Review ·

Since I was a teenager, I have loved the idea of fusing music. When I began making pause-button tapes, I aspired to make blends of rock and punk as well as hip-hop and breaks. When I began playing in bands, I dreamed of a ten- to fourteen-piece group that could mix any form of dance and rhythm. Cuban horns over Ghanaian percussion, Yoruba rhythms simmering with Southern soul -- fusion of that nature. So, at such a self-obsessed point in one's life, imagine my surprise and joy discovering I was not the first to come across this idea. I came across the various Invisibl Skratch Piklz tapes and learned they were carrying on what Afrika Bambaataa had done decades prior. Ozomatli gathered some of the best musicians in my own neighborhood, reached far and wide for what was danceable and updated what countless other musicians had done in the past, like Santana, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Gershwin brothers. Finding out that my supposedly profound ideas had been explored generations ago was partly disappointing, but I nevertheless embraced these artists. I identified a fearlessness in them (which, of course, I felt was reflected in myself) to leave no stone unturned; if music could be transcribed in universal notation, it only made sense to speak its different languages.



In the midst of this mental whirlpool, Los Amigos Invisibles sashayed into my musical world. Admittedly, this six-piece from Venezuela was numerically and geographically off my map. How could six guys (re-)create the sound of the club with all its bells and whistles? And what was the sound of Venezuela, let alone the New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera? Yet the group's second album and stateside debut spoke to my melting-pot ideals with a previously unheard range. Under the guise of disco kitsch and '70s nostalgia, the band unearthed crates of musical ideas and folded them into a doughy four-on-the-floor beat. Although the record cycled through my rotation quickly, its frenzy exploded my fusion dreams and egged me to search widely.


Ten years have passed, and the band continues to follow this more-is-more imperative on its fifth album, Superpop Venezuela. The group still recombines Afro-Latin dance elements, but the net now stretches far enough to include highlife, Afro-beat, disco, and hip-hop. Appropriately, Los Amigos recruit fellow "world dance" connoisseur Dimitri From Paris to helm the boards. Much like Masters at Work's production assistance on the group's previous album, 2004's The Venezuelan Zunga Son, Vol. 1, the presence of a deejay/producer works to the group's sensibilities; the album seamlessly stitches each idea together into a frenetic yet dazzling blend.


Technically, Superpop is a covers record full of cheeky Venezuelan pop songs, and, consequently, it's chock full of in-jokes (from the weepy beauty queen reining over "Miss Venezuela" to the sunshine nostalgia of the title track). But the covers are such dramatic reinterpretations and the musicianship so solid that the group pulls off one of its most consistent and constant gozaderas. Superpop may seem an odd starting point, but what better time to join the party.





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