Songs for the Adventurous Cumbiero
Name: Meridian Brothers
Where They’re From: Bogotá, Colombia
When They Started: 1998
Sounds Like: Drugs & coconuts
I generally shy away from superlatives, but screw it: Eblis Álvarez is most likely the most interesting man in Colombia.
Álvarez, a composer and multi-instrumentalist, has been a force behind some of the most groundbreaking musical projects to come out of Colombia in the last several years. He plays guitar in Frente Cumbiero, a very badass instrumental band doing cool things with cumbia. He’s a member of Ondatropica, a sort of super-group pairing old-school legends of Colombian tropical music with members of the new generation of cumbia innovators. He produced the debut EP of gothic-tropical newcomers La MiniTK del Meido, one of our favorite groups from the Bogota scene. Not to mention that he’s one of the most esteemed new classical composers in Colombia, winning the country’s National Composition Prize twice.
All those groups are pretty groovy, but Álvarez’ personal project, The Meridian Brothers, is the most wacky and wonderful of all of them. When he started the group, he was a young dude with a predilection for electronic music, rock en español and left-field pop a la Bjork. He began to mix those sounds with the traditional Colombian music styles that were coming in fashion among the country’s progressive youth. Add to that cocktail an education at a Danish conservatory program for electronic music, and you get the crazypants Meridian Brothers sound.
And what is that sound exactly? A typical tune will have some deep Afro-Colombian rhythms, a wailing theremin solo, and lo-fi organ sounds straight out of a space-themed 1960s cocktail lounge. Álvarez and his bandmates constantly mess around with rhythm and tempo, creating a disjointed sensibility that keeps listeners on their toes. Overall, it’s what might have happened if the early 20th century cumbia legends like Lucho Bermudez had traded in their aguardiente for a powerful cocktail of hallucinogens and were let loose in a studio full of guitar pedals.
The Merdian Brothers have a lot of material out there in the world – you can hear Merdian Brothers V, Meridian Brothers VI, and Meridian Brothers VII on the band’s website. But the band’s latest and greatest work is Desesperanza (which translates to Hopelessness), out on the venerable Soundway imprint. Check out “Salsa Tropical,” a freaked Latin lounge jam perfect for your next interdimensional journey