Saturday, June 21, 2014

Scenes Of A City, Vol. 1: Guayaquil, Ecuador

This is the first in a series I hope to develop where I pick a random city and post some musical examples of what's going on there. 

Guayaquil is a city close to the size of Houston. The largest city in Ecuador, it's a bustling port with plenty of delicious seafood, plenty of football fans, and strangely enough, plenty of great psychedelic rock bands. This is perhaps not so strange, except for the fact that, until now, the only Ecuadorian musician I knew of was the 1990's one hit wonder Gerardo, whose "Rico Suave" song was equally hilarious and terrifying for it's almost cartoonish machismo. But this garage/psych revival of today seems to be just as international today as it was in the 1960s, if these bands are any indication.

Male and female vocals adorn this psychedelic garage EP by a band named after the sugary, light brown crema of a specially prepared espresso shot. These songs are more sweet than bitter, and more mid-tempo than one might expect from a caffeine-related band name, but a solid example of Ecuador's young bands dabbling in the mind-expanding production effects we've all come to love from the psychedelic genre.

Here we have a more stripped down garage band along the lines of Russia's Karova's Milkshake. The production reminds me of crisp, warm, and clean values of the late 1970s, giving these 4 songs an aura that they could almost be bluesy Soft Boys b-sides. They have a track called "The Ballad of Rita Jones", which I'd like to think is an homage to Os Mutantes member Rita Lee Jones, but that may be a stretch. Elements of the Kinks also. Super good EP, this one.

I threw this one in as a wild card... and wild it certainly is, showing that Ecuador's musicians are also making forays into the tangled experimental sounds of math rock. Bringing to mind bands like Don Caballero and Battles, these instrumental tracks are beautifully ordered chaos, displaying some the most fantastically inventive guitar playing I've heard in awhile. While some atmospheric psych is thrown in as well, this one might be for progressive music listeners.

This one's a full length and probably the strongest offering of the bunch, if for no other reason that it's a psychedelic surf rock record with streaks of darkness throughout. Tracks 6 and 7 especially. Each has a moment where a strange instrument comes into the mix.. I'm pretty sure it's some sort of bowed string instrument, cello maybe, and the effect is haunting. Judging by pictures of the band, they're a trio and they're all young as hell. Which is always great to see, even if it makes me feel slightly like an old man who wasted his youth. Deserves repeated listens.

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