Saturday, April 17, 2010

CHICANO BATMAN (Unicornio Records 2010)

I had a great time last night. It was one of those parties that will be remembered for a long time. You know what I'm talking about, just about the perfect combination of great music, skillful DJ's, lots of friends, plenty of single girls, cool people open-minded enough to dance to music they've never ever heard before that sounds nothing like what they play on the radios and all this in a tiny, cozy, unpretentious new bar with affordable drinks and clean bathrooms. What else would you expect for a low-budget Oakland Friday night? Free vinyl? Check!
Yup, last night underground legend Sonido Franko hosted his monthly night "Carne Trémula" with guests DJ Lengua from LA and local sensation Roger Más. And a who-is-who of the Bay Area cumbia-DJ scene made it to this bar for the unofficial record release party of Chicano Batman, an 8-songs LP released in 12'' vinyl by Unicornio Records, the real local pioneers in the neo-cumbia.
Those who don't live in the Bay Area might still be familiar with Sonido Franko thanks to his incredible blog, Super Sonido, which has become the new mandatory-visit website for old-school cumbia and latin funk diggers. Pretty much anyone who claims to be a Latin vinyl digger must take his hat off in front of Franko and his impressive collection of LP's and 45's. But besides collecting, archiving and sharing his amazing finds with the internet, Franko has been releasing some records too under the Unicornio label. We already mentioned this label briefly last year for the release of Roger Más two 7'' singles.
This time however, instead of DJ remixes, Unicornio Records delivers an actual album by an actual band. Chicano Batman is a trio from Southern California and as you might already guessed by the cover art of the LP, they love everything old-school, from music, to graphic design, to ugly shirts.
I never quite understood the whole Chicano love for oldies. I mean, I understand immigrant's nostalgia and getting stuck in music you used to listen to in high-school back in your country, but the whole Chicano thing seems to be based on being nostalgic about melodramatic corny music your mother used to listen to while ironing shirts. OK, it does kinda make sense, I guess.
Anyway, even though I do not share that type of nostalgia for late sixties-early seventies mellow romantic pop (although it can be funny from the kitschy ironic p.o.v.), I was still able to enjoy this record from the beat-junkie perspective because it's full of ready-to-sample original breaks and some crazy spacey psychedelic sound effects. My only problem was getting pass the voice of the singer in those ballads that resemble a style of signing from that era that I particularly hate. That however doesn't happen in "La Manzanita" (I actually don't know if it's a different singer or the same one who just switches vocal styles), the only cumbia and the only dance-oriented track in an album that's more meant to be listened as background music under the influence of something. That cumbia is pretty dope and I'll totally be mixing it in my sets a.s.a.p., but my favorite track was the instrumental Brazilian-tropicalia-inspired "Um Dia Do Sol" that I'd love to sample and mix into one of my future mixes.
I don't know if the record is already available for online purchase but I've seen it announced at the Amoeba's site already and I guess soon you'll be able to purchase it from here.

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