Written by Fantasma el Rey
Grupo Fantasma, as soon as I heard the name I knew that I must hear this band. I’m glad I did as Grupo Fantasma’s third album Sonidos Gold has become one of the year’s favorites. It’s been in my car stereo for over a week now and I only pause to hear the news. The twelve grooves on this CD have invaded my mind, haunting my thoughts and turning every movement into an Afro-Cuban/Cumbia jazz step. I work with rhythm and everything is a song until I catch myself and realize that small children are laughing at me.
Latin/funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma have been stacking up the honors over the past year, playing on awards shows, making appearances on late night television, and scoring a gig as supporting band for Prince, who liked then so much that he took them to London’s 02 Arena for his acclaimed “21 Nights In London” stay there. They’ve even caught the attention of sax legend Maceo Parker, who sits in on the tune “Gimme Some.” This band from Austin, Texas is definitely making waves and deservedly so as they have forged a style all their own.
From the opening drums of “El Sabio Soy Yo” you’re hooked. When the horns sweep in and hit you like a tsunami of rhythmic sound, knocking you back then drawing you in, you have no choice but to listen. You groove and move along to the ocean of sound that Grupo Fantasma have tossed you into. It all flows so smoothly that you don’t realize that they’ve moved on to the next tune, “Levantate,” while you’re still in a daze. The horns are arranged in a way that gives them an other worldly sound and you must do as they command and “stand up” and move.
The horns mixed with the keyboards, percussion and guitars instills a feeling of darkness and mystery as if the boys in the band bargained with El Diablo himself to bring you this unique sound. The chaos that winds down “Arroz Con Pollo” and leads into the chants that open the eight-minute jam “Rumba Y Guaguanco” is a perfect example of what the group has to offer. Drums, horns, hell even a whistle fill the air with music that seems to come from every shadowy corner of the world in your mind. “Rebotar” is another song that calls to you from beyond with its classic horror film organs, sultry horns, and echoing guitar chords.
Guitars take center stage on “Bacaloa Con Pan,” “Cumbia De Los Pajaritos,” and “Perso Fra I Mesquites.” “Bacalao Con Pan” is fueled through out by its Santana-like guitars and full-force funky horns. “Cumbia” takes a trip to the west coast with a nod to surf guitar before slipping into the swirling underworld of keyboards and spacey chords made famous by The Doors’ Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger. The chord bending screams Jimi Hendrix as the big horns make it a wicked instrumental and instant classic. “Perso Fra” is a slow yet rockin’ instrumental as well, this time taking us south of the border in search of a dark cantina to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos with Spanish guitars, bullfight horn.s and violin strings that quietly weep for those that have crossed over.
After one spin of their new CD, you’ll be hypnotized by the beats and rhythms as you are taken in by their modern spin to a classic sound. Blending sounds and influences very well, Grupo Fantasma produces a style all their own. It’s crazy, I know but Grupo Fantasma is the perfect all-day music. Whether cruising down the boulevard or drinking with pals, late night or early morning, this band will possess you with their Afro-Cuban Jazz/Cumbia/Latin funk concoction, commanding you to spread the word and seek them out live in this world before they slip back to the phantom realm from which they must have come.