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Tag: Eduardo Arenas bass

Chicano Batman, the Hottest Thing in Latin and Psychedelic Soul, Hit Central Park This Weekend

Chicano Batman are the hottest thing in psychedelic soul right now – or maybe in all of soul music, for that matter. Over the course of their eclectic career, they’ve done everything from noir psychedelia to  LA lowrider grooves as well as  more tropical sounds. Their latest album Freedom Is Free – streaming at Bandcamp – is their most traditionally 60s soul-oriented, yet with the psychedelic touches they’re best known for. They’re the highlight of a triplebill this Satutday,  July 15 at around 5 PM at Central Park Summerstage. A generically dancey band open the afternoon at 3ish; popular 80s Argentine janglerockers Los Pericos headline atfterward if you feel like sticking around for your nostalgia fix .Get there on time if you’re going

The album opens with Passed You By, a gorgeous oldschool soul ballad  that sounds like the Zombies covering the Stylistics, with Binky Griptite in elegant mode on lead guitar. The reverb on frontman Bardo Martinez’s organ, backing vocals and echoey guitar fragments add subtle psychedelic touches to the point where the whole is a lot bigger than the sum of its parts – this band is very good at doing that.

Martinez  turns up his organ’s roto all the way over drummer Gabriel Villa’s scrambling shuffle groove, like the Soul Brothers with hints of James Brown, in Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm). Angel Child is a real trip: strutting bass, woozy wah guitar, lysergically pulsing Sergeant Pepper textures and a little in-the-pocket James Brown all mashed up together.

Bassist Eduardo Arenas’ snappy drive fuels the album’s sunny title track, while guitarist Carlos Arévalo shows off his elegant Hendrixian chosp on the spiky, psychedleic intro to the understatedly plaintive, Os Mutantes-tinged La Jura, a feast of vintage organ and vintage analog synth textures. All the trick endings raise the surrealism level several notches.

The band balances rapidfire precision – check out Arévalo’s wry wah-wah guitar solo – with a lingering red-sunset atmosphere in Flecha Al Sol. Jealousy is not the creepy Ninth House dirge but an artfully assembled, crescendoing  original – is that a weird low-register synth patch, or Arenas’ bass running through a fuzztone pedal? It’s anybody’s guess.

The band follows the delicious jangles and ripples of the bouncy latin funk intro Right Off the Back with Run, a swaying, shapeshifting mini-epic sparkling with blippy organ, flitting congas, mosquito guitar, soaringly orchestrated choruses featuring New York’s own all-female Mariachi Flor de Toloache and a couple of unexpectedly balmy organ interludes.

The album’s longest and best track, The Taker Story, is an anti-imperialist broadside, part Isaac Hayes hot butter, part Gil Scott-Heron, with a hazy latin tint. Over a leaping, trickily polyrhythmic groove, Martinez traces many thousand years of colonization and relentless exploitation. “You can’t believe that native people are still around,” Martinez intones with withering sarcasm. The album winds up with the uneasily rippling psych-folk theme Area C. This is going to be the summer jam for an awful lot of people in 2017.

Chicano Batman Bring Their Trippy LA Latin Soul to NYC

Every January, the booking agents’ convention hits New York and brings in its wake a handful of spectacularly good multi-band extravaganzas. Will there be a better show in NYC this year than the seven-band lineup at Drom on Jan 11 at 7:30 PM? Probably not. Check out this insanely good bill put together by the Barbes folks, all this for a ridiculously cheap ten bucks at the door: pan-latin revolutionary anthem singer/bandleader Ani Cordero; ten-piece Balkan brass band Slavic Soul Party (who do Duke Ellington as well as they do their own rat-a-tat originals); nine-piece original psychedelic Afrobeat dancehall monsters Zongo Junction; serpentine LA psychedelic soul band Chicano Batman; politically-fueled, bitingly funny son jarocho folk-punk group Las Cafeteras; Ethiopiques keyboard legend Hailu Mergia & Low Mentality; a bit of a lull and then at around 1 AM Chop & Quench playing Fela classics and their own originals. If you can’t make it or can’t pull it together for seven or so hours of music on a Saturday night, Chicano Batman and Las Cafeteras are also at the Shop in Bushwick, 234 Starr St. (Wyckoff/Irving; L to Jefferson St.) at 7 the following night, Jan 11.

Of all those bands, the most intriguing one might be four-piece LA crew Chicano Batman. Their 2012 ep Joven Navegante was a pretty straight-up retro latin funk affair with wah-wah guitars, slinky organ and an infectious dance groove. Their latest one, Cycles of Existential Rhyme – streaming at Bandcamp with their other stuff – is a lot more psychedelic, and eclectic, and a lot of fun. It’s less a bolt of sunshine for a gloomy NYC winter night than a shiny haze rippled with riffs that are as catchy as they are expansive and trippy: happy, upbeat music for people who aren’t shallow.

Frontman/organist Bardo Martinez plays either a vintage Farfisa organ or a newer keyboard with a rippling setting that sounds like one, while guitarist Carlos Arévalo spirals and resonates with a similarly vintage reverbtoned sound over the slinky groove of bassist Eduardo Arenas and drummer Gabriel Villa. Among New York bands, Damian Quinones y Su Conjunto are similar, although this group is both more keyboard-driven, soul-oriented and likely to go way out with an organ or guitar jam.

The album’s opening instrumental, El Frio sounds like something by Country Joe & the Fish at their trippiest yet most succinct. It’s less of a chillout theme than the title might indicate, especially when the band reprise it later as a shapeshifting psychedelic ballad with a pulsing outro that nicks the hook from Steam’s Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.

The title track is a swaying Farfisa soul tune with jazzy, reverbtoned guitar behind Martinez’s expressive vocals. The band follows that with Lisandreando, a spiky, upbeat, tropical-flavored guitar miniature and then El Jalapeño, a droll Mexican folk tune spun through the kaleidescope of 60s American psych rock.

“She lives on my block so I ride by, I haven’t had the opportunity to stay high,” Martinez laments on the next track, a brightly shapeshifting, catchy soul tune about a purple-haired girl who got away; Arévalo kicks in with a tasty wah guitar solo at the end. After that, they slow things down with some weirdly warping sonics and then pull the groove together again with a sunbaked, guitar-and-bass-fueled pulse.

They go back to the psyched-out Mexican folk with Amor Verde and then the sunny, jazzy A Cool Blessing and its wry blend of lingering guitar, ah-ah vocals and wah-wah keys, like Os Mutantes with fatter production values. The album’s best and most epic track, Magma (that’s the name of a girl, go figure) sets slowly unwinding, intertwining guitar and organ over a dancing beat that the band picks up with a labyrinthine, trippy rhythm. They do the same later with Wednesday Morning.

Stoned Soul Picnic isn’t the Laura Nyro blue-eyed soul classic but an original that bookends a brightly unwinding guitar solo with a similarly glistening vintage soul-pop tune. The album winds up with Para Agradecer, a summery soul strut that gets your head bobbing before you realize what’s going on – something you can count on at either of these two shows.