Published Oct 06, 2015Who knew the accordion could be so seductive?
Severin Behnen quells any misconceptions about that instrument being clunky, awkward or goofy on Sangre Y Arena, the new album by L.A.-based Latin folk troop Cuñao. Behnen's mastery of the squeezebox is apparent throughout the LP — he unveils subtly wheezing notes on "Saana" that escalate the tension of Craig Shields' rattling percussion; releases galvanizing gusts that duel for dominance with Josel Cruz's throbbing bass on "La Casa Dela Abuela"; and wrangles a frantic solo on "Gaitan" that threatens to rip his accordion in two.
That's not the album's only solo. In fact, Behnen and the rest of Cuñao have plenty of opportunities to shine on this entrancing LP, as on "El Llano," when Shields' pitter-patter percussion is the sole sound for a climactic 30 seconds, while frontman and founder Julio Montero rolls the R's in his lyrics until they become come-hither purrs.
Cuñao also balances the thrills of that virtuosity with more soothing, subdued moments in which the entire band share the spotlight. A fine example is on "Niños Del Desierto," where Montero harmonizes his soaring voice with those of his band mates, as he gently strums an acoustic guitar. Listeners lulled by that gentle tune will be jolted partway through by yet another solo — this time by what sounds like a type of kazoo. It's just another surprise on this dynamic, highly unique LP. (Ides of March)