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Cyber Monday World Music Picks of 2012

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 26, 2012 06:13am | Post a Comment

Today (Monday, November 26th, 2012), Amoeba.com is offering 20% off all purchases along with free shipping for Cyber Monday. Here is your chance to take advantage of the discount offered to expand your horizons. Today, we feature the hipster bar room vallenato of Very Be Careful and the lush anthem rock of Mexico’s greatest rock band, Café Tacuba. Check out Brazil’s equivalent of Sly Stone, Tim Maia. Also recently released is Latin Jazz legend Poncho Sanchez’s Live In Hollywood and African reissues from Tunji Oyelana and Super Biton De Segou.

Perhaps you want to take a chance at the incredible "indigenous meets futuristic beats" of The Future Sounds Of Buenos Aires? How about Jukebox Mambo, a collection of Latin inspired R&B from the '50s and '60s? What to try some Funk and Boogie from the country of Surinam, a former Dutch colony located in northern South America?

These are a few of my picks but the choices are endless at Amoeba.com




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The Future Sounds Of Buenos Aires-A Review By Gomez Comes Alive

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 19, 2012 08:04am | Post a Comment
There will always be an argument about where the whole “Digital Cumbia “ movement started. Did it arrive from German electronic composer Uwe Schmidt, (aka Señor Coconut) forays into tropical music that merge German electro-sensibilities with Latin American rhythms? Was it Toy Selectah’s production, mixing urban Hip-Hop with Sonidero that made Celso Piña’s massive hit, “Cumbia Sobre El Rio”? Was it British world travelers, Up Bustle & Out, whose journeys into Mexico led them to discover Sonidero, mixed with Reggae and Hip-Hop? Was it 2005 white label 12” release of Cumbia Mash-Ups made by Chico Sonido & Toy Selectah, mashing up Missy Elliot and Rick Ross acapellas with Cumbia Rebajada? One can argue it was ZZK’s landmark ZZK Sound Vol.1 Cumbia Digital, which received tons of international press which led every remixer who had an account of SoundCloud to add guacharaca on every insignificant remix they made.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what is good and what isn’t. All those names mention above has its place in the creation of Nu Cumbia, Electro-Cumbia, Digital Cumbia, Moombaton and every-related sub-genre that was created to describe a new sound that mixed the barrios of Latin America and it’s counterparts from academia and entitlement. In the end, barrio kids and the college kids created a baby and that’s what we have now.

Nothing more exemplifies this than ZZK’s latest release, The Future Sounds Of Buenos Aires. Besides defying what it means to be a Digital Cumbia artist in 2012 beyond creating dance floor jams, it is an example of the modern day Argentina. Argentina has been criticized as being the most European of all the Latin American countries, mainly for embracing the culture of their conqueror that other Latin American cultures are quick to dismiss it. When we think of the music of music of Argentina, we think of the Eurocentric Tango, or the thousands of Latin Rock groups that imitated the sounds of whatever was happening in Anglolandia, whether it was the Kinks and The Beatles in the 60’s, Led Zeppelin and Queen in the 70’s or The Police and Depeche Mode in the 80’s. It’s hard to remember that such brilliant artists as Mercedes Sosa, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Facundo Cabral, all who embraced the indigenous roots and incorporated it with their European influences, came from Argentina.

The Future Sounds of Buenos Aires doesn’t hide its European roots. Yet the latest roster from the ZZK label shows more of their indigenous leanings and immigrant roots. Cumbia Viera, a street Cumbia coming from the barrios of Buenos Aires via the Ecuador and Peru, still lay heavy on the ZZK roster, but now those rhythms are mixed with native flutes from the Andean mountains and folk instrumentation from Bolivia and Venezuela. The mixture of Argentine folklore with Cumbia, Glitch and Dubstep, makes perfect sense. The experimentation from this release may comes at a cost to the dance floor, but in the end, it makes for a better listen. The chances that you will have The Future Sounds Of Buenos Aires stuck on repeat is far greater than finding the next Cumbia re-edit banger on SoundCloud, and more rewarding as well.    

Thoughts On The Passing Of John Napier

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 12, 2012 11:03am | Post a Comment
I know many people will be writing about John Napier, who passed away last week. So here are my thoughts. This is not a biography, just thoughts about the times we spent together on earth and the thanks I never got to say to him in person. To read a more thorough account of the greatness (and flaws) of John Napier through the eyes of Carla Bozulich, go here

I met John in 1991.He was in a group called Ethyl Meatplow, together with Carla Bozulich and Harold Barefoot Sanders III (AKA Biff) Ethyl Meatplow was fun and disturbing at the same time. They were an electro-queer-pop-industrial group with occasional nudity and urine flow. It was nothing that Los Angeles had seen before or since. Ethyl Meatplow was a band for several years before I got to know them and  were ready to break out nationally. I had a band that would often play on the same bills as them. John especially liked my band and helped us get gigs and convinced people to release our records.

John was a strange cat, but in a good way.If you were friends with John, you often had to endure long phone conversations with the first fifteen minutes of him speaking in an Elmo-like voice with Tourette's Syndrome. Once in awhile a body part that usually covered would suddenly be exposed, as he’d be laughing in a high-pitched child’s laugh. Normally I’d find that kind of behavior intolerable, but from John, it was endearing. It meant he was comfortable with you. That’s one way he showed he loved you.

Another way he’s shared his love was through music. If he knew you had the same thirst for music that he did, he would stop at nothing to share his vast musical taste with you. It meant a lot to me, being just as thirsty as John for new music in the days before the internet, He introduced me to Can, Neu, Stereolab, The Flesheaters, Sun Ra and countless other artists. He forced me to listen to Pet Sounds from The Beach Boys because I told him I hated The Beach Boys. He made me a fan.

The best thing that John did for me was giving me my first push out the door into making music not just a hobby, but also a career. At a time when my band broke up, I lost my job and my then girlfriend moved away, he offered me a job going on the road with them. I was hesitant at first, because I felt so tied down to Los Angeles. He reminded me that I didn’t have anything to tie me down, so why not? I didn’t realize how green I was until I went on that tour. It was the first time I traveled past the Northwest. It was the first time I really felt cold weather and the endless hours of driving and doing nothing while waiting for the band to play.

Ethyl Meatplow was popular in gay communities across the U.S. I got a crash course in gay culture across the U.S., something I wish all people could experience. It changed my thought process about gays in general. It’s when I started to correlate the similarities between race, gender and sexuality. I remember the best shows were in places like Wichita, Kansas and Little Rock, Arkansas, which had strong, close-knit gay communities. It was something the big cities could learn from.

The second half of the tour was opening for Front 242. It was an exhausting schedule that started to wear us all down. Front 242 road crew were a bunch of road professionals that were used to working with groups like Van Halen and The Backstreet Boys, Front 242's crew gave me so much crap at the beginning of the tour. They had one rule were I had to breakdown Meatplow’s gear, have it out of the venue and in our van in fifteen minutes after the band finished their set or they would dock the band’s pay 100 dollars for every minute I was over. I remember asking John for help breaking down the gear and he refused, because, “This is what we’re paying you for!”  It was a lesson that in business, if a friend hires you for a job, you are still their employee, no matter how close you are. I never forgot that. After a few days I got breaking down the gear to a science and Front 242’s crew never gave me grief about that again.

After the tour, Carla got me a job, playing bass for Beck. That same year, John started a record label with his then girlfriend Melanie called Basura, which was distributed by Priority Records. Priority was making tons of momey from their Hip=Hop releases and was probably looking for the next Nirvana, Instead, John gave them Foreskin 500, Congo Norvell (With Kid Congo Powers) Bakamono and Timco. As we used to say, "just send the bill to Ice Cube." During the time I was on tour with Beck and John was running the label, we recorded an album together under the moniker Buccinator, along with my friends Evan and Amery “AWOL” Smith, who used to play with Suicidal Tendencies and The Beastie Boys. Our album, The Great Painter Raphael, didn't set the world on fire but we got to do short tour in the beginning of 1995. It was the most fun I had on any tour. It’s said that the best way to start a band is with your friends, because if the band doesn’t work, you still have friends. That is why the tour was fun. Playing was icing on the cake. It was more like a vacation with several of your buddies.

To be honest, I haven’t been that close to John in recent years. We were friends on the dreaded Facebook and I kept up with his recent developments. He kept up on any new that I did. He gave me a ‘like” when I posted about completing a ten mile run a few weeks ago. I congratulated him when he graduated college. It now occurs to me how odd and sad that is, that the only communication people we were once very close with is “liking” each other’s accomplishments; finished required courses to become a counselor? “Like” Opened up a store? “Like” I didn’t even know he had moved back to Los Angeles until I heard of his death.

Since 1993, I have worked with music in some fashion of another. I worked in record stores, record labels, road crew, musician, deejay and writer. Going on twenty years, I’ve never had a boring corporate job and I’ve mostly loved going to work. Recently I helped open a new spot called Espacio 1839, which is a retail store, an internet radio station and an art gallery all in one space in Boyle Heights.

I think John would have dug Espacio 1839. It is right up his alley, and I have him to thank for it.

Dia De Los Muertos 2012

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 1, 2012 07:44am | Post a Comment
As I mentioned in previous blogs about Dia De Los Muertos, I look forward to this celebration more than other holidays. The older I get, I feel the best way to celebrate life is to celebrate death without fear; with the same celebratory spirit one would have for a birth or an anniversary. The ritual of Dia De Los Muertos, the ofrenda (altar) the food and drink, and having the time to reflect those who have passed on are all-important components of this celebration. This is the day we party with the dead as we would with the living, some we knew intimately and others we admire and wish we knew better.

Besides celebrating family and friends that have passed on, I like to include musicians and artists who have inspired me in some way. This year, many great musicians have passed. Consider this a digital ofrenda to them. I hope these musicians have inspired you as much as they have I.


The Bass Players

Two amazing bass players passed this year. Bob Babbitt was a member of the infamous Funk Brothers, the backing group of musicians that played on many of the best Motown recordings of the 60’s and 70’s. Donald “Duck” Dunn did the same damage for Stax Records as a member of Booker T And The MG's, playing behind many of the greats on the Stax Records roster. You may not know their names but I bet you can hum their bass lines by heart.

Babbitt played bass on such Motown classics as "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder, "War" by Edwin Starr, "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues" by Marvin Gaye, "Band Of Gold" by Freda Payne, "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", and "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" by The Temptations.

Dunn played on such Stax classics as Otis Redding's "Respect" and "I Can't Turn You Loose", Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'", and Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" Later, he played on Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" and was a member of The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Both Dunn and Babbit played until their deaths this year.

The Organ Players:

Jon Lord was probably the most infamous of rock organ players. His signature distorted organ is what made Deep Purple unique. If you dig deep into Deep Purple’s sound, you realize that it wasn’t Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar sound that made their sound “heavy”; it was those deep distorted chords layered throughout their songs that created their sound. Listen to any cover band that tries to play “Smoke On The Water” without a distorted organ and notice how thin it sounds. Lord made that group.

Leon Spencer recorded a few solo albums of what they now called Acid Jazz or Rare Groove. Before his groove was rare, Spencer played on many funky jazz recordings, playing behind Lou Donaldson, Melvin Sparks, Gene Ammons, Rusty Bryant and Sonny Stitt. His style was modeled after the legendary Jazz organist Jimmy Smith and he is often unfairly compared to him. Still, Spencer being younger than Smith reached out and took influence from younger organ players outside of the Jazz circuit such as Brian Auger and Ray Manzarek of The Doors and implemented their style into his sound. The result was a somewhat out-sounds that Smith never realized. 

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Meridian Brothers-Desesperanza

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, October 15, 2012 07:38am | Post a Comment
Almost 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.

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