Hearing that El Malo is the next project for Grupo Esperanza co-founder Rion Hergenhan, you might expect a salsa flavor. But especially with the distorted violin played by Gabe Terracciano in a way that's unlike anyone else locally, this is a jazz-influenced group of instrumentals that's gritty and nasty in some interesting ways.
It's lo-fi by design, Hergenhan says, recorded live by Ryan Havey in a space at 11 Pleasant Street in Portland. The mix isn't great. The low end doesn't come through especially well, so you might find yourself focusing on the snares and cymbals and the crackling pieces of distortion.
The songwriting is inventive, with dynamic changes of pace and volume. Some songs spiral out to seven minutes, like "Mr. Alarm," a spacey piece that rattles to a couple of false finishes before rambling back to life. Damon Holman's guitar is raw and rasping over cycling staccato background notes.
Especially nice is "Papa Don't Take No Mas," based on Marc Ribot's version of the traditional "No Mejores Mas," which may tell you all you need to know about the band's influences. Sean Bowman's bass is low-down, and the guitar is mean as hell before pairing the violin to get funky.
As a whole, this album is a piece of genuinely different music-making with Latin and gypsy flavors you won't find often in Portland.
EL MALO | Released by El Malo | with DJ Boondocks | at the Empire, in Portland | Nov 17 | soundcloud.com/elmalothebad
: Music Features
, Grupo Esperanza