February 22, 2016 | by Texas Music Magazine
Review: Grupo Fantasma – Problemas

”It’s been too long since we’ve heard from the best Latin band this side of Los Lobos. El Existential won a Grammy five years ago, then their label went belly up, the group changed management and Austin’s nine-piece orchestra was momentarily at sea.”

Problemas 2016 Album

But before the storm hit, the group wrote a new batch of ambitious songs, brought in Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin to produce, and recorded this album, which they named for the confluence of problems responsible for the delay. Waiting five years was a high price for fans to pay, but they’re likely to regard this as a handsome reward. The punchy, deep groove, percolating percussion and intricate horn charts that characterize everything they’ve done remain, as do the Spanish-only lyrics, but their songs show a growing sophistication. One example: “Solo Un Sueño,” an Afro-Cuban suite about the American dream told from an immigrant’s perspective, opens with a twisting, staccato guitar figure that’s doubled by horns, arranged by trombonist Mark “Speedy” Gonzales. A tentative verse crescendos to an unresolved close before giving way to a chorus that suggests, through rising major chords laced with dissonances and sinuous guitar lines, some unstable combination of uncertainty and yearning. It’s followed by a moody cover of the Beatles’ “Because,” remade into a darkly beautiful bolero that showcases the group’s talent for close part singing, as does the contrasting “Cayuco,” a brightly passionate cumbia. The band brings funk to almost everything it does, but they also mix in rock, jazz and hip-hop, along with an occasional African and Eastern European flavor. It’s heady stuff, and the sonic transparency that Berlin has achieved makes it easier to hear the subtlety and sophistication underneath. The funkestra is back, and the groove abides. — MADISON SEARLE

 

Originally published in Winter 2016, No. 65
Leave a Reply

— required *

— required *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Theme by Theme Flames, powered by Wordpress.