Evolucion – Ghandaia
Evolucion, the sophomore release from the Austin-based,
horn-driven Latin-groove outfit Ghandaia (gahn-die-ah) manages to
further the band’s mission of eclipsing the expectations or biases
often associated with Latin American-influenced music. While many of
the tracks on Evolucion contain traditional Latin styles
(cumbia, salsa), these styles serve only at the ground floor of
Ghandaia’s operation, which encompasses reggae, funk, rock and folk.
The ‘traditional’ aspects found here act more as a structural
framework for the album rather than being its guiding credo and
lasting impact. Ghandaia expertly takes Latin music to impressionistic
and unexpected places, utilizing open energy with very well-crafted
songs and visible brushstrokes with more subtle nuances, creating
music that comes off as being grounded and free-associative at the
same time. In the end, the substance of the album triumphs the many
styles hinted at, helping to make this a more than cohesive follow-up
to their brilliant debut, Uno.
Whether it be the blistering soul of Greg Jones’ guitar work on
‘Petala Y Espino,’ Frederico Geib’s soaring and enraptured vocals on
‘Tree of Life,’ a tastefully placed organ on the eternally sunny
reggae of ‘Solstico,’ or the myriad of horns and auxiliary vocalists
and percussion players throughout, the pieces fit into a unified
whole, never sounding earnest or weighed-down. This is no small task.
Besides a good engineer, to make a diverse album work takes great
songs and skilled players who can breathe life into a studio setting.
There is no shortage of either on Evolucion.
Frederico Geib’s trilingual vocals (singing in Portuguese, Spanish,
and English) serve as both dynamic melodic instrument and able
messenger. Comparable to Lenine (best described — perhaps — as the
Beck of Brazil), his voice is powerfully possessed yet controlled,
creating an impressive balance of technique and improvisation. The
boldness of Alex Marrero’s vocals bring a soulful and deep presence to
the cumbia/salsa ‘Mentirosa,’ a frisky jaunt of a song with swooning
horns and to ‘Nostalgia,’ a Cuban-inspired track that proves as punchy
as it is loose and beautiful.
‘Pincelando Rosas’ is a fiercely wicked Afro-cuban funk song,
propelling the tail end of the album towards the conscious funk rock
of ‘Tree of Life,’ in which Ghandaia creates an energizing horn-laced
Latin-rock/reggae hybrid that soars unencumbered, with Frederico Geib
spitting out fierce melodic bursts that fit into the song’s bristling
energy perfectly. ‘Para Viver’ closes the album, a Latin-funk workout
with a rock psychedelia approach where the jamband beast within
Ghandaia unleashes, creating some truly inspired moments from a
near-rapping Geib and an unguarded and energized Jones on the electric
Ghandaia exhibit a collective confidence and intuitive musical prowess
on Evolucion that many well-received bands are only able to
hint at. A great deal of Evoucion’s appeal is its success in
leaning towards any musician within the group without losing the focus
— or the heart — of the album (or song, for that matter). The band
leads the songs down their natural path throughout Evolucion,
allowing them to bear the fruit of their composition without weighing
down the branches which have been spawned from them. Ghandaia incites
the recognition that music, when done with class and talent, is bigger
than those who create it.