Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spotlight: The Tropical Noise of Los Piranas


They certainly don’t come on gently. Instead, they appear like the world’s funkiest car-accident, all frantic foot-stomp, screaming metal, and the sure knowledge that you’re going to crash into something very hard, very fast. But then the music turns, never actually exploding into atonal cacophony that it seems to be threatening, and you slowly start realize that there’s a classic Latin baseline underneath all that stammering guitar, and that the drummer is totally holding it down, and that you could probably even DANCE to this stuff without too much trouble.

It’s hard not to get slightly hyperbolic when trying to describe the music of Los Piranas. Hailing from Colombia, they were formed as a side-project by members of Frente Cumbiero  and the Meridian Brothers, two bands that are both pretty excellent in their own rights. It might be a bit of an imposition, but listening from a North American perspective, Los Piranas’s sound might be best described as a particularly warped variation of dance-punk, a style with a lineage that include no-wavers like James Chance and the Contortions, post-punk bands like the Gang of Four, as well as more recent groups such as the Rapture or Les Savy Fav. Like most of these bands, Los Piranas utilize a sharply bifurcated sound, playing off the contrast between the low frequency hits of bass and drum and the high, treble-y bite of the guitar. It’s a skeletal music, lacking the body provided by vocals or rhythm guitar; as a result, it’s possible to clearly focus on the rhythmic interplay between the three band members.

What sets Los Piranas apart is the nature and intensity of that rhythm. Whereas many like-minded bands borrow single-mindedly (and often at the most basic level) from the vocabulary of disco and funk, Los Piranas spread their net far wider, pulling in a variety of cumbia (and cumbia-related) rhythms. But more then simply providing greater variety, the band just swings, grooving in a way that so often eludes (or simply never occurs to) bands like the Rapture or even more dub-wise groups like Mi Ami. The familiar sharpness is there, but it melds into the rhythm in a way that renders it both jarring and deeply funky. Which is really the pleasure center that the whole dance-punk idea is aiming for.

Much of this is success is due to the stunning guitar work of Eblis Álvarez, who stands front and center for all of the album’s songs. His tone, manipulated by who knows what kinds of processing, screams and wavers and trembles and bleats, stoically refusing to sound like any guitar you’ve ever heard. NONE of this sounds like anything you’ve ever heard. And that is why you should go to the band’s website, and download the album for free. Because music this good should be listened to. Loudly.

Thanks to Sounds and Colours for turning us onto this.

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