El Existential

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El Existential
Conductor: Grupo Fantasma
Label: Nat Geo
Release Date: 2010-07-07
Rated: NONE
Genre: Recording

There’s not much room for error in El Existential, Grupo Fantasma’s second release since 2006’s Comes Alive, the pivotal album that won the Austin-based Latin-funk orchestra a fairy godfather of sorts — a powerful little guy named Prince — who’s employed GF as a backup band for a number of star-studded private appearances. El Existential’s 13 tracks are woven together as seamlessly as the magical spiderweb described in the song “Telaraña.” In fact, the album’s connective thread is so sticky that the songs easily mesh into one endless track, a quality that can be attributed to GF’s phenomenally tight horn section and the ever-present rasp of a Latin percussion instrument called a güiro. One wouldn’t normally associate the the güiro with a brass section and wawa guitars reminiscent of blaxploitation films and ’70s porn, but GF’s signature hybrid is unique, tropical, sexy, and quite possibly the secret sauce that seduced his Purple Majesty four years ago. As far as lyrical content (and drama) goes, the album’s most captivating track is the markedly slower “Juan Tenorio,” a Coen -brothers-worthy revenge tale laced with dusty magical realism and a standout on an otherwise dance-oriented album. The most vivid images El Existential conjures with its mysterious, musical short stories (which include friendly talking spiders and a couple that’s somehow married 100 years ) exist in a layer that won’t be discovered without a working knowledge of Spanish — or a translator. — Bryan Rindfuss

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