Grupo Fantasma: “Esa Negra”

For a band as successful as Grupo Fantasma, it’s tempting to play it safe. Across fifteen years, the Artist of the Month has won a Grammy and earned two further nominations; backed up Prince, Spoon, and GZA of Wu-Tang Clan; and the members have spread their distinctive sound across half-a-dozen local projects, including Brownout, Brown Sabbath, Money Chicha, and Ocote Soul Sounds.

But for Grupo’s first album in five years, the band opted to shake things up. Used to recording themselves, they brought in Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin as producer instead. It was a long, difficult process–hence the eventual album name, Problemas–but Berlin helped the band hone their sound. The result is Grupo’s best album yet.

For all the streamlining, though, Problemas (out October 30) is the band’s most sonically adventurous, ranging from a bolero-style Beatles cover to funk-inspired chicha. On “Esa Negra,” heavy metal guitars and cumbia collide with guest Joel Guzman’s accordion virtuosity. In Grupo Fantasma’s kaleidoscopic world, this makes perfect sense. Download the song below.

–Art Levy

Grupo’s Beto Martinez and Greg Gonzalez are the guest DJs on Saturday, October 17 at 6 p.m. The band is live in Studio 1A on Tuesday, October 20 at 9 p.m., and they celebrate their album release–and fifteen years together–at the Mohawk on Friday, October 30.

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