Lately things don’t seem the same…

1135287621-_DSC0243-(1)-copyI can’t remember whether I’ve blogged about these before. I suspect not, I really should’ve, they are bonkers…

Meridian Brothers

Actually, I’m saying “they”, but the Meridian Brothers is actually the nom-de-guerre of an irrefutably odd Columbian known to his mother as Eblis Alvarez, who’s just had a third European album released by the modish, with-it folk of Soundway – Salvadora Robot.

Alvarez is based in Bogota and although he clearly has a big US record collection, his Meridian Brothers sound is pretty firmly rooted in Columbia and more particularly in the goofy but glorious Amazonian psychedelia that is Chicha. Giant snare drums, over-active cowbells, electric guitars, shakers and graters all build up what is an unmistakeably Latin sound.

Proceedings are dominated, however, by the telepathic interplay between a spectacularly off-kilter organ sound and Alvarez’ wonky guitar work which threads and weaves through each song. It’s a weird, unnatural sound which in other circumstances, you’d be thinking was maybe spooky and other-worldly but, given the Technicolor chaos going on around it, the “other worlds” would be more like Wizard of Oz than Outer Limits.

Witness the eccentricity of the Meridian Brothers (and, while you’re at it, enjoy the shirts…):


To be fair, giddy and slightly daft they may at times sound, I’m pretty sure there’s something jolly clever going on here. I’m no musician, and have no understanding whatsoever of how music actually works so the best I can suggest is that it’s as if each note or chord has slid along a couple of notches on the musical stave. The result is that, although it sounds all wrong, once you’re up to speed with it, everything’s still in place, relative to each other, and still “works” in this parallel, Munchkin world.

As if this wasn’t disconcerting enough, instruments and especially vocals are routinely dragged through various Joe Meek-style phasers, whoozers and all manner of other Seussical devices that tweak, distort and generally bewilder the ear.

It’s all pretty demented stuff and Salvadora Robot is certainly a whole lot of fun, but in the absence of anything good on YouTube from it, finish off by taking a look at last year’s champeta slant on Purple Haze:


Help me, help me…


downloadBeen looking around for something modern I liked from Latin America. There’s a few western-sounding bands around, all sounding pretty good but not exactly Latin. Here’s something though…

Anarkia Tropikal

Anarchy Tropical are a Chilean band of ne’er-do-wells, who, if the YouTube clips are anything to go by, seem to be having an immoderate amount of fun arsing around with punk and Chicha rhythms. Wheedling farfisa sounds and impossibly brittle Chicha guitars, wind themselves around off-beats and loping Cumbia bass lines, wrapped in by the all-encompassing rhythms of what looks to me like a man playing a cheese-grater but which is of course the merengue staple rhythm instrument, the guiro (as any fule know…)

Listen to the crazed, high spirits of “Ayahuasca”, and you’ll get an idea of how exciting a mixture it is:

This track appears to be free to download from their SoundCloud page along with the whole of 2013’s “La Verganza de los Brujos”, an album chockfull of witches, wah-wah and Cumbia zombies. It must be a helluva experience seeing this lot on stage. I’ve seen them billed as “anarcho-cumbia” and once you’ve seen the clips, it’s hard to argue with that…



Oh go on! Here’s another – their tribute to the Mirlos:


Pasión Oriental

destellosCan’t shake this damn chicha bug, buzzing around my brain…

Los Destellos

Los Destellos (the Twinkles) are credited with starting the whole Peruvian Cumbia ball rolling, although ace guitarist Enrique Delgado Montes is actually the man who gave this whole new thing its unique buzz.

The first track (not a real video I’m afraid) is my absolute favourite off the Vampisoul Cumbia Beat compilation I’ve just acquired. It’s a corker, Peruvian surf guitars a-go-go!


Then there’s this clip from the nineties showing a rather cuddly, bespectacled shopkeeper-type tentatively wielding his guitar who surely can’t be the same psych-Chicha fiend?

(Until you see his fingers on the fretboard, that is…)