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Sonido Gallo Negro Balances a Psychedelic Richness with Cumbia on 'Mambo Cósmico'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Sonido Gallo Negro's Mambo Cósmico is driven by cumbia's buoyant and consistent rhythms that create a sonically rich and bounteous album.

Mambo Cósmico
Sonido Gallo Negro

Glitterbeat

6 April 2018

Sonido Gallo Negro's third album, Mambo Cósmico, plunges listeners into a complex tapestry of sound. Their music balances a psychedelic richness with cumbia, a type of Colombian folkloric music. Mambo Cósmico finds influence from Mexican, Latin American, American and Middle Eastern music. Sonido Gallo Negro is comprised of nine musicians who carefully yet masterfully endow their music with a global pulse. Mambo Cósmico is driven by cumbia's buoyant and consistent rhythms that create a sonically rich and bounteous album.

Sonido Gallo Negro melds an impressive instrumental setup that integrates timbales, congas, bongos, claves with electric guitars, a Farfisa organ, synthesizes, and a theremin. The group is led by Gabriel López's virtuosic command of the electric guitar, and he is backed by Israel Martínez on bass and Dario Maldonado with a secondary guitar. Latin-infused percussion is handled by Enrique Casasola, Edwin Irigoyen, Lucio de los Santos, and Robert Bañuelos. Julian Perez adds the keyboard and organ while Dr. Alderete extenuates the music with the theremin. During live shows, Dr. Alderete also adds a visual element by illustrating the music in real time. The result is highly variegated music that is also skillfully unified.

Mambo Cósmico is a deliriously fun album. Throughout the musicians demonstrate an extensive musical knowledge. The title track starts the album with a characteristic mambo that is fast-paced, driven by staccato and rollicking rhythms. Discerning listeners will hear both the Cuban and Mexican mambo influences. Comparatively, the dissonant sound of the piano harkens to Cuban influence while Mexico is represented by the reliance on brass instruments. Distinctively this track includes vocal expressions that are the telltale characteristic of Mexican mambos. Despite relying on a similar musical genre, Sonido Gallo Negro can adroitly maintain the two countries' distinct sonic and cultural identities.

On Mambo Cósmico, Sonido Gallo Negro covers "Tolú" by Lucho Bermúdez and "¿Quién Será?" by Pablo Beltrán Ruiz. Much as Sonido Gallo Negro, Bermúdez specifically used traditional Colombian music as the foundation for his work. He then fused the music with big-band orchestras and jazz. Likewise, "Tolú" is a true cover. It pays homage to Bermúdez but also demonstrates Sonido Gallo Negro's unique interpretation. Sonido Gallo Negro adds a theremin that creates an interesting counterpoint to the main melody. Maintaining the devotion to psychedelia, the theremin interjects electrically cosmic energy.

Mambo Cósmico continues Sonido Gallo Negro's practice of using Peruvian psychedelic cumbia. Peruvian music went through a significant psychedelic rock period in the late 1960s. Musicians experimented with electric guitars and organs to enhance the typically acoustic Afro-Colombian music. That led to the discovery of American surf music that still plays a major factor in cumbia. Sonido Gallo Negro is no exception. It is impossible to avoid the influence of psychedelia in "La Foca Cha Cha Cha". Whereas the pronounced guitar, typical of the surf sound, is obvious in "Los Danza De Los Diablos". Around the 3:15 timestamp in "Los Danza De Los Diablos", the guitar becomes mind-bogglingly frenetic. But this energy is resolved with a return to a traditional cumbia vibe.

Unlike previous albums, Mambo Cósmico includes a more liberal use of vocals, group choruses, and spoken word. For instance, the title track features intoning of "Yo soy tu destino" - I am your destiny. "Danza Del Mar" infuses porro, a type of music with pre-Columbian roots, with chanted vocals. Listeners feel a deep sense of mourning by the vocals on "Cumbia de Sanación." Indeed, this track was released days after the Mexico City earthquake. Finally, the use of vocal experimentation on a hidden track ends the album.

Mambo Cósmico demonstrates the band's musicality and their thorough understanding of the music's history. Their willingness to compose across genres and experiment with their musical output makes the music captivating. Yet Sonido Gallo Negro successfully infuses their psychedelic richness while also maintaining the authenticity of cumbia. Mambo Cósmico is the heart of Sonido Gallo Negro's repertoire.

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