Antioquia – Viajero
Once in a while, something truly original comes along. San Francisco-based art rockers Antioquia
bring a unique sound, dubbed “Afro-Colombian Psychedelic Lovefunk” on their
third album, Viajero. Touring throughout the U.S. over the past
four years, Antioquia has become a fan and festival favorite. While staying mainly below the radar of commercial
radio, Antioquia makes some of the most infectiously danceable rock and roll
out there. Comparisons have been made to Fela, Pere Ubu and the Talking Heads,
but the sound mix on Viajero is more of a blend of Was (Not Was), Rusted Root
and the B-52’s.
ingeniously constructed, with rock, ska and pop numbers woven in and around
occasional segues into drum circles.
Throughout much of the album there is a sense that Antioquia is constantly
on the edge between genius and epic fail.
The sound is a bit messy at times; the instrumentation is not
traditional rock and roll, and the band takes a lot of chances. Luckily they are up to the challenge, and the
cascade of small successes here becomes thrilling to the listener. The psychedelic space/punk opening song “Idaho”
sets the tone, done in a scatter-art style with co-vocals that almost always
entirely fail to be exactly in unison.
The energy and commitment of the band make this work better than perhaps
it should. “Attack Of The Killer Balafon”
is an ironic little instrumental featuring the named subject surrounds by
snarky electric guitar accents.
Instrumental humor is often subtle and hard to miss; not so here.
The edges get a bit rougher on “Sister”, marrying a nasty but
subdued guitar lick, open percussion and aggressive female vocals with a heavy
dose of feminism. The artsy folk/punk
style here is messy yet sonically appealing.
“Who That Be?” is one of those moments where you’ll be certain the wheels
are about to come off the bus, but Antioquia survives the experience
unscathed. “Steamship Enterprise” is an
ambitious art-rock exploration that builds from a basely repetitive opening
into an expansive turn. Antioquia gets
an A for effort here, but there’s no payoff to the vision here.
Funky, messy and fun aptly describes “Mountains”, which
sounds like it should have been a Don Was/Fred Schneider collaboration. The drum circle comes alive on “No Sleep Til Oakland”
and none too soon. This song starts out
as an unimaginative number, but is saved by the rhythmic transition. It’s almost as if the band, recording live,
realized the song itself wasn’t working and decided to simply drum
instead. “Rage Of Love” is a bit more
experimental, starting out as a meandering number but growing into an expansive
mellow rocker with progressive inclinations.
As stylistically unsettled as the number is, it works in the milieu that
Antioquia has built here.
“Dibon” is a brief drumming interlude that transitions into
the catchy, angular pop of “Donde Quiero”.
Balafon, electric guitar and percussion drive this along, with lyrics in
both English and Spanish. Rachel
Antony-Levin takes the vocals here, with a voice running the gamut from Tori
Amos to Pat Benetar. The song muscles up
into a heavier rock sound before taking its leave. Whimsical ska-pop is the order of the day on “There’s
A Man Jumping Off The Planet”. This
entertaining little number devolves into a messy jumble of instruments and
musical ideas at the end, but it’s a fun trip.
Interestingly enough, this is also the most polished song on the album;
and might have some real potential as a single.
Antioquia returns to the drum circle on last time for “Kassa
– Nisoro”, before stepping out with a thoroughly asymmetric closer in “Back To
The Mountains”. This is perhaps the only
true misstep on the album. This live, in-studio
recording is messy and unpolished; and it’s very apparent that Antioquia was
having a blast doing it, but it simply does not sound very good. Put at the end of an envelope that pushes the
envelope artistically and musically, “Back To The Mountains” is really
something of a letdown. It’s an
unfortunate choice for the last thing a first time listener will hear, as it
doesn’t leave the best impression of the band.
Antioquia’s let it all hang out attitude is one of the
biggest driving forces behind the success of Viajero. As with all great
traits, it has the potential to be their undoing on occasion as well. On balance, however, Viajero flirts with brilliance throughout, dancing on the edge of
failure and success where magic sometimes happens. The blend of sounds and styles here is
unique, and the slightly unpolished sound on Viajero means the experience have here will be much closer to what
you’ll hear live. It’s hard not to like
Rating: 4 Stars (Out
Learn more at www.antioquia-band.com.
Viajero is available digitally from Bandcamp.