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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More El Combo Oscuro
Deerhoof at Wizard Rodeo and More Crucial Concerts This Week
Deerhoof at Wizard Rodeo and More Crucial Concerts This Week
Austin acts El Combo Oscuro and sleep well. both host album release shows

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 1, 2023

The Tiarras, El Combo Oscuro Soundtrack <i>The Austin Chronicle</i> Hot Sauce Festival
The Tiarras, El Combo Oscuro Soundtrack The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
Benefiting the Central Texas Food Bank at Far Out Lounge on Sunday, Sept. 10

Rachel Rascoe, Sept. 8, 2023

More by Raoul Hernandez
Spiders, Slams, and Other Shows Worth Seeing This Week
Spiders, Slams, and Other Shows Worth Seeing This Week
Dare to go out on a school night!

June 14, 2024

Jess Williamson, Stay Black & Live, Babestock, and More Crucial Concerts
Jess Williamson, Stay Black & Live, Babestock, and More Crucial Concerts
Recommended shows for the week in Austin

June 14, 2024


El Combo Oscuro

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle