Chicago has seen its fair share of Nuevo Flamenco with groups like El Payo debuting their self-titled album last year, and we’re definitely no strangers to jam-band inspired bluesy funksters a la Latina. Andrea Echeverri‘s solo work and Chicago’s very own, The Luna Blues Machine‘ sister-Cervantes crescendos are surely the closest contenders for the transcontinental, bilingual anthems of San Francisco folk-ska-flamenco frontwoman, Katalina Miletich. Starting it off right, “Préndela,” lights it up with all the synergy of a neo-Lila Downs, a Latin-jived Macy Grey, or a more authentic Nelly Furtado. In direct conversation with the suave zeal that reminds me of DePedro and La Vida Bohemia via California, I almost want to say I can even hear Sade in Miletich’s voice too.
While Spain set off its Occupation of the worlds plazas, “Squatters’ Song” echoes the dying middle class’s conflicted privilege and conflated identity with the rising lower class, as they find each other’s reflections strangely familiar. The rebelliousness in tracks like “Guerriller@s” speaks about opening pathways and hearts serving as compasses, leading away from the garish indictments that most folk and protest music dauntingly drifts towards. The musical prowess of the band can be compared to acts like Panteon Rococo and Chicago’s own ska-kings, Los Vicios de Papá. Puerto Rican bossa nova-fuzed reggae rocksters, Cultura Profetica should be billed with these guys for sure. Last year’s Señor Flavio release might be the only actual comparison, however, in terms of Semilla Caminante‘s wholesome danceability.
WIthout permission Miletich plants seeds like house parties and plays her ode to the Madrid protesters that started the Indignados movement, otherwise known as el Movimiento 15-M, which inspired the Occupy Wall Street copycats. What transpired at la Puerta del Sol would change the world forever, but instead of talking about armed revolts, the reformist politics of the movement are better captured in the very melodic and ecological approach found in LoCura’s remedy for social and economic unrest: camomile tea.The magical, remedying properties of “Manzanilla” extend beyond the medicinal and corporal to the ethereal concepts of identity as Miletich dedicates the song like much of LoCura’s aesthetic audience, ” los hybrids, mestizos y mezclados (the hybrids, Mestizos and mixed),” in her uniquely diaspora-conscious canto.
The end of “Te Sigo” carries out into an almost two minute rock steady, reggae vibe, easing away from vocal candor to another kind of communication all together. The music starts to speak the same heady and head-tripping cadence as the lyrics. “Reflections,” picks up from that quieted note and drives into a procession and soft, Tracy Chapman-esque moment that suddenly pounds out into a very rustic, almost Chavela Vargas growl. It’s the switches from Spanish to English, English to Spanish that add potency to each track. But this album doesn’t lull out into nothing by the end. Just wait until the final moments of “Reflections,” where LoCura unleashes its true self in alt rock riffs rivaling Santana’s psychedelics and Paco de Lucía in concert. The aggressive end to the album leaves you wanting more, and is quite possibly my favorite development of LoCura’s sonic occurrence.
Listening to LoCura is its own happening. I can only imagine what they’re like in live performances. This is academic chorus at its best. It’s poetic politics, it’s music for the armchair revolutionaries and hardcore activist. Semilla Caminante not only appeases any and all First World privilege but reminds that there still thrives a defiant spirit among the upper echelons and even more bite among the common people. Resistance doesn’t always have to be bland or trite, however I wish the album conveyed that same commitment to sonic experimentation. Perhaps in their future recordings we’ll hear more of their playfulness and inventiveness ooze forth. However, if you’re still a fan of granola and hippie-dippy alternative lifestyles, gringo-green-ism and globalism at large, then you’ll definitely be a fan of LoCura’s chameleon stylings.