Los Amigos Invisibles
"Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey into Space"
Luaka Bop (2000)
1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die
“Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey Into Space” might not actually head into space, but it certainly goes all over the place. Tom Moon looks at the album by Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles as an overview of Latin music, from the samba to what he refers to as an “Ibiza rave,” but I see it as an overview of the club scene in the band’s hometown of Caracas.
A brief look at the group’s history shows that the band formed to counteract the overabundance of traditional fare at dance clubs, such as salsa and Brazilian merengue. As Moon points out, it was never the band’s idea to eradicate the city’s cultural background, but rather advance it into the 21st century. The process takes place on “Arepa 3000,” the group’s third album, by serving as a timeline of club music, and in the process teaching the old forms new tricks.
A majority of the album has a style blending cha-cha-chá and samba, forms of music popularized in Cuba and Brazil respectively, but understandably big in Venezuela as well. “La Vecina” exemplifies the play between the guitar and the bass, and the traditional percussion of congas and claves adds to the feel. A variety of electric blips and whirs contribute to the space theme. Much of the music reminds me of the theme that plays on the main screen when you turn on a Nintendo Wii. Light, easygoing stuff.
From there the band heads in the direction of funk. Moon compares the group to Parliament Funkadelic, and the similarities are inescapable. The obscenely titled “Masturbation Session” sounds like the Hispanic stepbrother of “Give Up The Funk” at times. “Mujer Policia” features some particularly funky guitar playing from José Pardo and the use of a Hammond organ in “Cuchi Cuchi” is an obvious funk throwback.
Toward the end of the album, genres such as disco (“Amor,” with a synthesizer line and very anglicized vocals) and electronica (“El Barro,” with early use of autotune) make their appearances as well.
A final masterstroke is the way the album winds down like a club-goer after a long night at the bars. “Llegaste Tarde,” the closing track, was recorded in a low quality that could be compared to the feeling of a tired club hopper at the end of the night, zoned out or just exhausted. But why shouldn’t they be? They went hard at four different clubs over the course of this album.
INTERESTING FACT: “Arepa” is a bread dish made of ground corn flour, popular in Venezuela and other parts of South America. So, essentially the title of the album is “corn bread of the future.” Sorry to disappoint those who were hoping for something deeper.