A musical journey through a surrealistic world
From Bogota, Colombia, the Meridian Brothers are an art-combo who mix Latin American rhythms with art noise and unpredictable sonic events. Traditional instruments and computer technology all contribute to this mixture of influences from vintage tropical styles from the Colombian coastal zone, the Caribbean and Peru to electronic folk and Dolly Parton.
Imagine the illegitimate offspring of a liaison between the Residents and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and you´ll be close to the sound of the Meridian Brothers. Convincing Latin dance rhythms are overlaid with skeletal guitars and vocal tomfoolery to create a mesmerising confection of minimalism, cumbia, pop, electronica and Afro-funk.
The band formed in 1998, and sold cassette recordings in the capital of Colombia. Their first official album “El advenimiento del castillo mujer” (The Coming of the Castle Women) was the first official album, released in 2005, and followed in 2009 by “Meridian Brothers VI”. The band is currently touring Europe prior to the release of their third album in November 2011.
Band leader and the conceptualist behind this collection of Latin American art subversives is Eblis Alvarez (vocals, guitars & electronics). Despite an early fascination with geographical meridians, he opted to plough the indie-art music furrow. But don´t think that it´s all fun and good vibes. If, in a parallel universe, Arto Lindsay had four brothers and a sister (one of the Meridian Brothers is female), and they all suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, the result might be comparable.
Eblis Alvarez describes the band’s output as follows: “Among our influences are the vintage tropical styles from the Colombian coastal zone, the Caribbean and some Peruvian chicha. We also hear a lot of electronic music done with synthesisers and keyboards, but these influences are again very laid back. We don´t like the electronic music beats straight, for us everything is kind of twisted. We like also folk, and vallenato from Colombia. Sometimes we get inspiration from Dolly Parton or even Neil Young, in the sense of mood and speed.”
He explains further: “We are looking for a very abstract image of these influences, we work a lot with the sound, but not in an electronic music fashion - we are looking for mainly weird results in rhythm and texture. Our way of playing our instruments is not quite usual either, we make a lot of small noises and deformed melodies trying sometimes to change these clichés.”
Good-time, no-nonsense mindless grooving is not high up the Meridian Brothers’ list of priorities, I suspect. The downright spooky nature of tunes like “El Cantero Experimental” suggests that there is more going on here than mere celebration of life’s finer things. In tones of almost controlled hysteria not too far removed from David Byrne´s most uncomfortable moments in Talking Heads, Eblis Alvarez alternately declaims, muses and rabble-rouses over an uncomfortable backing which places odd atonal noise over sweetly-melodic phrases to create a jerky, disturbing and yet oddly-melancholic result.
He describes his musical mission: “I feel that this music we do is the response of a third world country exposed to complete globalisation. Our identity is based on pieces of things we absorb and process in both superficial and significant ways, from important and valuable stuff to even junk some others would throw away. We are a country that is virtually open to everything it gets from outside.”
Fractions of horn melodies appear, dart off and return performed by out-of-tune guitars; instruments are modulated by resonant devices, a double bass picks up the lounge-groove, a clarinet debates participation; suddenly a glockenspiel plays a charming nursery rhyme and a crooning voice leers with splendid disregard for time and pitch at the unsuspecting listener. The surreal mixture of kitsch and Las Vegas neon-weirdness is rather like watching German TV on a Saturday night with the contrast turned up full after having drunk two bottles of Chilean red wine.
Those attending the concert can expect the unexpected, a musical journey through a surrealistic world populated by rubber-boot wearing gangsters (as featured on the band’s recent collaboration with Sonora 3).
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(30 November 11 - 04 December 11)