Album: Tropa Magica
Artist: Tropa Magica
Sub-Genres: Psych-Rock, Punk, Cumbia, Folk, Fusion
Non-Airable Tracks: None!
Tropa Magica recently released their highly anticipated self-titled debut LP, Tropa Magica, on September 28th, 2018 via Tropivision. Formerly known as Thee Commons, the duo comprised of brothers David and Rene Pacheco further hone their sound and explore new avenues in their songwriting. The group has garnered a good amount of regional clout in southern California and surrounding regions of the country – they just completed a tour with Shannon and the Clams, and are currently headlining their own U.S. tour.
Combining elements of psychedelic rock, punk, and cumbia, this is definitely one of the more unique (and not in the “I don’t really know what to say about this and I’m not really feeling it, but I don’t want to say anything super negative” way) releases I’ve come across in a while.
For those unfamiliar with cumbia (myself included before I wrote this), it’s a genre of music originating in and still hugely popular in Latin America – historically, it developed among indigenous populations on the coasts of Colombia as the accompaniment for a style of dance, and was characterized by a very rhythmic, repetitive backbone with simple wind and hand percussion instrumentation. As the genre developed further and spread, variations and fusions within the genre rose to prominence, notably in the 1970’s in Peru with the rise of chicha, a sub-genre of psychedelic influenced cumbia. This is a very simplified explanation – for those more curious about the genre, this article from NPR is a great read and very informative.
Back to this album – I didn’t really know what to expect going in, and to be honest it was a little overwhelming on the first listen. But the more time I spent with it, I found myself liking it more and more. I don’t mean that in a pretentious way or in the sense that this album is overly complex – it’s fairly accessible, but it just took more than one listen to really click with me. With the band themselves describing it as a “psychedelic cumbia punk” album with a “cinematic, orchestrated and carnivale-esque twist”, this LP is a wild ride – in a good way. It’s fast-paced, yet groovy, dreamy, atmospheric, and more “jammy” in just the right amounts, and the variety of musical influences and fusion of genres in their sound make for an album that really holds your interest, reveals more of itself over time, and has longevity.
Both portions of the album along with portions of particular songs veer into heavier influence from different genres throughout the work, although I’d characterize it as more of a spectrum throughout the album – while there are parts more oriented more towards straight-forward psych-rock and others leaning more on the cumbia and other Latin-music sides of things, there’s a lot of the blending and fusion of these styles, which I think make for the best parts of the album. There’s excellent, super interesting guitar and synth work, with great melody lines and solos weaving throughout, to more dense, all-encompassing jam breaks; the vocals are great, ranging from a more flowing style to a more aggressive, punctuating punk influence that really adds energy to the songs, and all anchored by a solid, grooving rhythm section. (Also, I think I used a semi-colon right back there? For any grammar experts reading, feel free to let me know or call me out or whatever.) This range and dynamic energy on this is shown especially on the stretch of songs from Moreno through Supersonico, which I think encompasses the best parts of this album – although there isn’t a bad or even mediocre song on the whole thing, in my opinion.
Overall, Tropa Magica is a super fun, high-energy, super interesting release that I’d definitely recommend.
Sounds Like: Tijuana Panthers, Shannon and the Clams, Thee Commons, Chicano Batman
Morena-Supersonico is all suuuuper good.
Reviewer’s Name: Gabrielle
Date of Review: 11/19/2018