What to say about Novio Electrico’s eponymous debut album? Considering that I’ve been carrying their clever harmonies around in my head and rolling their lyrics around on my tongue all week, my first thought is: bravo.  From there, I’d add: delicious, flirtatious, unique, groovy, distinctly-pleasing, and totally addictive. These opening lines pretty much capture how they hook you at first bite. “Dulce caramelo / besame te quiero»  It hardly matters whether the listener speaks Spanish or English or both. The invitation to play is clear and compelling.

And invitation is indeed the right word. The sweep of exotic, eclectic cross-cultural soundscapes propel, as if one is being led to a deep velvet banquette set right in front of the bandstand for a solid night of great entertainment. That or walking onto the stage of Quentin Tarantino next film. The invitation also extends to the free flow of expression between musical styles, rhythmic beats, and of course, the easy exchange blending Spanish and English into infectious rhymes that neither language could conjure solo.

Novio Electico is a collaboration between producers Charles Gonzalez and Rex Shelverton. With Gonzalez driving vocals, bass, and synthesizers, and Shelverton beguiling on swirling guitar, their expansive sound is well -joined by Rachel Hoiem, who plays electric piano and sings harmonies throughout the album. Also in the mix are Latin percussionist Homer Rios, Scott Cullum, Charlie Vela, and singer Martine Donovan, who is dreamy on “Caramello”.

This music contains multitudes.  The band’s sound bridges borderlands to unite Tex-Mex Rock & Roll and California Psychadelic/Surf traditions. Their partnership achieves something musically that is such a welcome sonic reprieve from the pollical noise and division that so misses the point about the generative nature of cultural cross-pollination. Though folk elements weave through some songs, they steer clear of preaching or propaganda. They let the music stand for itself, as it can and does as fine examples of openness, freedom, and possibility.

The diversity of offerings is impressive. The synthy melodic static of “Electrico” gets under the skin with the spell of an incantation. Then there’s the cheeky sidewalk groove of “Hop It Scrape It”, featuring a bantering duet between Camila Magrane and Wally Gonzalez.  Wally also sings with Charles on “Kicker Tonight”, a habit-forming two-step south Texas regional classic that Wally wrote in the ‘70s.  Punk meets lounge lizard in an ironic romp covering a relatively-obscure Tubular Face number from 1984, “Macho Muchacho”. Other tracks like “Novio”, “Matamoros”, and “Playa” are infectiously fun – they make me want to dive into waves, fall back in love, or tear up the dance floor, not necessarily in that order.

This is a life-affirming album. The music sticks with you and points to the horizon y hacia las buenas vistas.  When I take a breath, I come back to “Claire” and all that is simple, wise, and sweet.

Mendocino, San Francisco

Highway 101

If we lose our direction we can just follow the sun

Download Novio Electrico on Bandcamp.

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