Friday, July 30, 2010

GRUPO FANTASMA-El Existential (Nat Geo Music, 2010)

Adrián Quesada and his combo Grupo Fantasma (not to be confused with Argentina's neo-cumbia pioneers Fantasma) seem to be set on a mission, to prove the world that cumbia doesn't necessarily have to be a simple and unpretentious music style based on repetitive beats and two-finger-keyboard notes. The Texans Grupo Fantasma have been consistently showing off their uncanny skills during the past ten years, recording some of the best cumbia music available.
Now, the title of their latest self-produced release can be a little misleading, because it could suggest some sort of intellectual aspirations. However, while El Existential is full of skillful instrumentation and fine arrangements you'll never in a million years hear on your average cumbia CD, the lyrics are trivial, mundane and full of grammatically incorrect use of the Spanish language (mostly just typical mistakes done by Latinos raised in the US who never received any formal Spanish education and they just picked up the language from listening to their parents, but I'm a linguistics Nazi and I can't help it, sorry). Anyway, cheesy lyrics should never be a red flag in cumbia, a genre widely dominated by undereducated composers, but paired with such beautiful music the cheesy lyrics stand out a lot and make me wish they had more instrumental tracks (like in their funky side project Brownout) and not because the vocals are bad, in fact they're really good, but also because I'd sample and remix the shit out of this tracks. Release vinyl, please?

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