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Meridian Brothers-Desesperanza

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, October 15, 2012 07:38am | Post a Comment
Meridian BrothersAlmost two decades ago, David Hidalgo and Louie Perez from Los Lobos mixed experimental music with Mexican traditional music and the barrio East L.A. sound to make the excellent project, The Latin Playboys. They created a sound that was familiar yet somewhat skewed. It left me with a feeling of playing a warped gem of a record that had been abandoned in an East Los Angeles basement for years. The soul of the music on the record was worth the damage that it would have on the stylus, as would the wooziness one would get listening to a warped record.  That’s how great that first Latin Playboys’ album is.

Eblis Álvarez, a member of groups Frente Cumbiero and Ondatropica, is the brainchild behind The Meridian Brothers. When listening to Desesperanza, I got that same feeling, except the gem of a record was found in a basement in Bogota or Medellin.
Álvarez played and recorded everything himself. The experimental composer uses the contents of his native Colombia as his canvas, layering heavily “Ring-Modulated” keyboards and Caribbean guitar work that is African in nature. Vocals are usually sped up or slowed down rebajada style, giving the effect that this recording is older than it truly is. The bass and percussion come from the traditions of Colombian music. If Álvarez chose to play it straight, it would still be an accomplishment in itself as far as bringing back the old school Discos Fuentes sound.

A perfect example of what Álvarez accomplishes with The Meridian Brothers is on the song, “Salsa Del Zombie” The base of the song is a classic descarga what one would have heard on the dance floors of Colombia in the 60’s and 70’s. Layered on top are the spooky keyboards, pitched-down vocals and a killer African Highlife guitar solo. On top of that, the lyrics sound like something Peruvian singer/comedian Melcochita would have written.





In a lot of ways (and without intention) The Meridian Brothers comes of like a genre-bender like Tom Waits. All of it sounds so familiar but the sound is all its own. You hear the minimalist experimentation, you hear the out-sounds from the likes of Sun Ra. You hear the nods to the great Colombian group Afrosound, who were the first to mix African, Colombian and spacey keyboard sounds all in one. Still, the sound is all Álvarez, which is a feat that is all too rare these days.

Relevant Tags

Colombia (5), Cumbia (37), Discos Fuentes (9), Soundway Records (5)