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Banda Elástica — Los Awakates de Nepantla
(El Paraiso CDGLP 066, 1994, CD)
Dedicated to the memory of Frank Zappa, this Mexican RIO ensemble's superb new album is almost as reminiscent of another underappreciated influential innovator in rock music as it is of Zappa. So when did these guys meet George Clinton?!? Seriously, on several of these tracks, Banda Elástica has definitely "got the funk." Some of this could almost be from a mid-70s Parliament session on which Zappa wrote the horn charts (and threw in some of his trademark mallet percussion as well). Led by sax, keyboards, and the occasional guitar lead, Banda Elástica's intricate music twists through various melodic themes and sudden changes in rhythm and feel. Throughout it all the band displays their solid chops and remains impressively tight and well balanced. The folky touch, musical playfulness and sense of humor are at times reminiscent of Samla Mammas Manna, but for the most part Banda Elástica has their own distinctive sound. Stylistically, Los Awakates blends the aforementioned funk with a more characteristic, energetic RIO sound, and on the later tracks the group gives a definite nod to Zappa's more avant-garde arrangements for rock band. It is perhaps in these Zappa influenced pieces that Banda Elastica is most impressive, both in the technical mastery of their instruments, and their ability to distill the essence of Zappa's style and incorporate it into their own. Los Awakates de Nepantla is a must for fans of both RIO and Zappa's more complex musical leanings, and come the end of the year this album should easily find itself near the top of the best-of-'95 list.
by Rob Walker, Published 1995-07-01
I haven't much music coming from across the border recently. However, we are very lucky that Banda Elástica managed to record their third album before the peso crashed. Los Awakates features some of the best RIO and world-fusion that I've heard in quite some time. Combining modern rock and jazz influences along with what sounds like traditional Mexican and/or South American music, Banda Elástica once again have defied categorization. Complex and challenging, yet upbeat and listenable, fans of bands like Congreso, Samla, as well as ethnic fusion are likely to enjoy this album. The instrumentation varies among tracks: guitar, bass, drums (and various other percussion items), flute, sax, clarinet and synthesizer are used. The feel moves from jazz, to big-band, to waltz, to world music. In the RIO tradition, the band uses the traditional musics of their heritage, and updates them with modern instrumentation and style. The result is a busy, complex amalgam of styles with an overlying ancient, spacious feel. This release is easily one of my favorites of all the new releases of the last few years. I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoyed Banda Elástica's previous material, as well as those who listen to complex fusion and RIO.
by Mike Borella, Published 1995-07-01
Related artist(s): Banda Elástica
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