Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., April 9, 2004
Grupo FantasmaMovimiento Popular (Aire Sol) Geographically, culturally, and linguistically, the Latin hemisphere is enormous. Acts like Austin's Grupo Fantasma should be enormous too, if for no other reason than to incorporate the myriad flavors of Latin music: rumba, son, salsa, Tejano, cumbia, ranchero, etc. Proficient in these styles, this local 12-piece also bulks up with rock, jazz, reggae, and funk. In weaker hands, this many influences might become a soggy mulch of sound. Have no fear; on their second album, Fantasma's elements bass, horns, percussion, guitars, and vocals move in harmony like the 18 wheels of a speeding semi. With extra hauling power, there's plenty of room for cameos from the likes of Jamaican-style toaster Ragah El, turntablist DJ Baby G, and Los Super Seven crooner Ruben Ramos, who offers a definitive "Oye Mi Cumbia." Opener "Peligrosa" introduces the ensemble's dangerous cumbia beat, while "Vida Guerra" piles salsa syncopation ever higher, until a tres-flavored guitar solo breaks through. Closer "Ya No Puedo" ends on a high note, built on a caliente Combat Rock circular beat. Lyrics may be en Español, but you don't have to speak Castilian to understand deep groove, hip-spinning rhythms, glowing horn work, and surplus cojones. Their eponymous debut in 2001 put Grupo Fantasma in the Texas Top 10. With Movimiento Popular, this enormously talented Latin juggernaut jumps to world class.