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Archive for the ‘Chicano Batman’ Category

[POSTPONED: June 16, 2021] Chicano Batman / Le Butcherettes [rescheduled from May 3, 2020; moved to December 15, 2021]

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I know of Chicano Batman through some songs on WXPN and through a cool Tiny Desk Concert.  They play a groovy psychedelia that is laced with soul and funk and indie rock.

There’s always a great bass sound that underpins Bardo Martinez’s soft vocals.

They also have a great name.

The more I hear them the more I think they’d be fun to see live.  Last time they came to town, they were opening for someone.  But this tour they are headlining.

Le Butcherettes I also know from a Tiny Desk Concert.  Teri Gender Bender is a great punk front woman. She channels different vocal styles and can rock with the best of them.  She is also unafraid to stare at the audience.  I imagine she’d be an intense experience.

I was unable to see them in May (that was Acid Mothers Temple night), but I’m free on the new date.

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SOUNDTRACK: CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #46 (July 7, 2020).

I first became aware of Chicano Batman (what a great name) a couple years ago either from WXPN or from a Tiny Desk.  I didn’t know they’ve been around for ten years.

They have an interesting mellow psychedelic sound that seems to center around Bardo Martinez’ soft croon.

they’ve crafted their musical identity with layers of sound, from vintage organs to the most nuanced of funk grooves.

Although I feel like their music is pretty recognizable, the blurb says that their new album Invisible People

is a major shift in their group sound. As you hear in songs like “Polymetronomic Harmony,” their sound is now much denser, with full-on references to a variety of influences, including the 1973, Herbie Hancock funk-jazz classic Head Hunters, which makes a walk-on appearance in the stack of vinyl just behind guitarist Carlos Arévalo.

“I know It” starts the song in perfect style with Bardo playing guitar and singing along to the melody he’s playing.  There’s a funky bass line from Eduardo Arenas and the soft echoing guitar chords from Carlos Arévalo.  The time changes at the end of the verses are a nice touch.

Bardo introduces the band and then for “Moment of Joy” Bardo switches from the guitar to a great retro-sounding keyboard.  Carlos plays a slow echoing guitar as the band lays a groove around them.

“Color my life” opens with great sliding then high note bass from Eduardo with scratchy wah wah from Carlos and clicky drums from Gabriel Villa.  Carlos plays some unexpectedly wild buzzy guitar solos throughout and then ends the song with another sound change for the guitar before the song abruptly ends.

“Polymetronomic Harmony” opens with a pretty guitar intro and thumping bass.  The song just feels like it’s building to something and after a fake out with soft keys after the first verse, the song takes off with roaring guitars and the propulsive rhythm section.

This is a really fun set and I’ll bet they are great live.  They were scheduled to play in Philly during the quarantine.  I’m definitely going to have to check them out next year.

[READ: July 11, 2020] “The Birthday Present”

I wanted to like this story more than I did.  It had an intriguing premise but it seemed to get lost in the musings of the main character.  Some of what she thought about was interesting, but I think it could have been much shorter.

Ariel has been married to Roberto for many years.  She is younger than he is (she is his second wife). Things have gotten steady and calm in their marriage.

She has classic American beauty–she is tall and solid–which is something of a novelty in Italy.  Roberto’s friend Flavio had often pursued Ariel but had recently given up.  He now liked to give her a hard time instead.  She had been talking to Flavio and he suggested that she get Roberto a prostitute for his fifty-fifth birthday.  He wanted to see how she would react (she was believed to be an American prude), so she told him she thought it was a great idea.  And she called the woman he had jokingly suggested.

Ariel believed wholly in fidelity.  But she she was Roberto’s second wife.  He had a few indiscretions during their marriage.  But she felt this would be an interesting gift.

She would make a date with Roberto for dinner.  But she would arrange for two prostitutes to show up and dine with him.  And then they would all go back to Flavio’s apartment to do whatever they wanted.

On his birthday, their children greeted him as is tradition–waking him up early and jumping on him.  Ariel gave him a package that he was not supposed to open until dinner–it contained money and silk underwear.  The underwear was to go to the woman he liked better.

Then she had the whole day to herself.  She never once had misgivings about her plan.

She drives around, checking out the prostitutes who line Italy’s streets–she felt badly about them being there when she first arrived in the country.  But she has gotten used to them.  There were one or two that she slowed down in front of to really look at–they were very pretty.  She wondered about the women who were with her husband.

He called her at 8:15 to say his surprise had arrived, They weren’t dressed for a fancy restaurant and he did not look forward to eating with them.  But he thanked her for the present.

She spent he rest of the evening in her own head and then was pleased at how clean he smelled when he arrived home that night.

I’m not sure what I expected from this story but it was too meandering.

 

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[POSTPONED: May 3, 2020] Chicano Batman / Le Butcherettes [moved to June 16, 2021]

index

I know of Chicano Batman through some songs on WXPN and through a cool Tiny Desk Concert.  They play a groovy psychedelia that is laced with soul and funk and indie rock.

There’s always a great bass sound that underpins Bardo Martinez’s soft vocals.

They also have a great name.

The more I hear them the more I think they’d be fun to see live.  Last time they came to town, they were opening for someone.  But this tour they are headlining.

Le Butcherettes I also know from a Tiny Desk Concert.  Teri Gender Bender is a great punk front woman. She channels different vocal styles and can rock with the best of them.  She is also unafraid to stare at the audience.  I imagine she’d be an intense experience.

I was unable to see them in May (that was Acid Mothers Temple night), but I’m free on the new date.

87495401_10158043136047232_276935183393882112_o

 

 

 

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SOUNDTRACK: CHICANO BATMAN-“Pink Elephant” (2019).

I really liked Chicano Batman’s song “Friendship (is a Boat in a Storm).”  I liked its soft, chill vibe.  It didn’t sound like chill music though–it had an air of soul and funk about it.  I particularly enjoyed the organ sound.

They have a new album out and “Pink Elephant” is the first song I’ve heard from it.

This song is pretty peculiar even by their standards.  There’s a cool loping bass line from Eduardo Arenas and an unusual guitar riff from Carlos Arévalo.  The guitar is all high notes–like a solo, but playing a continual riff.  The sounds don’t meld exactly, but neither do they sound bass.  Bardo Martinez’ vocals are the same style of chill out vibe. There’s a lot going on and it’s really held together by Gabriel Villa’s drums.

The first time I heard this song I didn’t like it much, but subsequent listens have made it almost an earworm–so unusual and yet so catchy.  I miss the organ of the earlier song which seemed to hold everything together better.  No organ means it loses its psychedelic vibe, but it works really well as a different kind of song.

[READ: May 10, 2019] “Wet Spring”

I don’t know what made me look for a story from fifty years ago today, but here it is.

I’d never heard of Ivy Litvinov.  She was an English-Russian writer who died in 1977.  She wrote a couple of novels and a bunch of short stories.  Ten were published in the New Yorker and all were collected in She Knew She Was Right except for this one.

This story was a pretty horrifying look at married life.  I have to wonder how much of it was relatable fifty years ago and how much of it is just that the husband is an ass.

David and Theo were recently married (Theo is a woman, it’s not a progressive story).  David intended not to get married until he was established as a painter.  Theo was also a painter and planned to not get married until she was finished at the Slade (a fine arts school in London).

But mind and intentions suffered the usual defeat.

They met at a party, were married in the Spring and had a baby, Angela, by February.  Neither had achieved their stated goals.

Their apartment was small and crowded with their art supplies. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HELADO NEGRO-Tiny Desk Concert #632 (June 30, 2017).

It’s unfair that I have recently really enjoyed songs by Chicano Batman because Helado Negro sounds so much like Chicano Batman that I would certainly have guessed that’s who this was (although Chicano Batman is a bit more catchy and groovy).

Helado Negro is a band: [Roberto Lange (vocals, guitar); Nathaniel Morgan (sax); Angela Morris (sax, violin); Ben Lanz (bass guitar); Weston Minissali (synthesizer); Jason Nazary (drums)] and this is what Felix has to say about them

The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.

But that’s not what you’re getting here — instead of tinsel, we get Roberto standing behind Bob Boilen’s desk in a t-shirt that says “Young, Latin and Proud,” the title of his most recent single. That’s the essence of the songs he chose to play (and really, his entire catalog), music about being a young American with Ecuadorian parents, singing about life in here in the U.S.

Our little concert here also shows off an acoustic treatment of Helado Negro’s vision, and it’s just as compelling without the electronics. In fact, it’s as if the songs reveal a different aspect of themselves, the lyrics intimate and laid bare. Personally, I loved the sound of the alto and tenor saxophones playing harmonies in place of a bank of keyboards. As you’ll see, the entire band perfected that delicate balance of intensity and low volume, letting the music and ideas breathe.

They play four songs.  They are all mellow

“Transmission Listen” opens with Lange singing and playing guitar and then the full horns kick it, and that’s when it sounds like Chicano Batman (in a good way).

“Young, Latin and Proud” is very catchy.  This song reminds me of Sandro Perri–mellow and gentle with his smooth voice rising above it all.  I like at the end that he mentions his audience: “Felix is young Latin & proud, mi abuela is young Latin & proud.”

For “Run Around” he doesn’t play guitar.  There’s a nice use of violins instead of strings in the beginning and some cool synth sounds.  I liked the squeaky violin noises at the end.

“It’s My Brown Skin” is a happy song–indeed I love that he loves who he is and where he comes from: “My skin glows in the dark / shines in the light / its the color that holds me tight.”  The ending melody is really pretty (played on sax and violin) “I love you and I can’t miss anything about you / you’re stuck on me and all this time I’m inside you  / And its your brown skin… it’ll keep you safe.”

[READ: April 4, 2017] “Necessary Driving Skills”

This story was, wait for it, all over the map (ha) in some ways.  It is all about driving, (see, ha).  But it is about much more than driving.  It is about relationships, friendship, business and of course, driving.

It even starts: “This is the story.”

It continues: “Kim Le Bouedec and I run the Finchley Mint.  And I’ve just kissed his wife.”

The narrator, Neil, and Kim were friends in college.  And it follows that thought with this: “You see, this is the paradoxical thing about my age group (and yours–if it hasn’t happened yet, it will.) The more we settle, the more opportunities there are for disruption.”

Neil details: Simon and Maxine are married with a ten month old daughter.  Luke is married to Helen (who worked with the Neil’s wife Jill), there’s Kim and his wife Sasha.  “My circle of friends, turning square.”

Neil and Kim work at this Mint. It’s a business in which they sell “die cast model cards by mail order. Don’t laugh.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #613(April 17, 2017).

In the blurb for this show, Felix says that he was sol by their name.  And I am too.  It’s a great name.  And yet it is not entirely useful in terms of musical style.  But he summarizes pretty nicely:

a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceañera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

That lounge sound is completely evident with the keyboard tone–old fashioned and bachelor pad-like.  But this is no bachelor pad music, because behind the keys are some groovy and at time funky bass (from Eduardo Arenas) and some cool guitar wah wahs (from Carlos Arevalo) and more.

Holding it all together is Gabriel Villa on drums and then on keys and guitar and vocals is Bardo Martinez.  Martinez sings in such a cool, laid-back manner.  It’s often a gentle falsetto but it always feel like he is just chillin’ and singing these groovy songs.

And they also wears suits with bow ties.

“Freedom is Free” is a delicate and groovy song with lots of wah wah guitar and a cool echoing guitar solo.  It’s also got a great bass line.  The song is sweet and catchy with a great wah wah build up at the sudden ending.

“Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” has been quite popular on the radio here and man is it catchy.  The loungey organ and vocals are a great start, but the way the chorus just burst forth after the first verse–the backing singers (Nya Parker Brown and Piya Malik) hit the marks perfectly and then the staccato guitar riffs after that.  Its irresistible. (Parker Brown and Malik are from the band 79.5 and have been touring with them).

The ladies leave for the final song, “Jealousy.”  There’s a great funky bass line and fun drums before the song turns rather mellow.  I love the between chorus riffs.  Although I find the main song a little too slow, it probably works well between faster songs.

And they are all so polite and charming, I’m sure I’d enjoy seeing them live.

[READ: February 20, 2017] “The Prairie Wife”

I recently read another story by Sittenfeld in the New Yorker and really enjoyed it.  And this one was not only great and wonderfully written, it was full of surprises.

It’s hard to write about without giving away some of the surprises because they were so good.

But here’s a spoiler free attempt.

Kirsten is married with two kids.  The family has a routine and it involves Kirsten waking up and getting the boys up in time for school.  But lately she has been using her morning time to look at Lucy Headrick’s Twitter feed. (more…)

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