Review: El Combo Oscuro, La Danza de las Sirenas

Austin fivepiece’s debut LP throws neon Tex-Mex tribalism


It's a long way to the top if you wanna cumbia. Here in the live music capital, the genre's progressive futurism crackles cedar-laden air with electric current, moving Austinites palpably – universally. La Danza de las Sirenas as El Combo Oscuro's debut long-player ferments that moment potently. Producing a pair of essential ATX shakers in 2021 EP Que Sonido Tan Rico and last year's extended playmate Cumbia Capital, the pandemic-hatched fivepiece throws more neon Tex-Mex tribalism than the glowing cerveza signs above Fiesta's beer coolers. Fifth-most abundant element after hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon, atomic No. 10 here pulses 'n' glows starting the moment opener "Chicon" crosses the proton beams of producer, keyboardist, and LP MVP Mauro Lopez. His vintage organ bleat fogs the foreground, plus steely Telecaster picking from bandleader John Dell. Bassist Peter Fuller then conducts the rhythmic seismography of drummer Gabriel Ceballos, conguera Veronica Lizarraga, and Nick Tozzo manning timbales. As "Radio Pirata" broadcasts near the other end, mambo, ska, and boogaloo ensue. A belly-rubbing tempo sashays "Vudú y Chachacha" as piano and zither break into Dell's acid rock solo, heightening Latin possession by cha-cha-cha's voodoo. After that, the la-la's dominate. "La Escapada," with Santana-esque intro and a tin-can chicha and cowbell clop, needles a tattoo beat, while the title track ("The Dance of the Sirens") plinks and taps and strings together an Afro Caribbean instrumental swinger. Dell's scorpion Spanish – sharp, stinging – drives disc valedictorian "Bom Bom," cumbia banger from Reynosa to Pflugerville.


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