Sonido Gallo Negro isn’t a surf band but I’ve noticed that they’ve got a lot of surf fans. After months of drifting around on Spotify, their third LP has finally seen a proper release.
Let’s back up a little bit. In the late oughts Barbes records released the Roots of Chicha compilation, which brought attention to the chicha music of Peru. The folks behind this compilation were in a band called Chicha Libre and released their first LP Sonido Amazonico, named after the Los Mirlos classic on Roots of Chicha, and gave a modern but reverent take on this sound. Despite some phenomenal surf records in Peru’s history (maybe a story for another day), I think a lot of surf groups were drawn to the heavy guitar usage here: less powerful than surf, but infused with mood and mystery. Chicha Libre released a second, more adventurous LP but then seemed to fade away (though I would recommend the recent release from CAMPOS, one of their members).
I don’t know if Sonido Gallo Negro were directly influenced by Chicha Libre. Cumbia is a vast thing, with plenty of history in Mexico where Sonido Gallo Negro reside. I only bring all this up because a lot of us got hooked on what Chicha Libre supplied us and needed a fix. Sonido Gallo Negro didn’t just pick up the torch, they shot it into outer space with a swirling psychedelic sound. Though they’re not the only group making modern chicha music, for those that have listened to their first two LPs, they’ve been the measuring stick, maximizing that sense of strangeness and marrying it with a hypnotic cumbia beat.
Mambo Cosmico sounds like what a good band often sounds like on their third record. It’s not as bold and overwhelming as their debut -- in fact it often feels like their traditional latin side shows a bit more than the psychedelics. They don’t need make to make a statement anymore, they just need to keep staying fresh, and I think they do that very well. There are a bit more vocals on this record than their previous full-lengths, but the heart of the songs remain instrumental (and thus pretty accessible for our little niche).
Admittedly for the surf fan, the guitar is only the star of a few tracks, and it’s always a slave to the cumbia beat -- no Madeira pyrotechnics here. However, this band has been on the fringe of the surf conversation since their first record, and with each great album they creep in a bit more. There are a lot of ideas here that a surf geek can appreciate and adopt.
Bandcamp, CD, vinyl, amazon, this one’s not too hard to find.