'Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada' Reviewed
Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian QuesadaThe Alchemist Manifesto (ESL Music)
Grupo Fantasma's Adrian Quesada and Antibalas founder Martín Perna are well-versed in aural alchemy, the process of transmuting common breaks into instrumental elixirs, and their second collaboration as Ocote Soul Sounds is their manifesto. Whereas the group's cinematic debut, 2004's El Niño y El Sol, scripted Fela Kuti's Afrobeat to Salvador Dalí-esque sunsets, The Alchemist Manifesto ventures into more eerie and abstract realms, exploring interstellar grooves and themes that are equally elliptical and elusive. Perna proves quite the snake charmer on opener "The Grand Elixir" and "One Hundred Years," his vaporous flute melodies drifting in and out of the circular rhythms with relative ease. Its tranquilizing effect is almost subliminal. Likewise, Quesada's washboard guitar pattern in the serene "La Reja" works wonders as Grupo's Alex Chavez, Beto Martinez, and Johnny Lopez chant incantations in sublime harmony. "El Pescador" finds the middle ground between the two, melding Antibalas' urban sprawl with the Latin soul of Brownout's Homenaje through layers of samples, textured keyboard, and impressionistic flutes. "Gunpowder" crackles like an outtake from Marina Records' impeccable In-Kraut compilations right down to Quesada's fuzz-guitar sorcery, while the Vulcan jazz-funk of "Carino" recalls Blackbyrds-era Donald Byrd, and molten blues seep into the like-minded "Pelican." This alchemy is a universal solvent.