This band's story isn't particularly unique, in that it involves a few friends meeting at college, picking up whatever instruments that might be lying about and forging their way toward something that, as far as they're concerned, is unique. Yet because core members Manuel Mathar and Geraldo Monsivais met in the 1990s, far after the innovations of kindred experimentalists in early 70s Germany or Japan, not to mention the LAFMS, and perhaps also because they attended the University of Monterrey, in Mexico, and not an art school in LA or NYC, their story becomes a bit more intriguing. Which isn't to say there hasn't been a number of bands from this portion of NE Mexico to push boundaries, or simply make a racket over the last decade or so. Los Llamarada comes immediately to mind. And there are others. However, Mathar and Monsivais, along with another friend, Jose Luis Rojas, found themselves with a shared interest in getting way out there, with- amazing for the end of the 20th century- not much in the way of record collecting geekdom as reference points for what they wanted to do. Fortunately for us, the record button was on.
This collection, spanning the decade between 1997 and 2007 and culled from CDRs and cassettes, is as fantastic a trip into the nether regions beyond pop music's limitations as anything anyone is currently producing. Containing track titles such as “Chito's Natural Life,” “Opium Boogie,” “L'origine de la Guitare Fantome,” it has moments of sustained catharsis that compare to Can's best work. At other times, it wallows in short creative bursts of strangeness that conjure New Zealand's Glands of External Secretion or any number of Ultra Eczema releases. Yet it never seems as rickety, nor do its long form build ups have the ramshackle, pastoral sloppiness of Freak Folk contemporaries such as Sunburnt. On the other hand, Caroliner might be a decent comparison, but then again, maybe not. The more or less untutored core trio, plus any number of other players manage a particular focus that feels much better planned than a number of the above mentioned bands/scenes.
Because side one dabbles in shorter tracks, there's room for insane cookie monster growls, violin bow scrapings, and even some stereo-panned guitar riffery that sounds like something Endless Boogie might do if they had no rhythm section. By the second side's 20-plus minute long excursion, they're able to slowly build from a languid slide guitar lick to a subtle structure of repetition that's nearly meditative. Elsewhere, interplanetary tones are produced from cheap keyboards, bass lines anchor splats of electronic noise, cheap blues licks appear, only to be swallowed by dark, open spaces of swirling, meter-less drones, all coagulating slowly before either breaking off suddenly or morphing naturally into somewhere else. Side four presents some straight-up garage rock before shifting into cheap, fart-y synth funk, complete with odd gurgling sounds a not-quite-random drum splashes. After a number of tracks that ride electronic pulses, the whole thing settles into a harmonica-driven lullaby that seems to wash the rest of the side away. It's as if everything that came before has gotten engulfed by the metronomic calm and wistfulness the track produces. None of it feels forced or pretentious. That so much ground gets covered is due as much to the fact that this is a compilation as it does to the band's lack of boundaries. Whatever the case, this record is real revelation in a year that has seen an onslaught of releases. Fortunately, the power of this platter refuses to be buried under the tsunami of awesome records that 2016 produced. Those with even a passing interest in the beyond take note. - Bruce Miller