-spayed blonde date.

The title sums it perfectly—a groovy cannibalism of sounds but don’t ask if it ever eats it young.

—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)

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