Published Sep 28, 2009To the casual observer, Latin funk must seem easy: get a good drummer, load up on percussion and punchy horn riffs, and it's an instant party. To some extent that described some of the less memorable tracks of Brownout's debut album a couple of years ago. Now, the little brothers of Grupo Fantasma have returned with an extremely strong sophomore effort that wears its eclecticism on its sleeve, and wears it well. There is a veritable history of Latin dance styles in North America within these grooves. Being from Austin, they do Tex-Mex with authority, as on opening cut "Con El Cuente." The band's patron saint, Larry Harlow, was one of the key figures in the NuYorican movement of the '60s and '70s, and his sound is a dominant influence. On "Olvidalo" and elsewhere, baroque keyboards and psychedelic textures sparkle and hustle at the same time. "Tell Her She's Lovely" is a cover of L.A.'s El Chicano and displays effective vocals in what had previously been an all-instrumental affair. Add to this mix heaping portions of cumbia, jazz and even a P-Funk-sounding jam in "Slinky" and the disc expands simplistic notions of what Latin funk should be.
When did the move to Six Degrees happen? What does this mean for your career?
Bassist Greg Gonzales: We moved to Six Degrees Records this year. Six Degrees has been very helpful, excited and energetic. We've always felt that our music would appeal to a large swath of people if they only had the opportunity to experience it and a means to get information/products that were straightforward and efficient. As such, Six Degrees has been extremely cooperative and understanding ― a huge upgrade.
This record is so much more confident than the first. Does it take many years to develop the sound of a large band?
It's a constant process of self-improvement. Drummer Johnny [Lopez], guitarist Beto [Martinez] and myself have been playing together for 17 years, over half my life. We've been playing with Adrian [Quesada] for 12 years. The longer we play together the more we understand the sound we're trying to create and how to communicate with one another. We also went deeper on this album, incorporating more sonic flavours and textures. We used more percussion, synths, drum lines, violins and vocals than on the first album. (Six Degrees)