I’ll not get into the politics here, because I simply don’t know enough about the subject, but I think it would be fair to say that free expression through music and art is (as compared to Europe and USA at least) is a relatively new concept but one which has been burning slowly for the past generation and is now being fanned into a full blown fire-storm.
One band receiving much critical attention, not only in their home city of Santiago but further afield in both their country and now USA (having been signed to the innovative Koolarrow Records label) is COMO ASESINAR a FELIPES.
Initially formed by three music students with a shared passion of Hip Hop, their incursion into the underground musical scene resulted in their teaming up with experimental MC Koala Contreras and his DJ, Sp@cio. Bang! They had found their sound!
Of course, every self-respecting Hip Hop band must be able to count amongst their numbers an ‘MC’ and a ‘DJ.’ It’s the law, isn’t it? And that’s where Hip Hop kind of loses me a little. But fortunately, for the purposes of writing this little review at least, COMO ASESINAR a FELIPES are not quite your average, run of the mill, standard Hip Hop band.
And the big word here is ‘band.’
See, theirs is not a sound obscured by a flurry of programmed beats and looped riffs. This is a fully functional working unit. They don’t do bling either! They are not your traditional Hip Hop band.
In fact, in breaking with convention some may debate the’Hip Hop’ tag to a degree. It’s certainly more subtle in its delivery with little flashes of jazz and of course Latin influences. But when you consider this is the band’s fourth album as far as I can see, with the first seeking to integrate jazz, rock, and rap; the second, a live symphony orchestra to create cinematic arrangements inspired by impressionism, and the third one featuring three diverse musicians (a Chilean punk legend; a well known jazz guitarist and the best known MC in the country) – then you’ll appreciate they are not afraid of diversification.
They also sing in their native Spanish tongue, which gives the album a fresh sound to those of us more accustomed to listening in English.
Opening track ‘Pajaros en Contra,’ features what sounds like a telephone conversation and spoken lyrics that sound quite manic and desperate in parts, hushed and controlled in others. Unlike many Hip Hop songs I hear (which, if I’m honest, isn’t an awful lot!) it doesn’t follow any regular template as such, with different timings and no discernible chorus. It somehow comes across quite naturally, just like a group of guys hanging about the street corner and talking.
‘De Doble Filo,‘ has some great Beefheart / Zappa-esque discordant trumpet sounds playing in the distant background of this eight-minute epic. The synth takes on an almost buzzing sound that morphs at points into something much more sinister, and is then overlaid with breathless panting and little classical piano arpeggios. Add a throbbing bassline and some unobtrusive ‘scratching’ and you have a pretty enthralling and atmospheric track.
‘Siempre Sera Lo Mismo,‘ is, apart from some spoken backing vocals in the form of a TV / radio broadcast (I think) an instrumental track. It’s a bit livelier than the preceding two, and because it sticks more to a concise format is probably more accessible for those not big on Hip Hop as a rule.
‘El Recurso Popular Mas Valido,‘ bubbles and froths gently for the initial two and a half minutes with more little lounge-music styled piano and atmospheric trumpet blasts, before the drums kick in and the song takes on an aggressive front. You can sense the frustration and anger in the vocals as the determination to no longer accept those running the country for their own personal material gains.
Title track ‘ ‘Comenzara de Nuevo,’ follows – no need for any comment as you can hear this one for yourself!
The final song ‘Alto,’ is the shortest on the album, barely making it to two and a half minutes. It’s a busy little track, with lots going on as it builds and careers towards its, and the album’s, conclusion.
I really like the idea of bands like CAF taking established genres and sounds and adding some local influences as they most obviously have on this album. That alone merits both praise and kudos.
(‘Comenzara de Nuevo’ is released through Koolarrow Records on 9th April 2013)