Los Pirañas’ Historia Natural

cover artThe three musicians who comprise Los Pirañas have been playing together since they were in high school, 25 years ago, but they only formed this power trio in 2009. The three are based in Bogotá, Colombia, and guitarist Eblis Alvarez, bassist Mario Galeano and drummer Pedro Ojeda all are well-known for their work in various other groups as well. Historia Natural is the third release by Los Pirañas, which deftly and excitingly mixes South American rhythms of cumbia, tropicalia, salsa and more, with psychedelic rock, surf guitar, dub, and computer effects for a sound and style that’s all their own.

Typically on these 10 tracks, Galeano and Ojeda lay down a deep tropical groove, which Albarez then rides with his spacey, computer-laden guitar riffs. Those guitar sounds run the gamut from trebly surf guitar to utterly cosmic. It’s all the more impressive because the entire album was recorded live in the studio. Those spacey effects are all done on the fly, as they’d be done in performance.

It starts off relatively sedately with “Llanero soledeño,” a fairly straightforward dub surf tune; driving drum-bass groove and spiky, reverb-laden guitar with minimal computer effects. Things get weirder as they go along, and by the time of the final track “Rechazados por el mundo (Pompeya)” it’s absolutely wild. This one has its party groove set by galloping toms and a mariachi-inflected bass line. Albarez’s guitar leaps between spiky surf riffs and deeply psychedelic computerized effects; in the background are synth horn blasts and male voices chortling and occasionally shouting “Pompeye!” Which could be a reference to a local Bogata kinky sex shop, or something else entirely.

In between those bookends is a lot of champeta dance music, which is a new one to me. It’s a deeply slinky and sexy dance style that apparently is popular in much of Asia as well as Latin America. It’s played lightning-fast on the second track “Infame Golpazo.” The computer-processed guitar sounds like a cartoon hornet, a very angry one, and together with he rapid-fire bass-guitar-drum interplay it calls to mind instrumentals by the Meat Puppets at their peak, if they’d dabbled in dance-based South American rhythms.

Danceable exotica on acid is the slower champeta-based “Puerta del Sol.” The processed guitar on the loping cumbia “Espíritu de los seres humanos” sounds like a baritone sax – on the intro, before it leaps into Theremin-land. “Palermo’s Grunch” is a vallenato cum cha-cha tour of Colombia’s tropical beaches (with what sounds to me like an homage to “Louie, Louie” tossed in), and for contrast “Todos tenemos hogar” with the guitar effects that sound like a home Hammond organ mimicking tropicaliz, filtered through an acid dream.

Historia Natural is wild and wildly creative music. To tell the truth, I can only take so much before I need a break from these manic sounds, but I always find myself eventually going back for more.

(Glitterbeat, 2019)

About Gary Whitehouse

Gary has been reviewing music, books and more at the Green Man Review since sometime in the previous Millennium. He lives in a mostly hipster-free part of Oregon, where he enjoys dogs, books, music, the outdoors, and craft beer, cider, and coffee.