Chicha Libre - Sonido Amazonico

Chicha Libre
Sonido Amazonico


First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2008, Volume 15, #7

Written by Douglas Heselgrave

Mon July 21, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT


I have always loved psychedelic music. As far as Iím concerned, the deeper and farther that a band goes into "the zone," the better its output becomes. At its finest, a group like the Grateful Dead was able to explore spiritual and psychological territory that previously was available only to contemplative persons and mystics. My life and imagination have been indescribably enriched by the places that such sounds have taken me. As I get older, however, I have found it harder and harder to digest face-ripping guitar excursions and lysergic voyages into deep space. Nevertheless, I sometimes do miss the sorts of sojourns through bent notes and upended musical structures that the best mind-fracturing journeys embrace.

Thank goodness, then, for Sonido Amazonico, the debut from Chicha Libre. The New York-based outfit performs a style known as Chicha, the Peruvian-influenced, psychedelic music that was popular throughout the Amazon basin during the 1960s. The groupís output is invigorating and challenging, yet when Sonido Amazonico reaches its conclusion, the ensemble has left all of a personís neurons intact.

Last yearís Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru paved the way for Sonido Amazonico by introducing listeners to the psychedelic, Latin American style. Having evolved from traditional Peruvian music, Chicha represented the intersection of local instrumentation and modern, urban sounds. Rock ínĎ roll essentially ended the mambo craze that had been dominating South America, and for years thereafter, Chicha ó with its amplified instrumentation and surf-rock textures ó stood as the regionís forceful response.

Oliver Conan, the head of Barbes Records and the leader of Chicha Libre, spent his formative years living in France, where he simultaneously discovered rock ínĎ roll as well as the works of Eddie Palmieri, Johnny Pachecho, and other Latin American-influenced icons. Taken in full, the music lubricated his mind enough, so that when he first heard Chicha, it wasnít really a revelation but rather a natural extension of his personal tastes. After he purchased several genre-specific albums in Lima, Peru, he played them for guitarist Vincent Douglas, and thus, Chicha Libre was born.

Although its material is informed by the Chicha movement ó in fact, the title track is a cover of Los Mirlosí classic tune ó the members of Chicha Libre bring many of their own influences into play throughout Sonido Amazonico. Echoes of dub reverberate through some of the setís percussive grooves, and the vintage organ sounds conjured by Josh Camp continually mash up and overturn the melodies in the most intoxicating ways imaginable. Clearly, the band also had a lot of fun delivering funky versions of Primavera (from Vivaldiís The Four Seasons) and Gnossienne (by French pianist Erik Satie).

Sonido Amazonico is wonderfully engaging from beginning to end. It contains enough ideas to satisfy the most discerning musicologist, and simultaneously, it avoids sounding pretentious while going beyond the simple regurgitation of an existing style. Each song sounds natural and unforced as the instrumental sections explore some of the same territory favored by the Grateful Dead, albeit with a lighter, more tropical approach. Sonido Amazonico not only is one of the best records of the year (so far), but it also will delight fans of Latin, surf, and psychedelic rock. starstarstarstar


Of Further Interest...

Alex Alvear - Equatorial

Los Lobos - Acoustic en Vivo

Santana - Santana III: Legacy Edition


Sonido Amazonico is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!



1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2008 The Music Box