Saturday, May 1, 2010

Los Amigos Invisibles: The Kings of Class

Los Amigos Invisibles may not just be a Venezualan group's name; it may also label what they are. Underground success and critical acclaim haven't resulted in high record sales worldwide for the group. In a way, they are, invisible to mainstream music. Here's the thing: "Underground music" or is generally thought of to be done by an Alanis Morisette-wannabe, holding up their acoustic guitar singing “cliché” songs about how their depressing high school years. Usually they do this in front of an audience on the verge of falling asleep.

This isn't what Los Amigos Invisibles is about. This band takes "underground" music through a Venezuelan journey, adding sexy spice and funky flavor with their fusion of disco and Latin lounge Think of their sound as they label it, "Jamiroquai mixed with Santana." Now the band marks their return with their new LP Commercial.

Since their debut album, 1995’s A Typical and Autoctonal Venezuelan Dance Band, members Julio Briceno (vocals), Mauricio Arcas (percussion), Armando Figueredo (keyboards), Jose Luis Pardo (guitar), Juan Manuel Roura (drums), and Jose Radael Torres (bass) have under their belts, in their own words, “ over 60 countries visited, two Grammy nominations and two Latin Grammy nominations, six studio albums, one live DVD+2CD, one record label, 18 years in the music business, and with high hopes to continue to do what they love to do."

To have such success and still be underground, there is a certain magic that the 'Amigo’s' music contains. The mix of lounge, house, acid jazz, Latin-Jazz, pop, soul, disco, funk, electronica, and techno fill their songs. And whether you’re listening to the albums The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera, The Venezuelan Zinga Son or Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey Into Space, or Superpop Venezuela, their LP of cover songs originating from Venezuela (do you think they are proud of their homeland?), the music will take you to an aural paradise filled with cocktails and dim lighting.

The beats are just as sexy as reggeaton, and as rhythmic as R&B/Hip-Hop. Though very different, the music is tailor made for clubs. Any lover of lounge, disco, and funk knows that the bassist holds the real key to the song's success.

Listening to songs like "Yo No Se" (“I Don’t Know”) or "Gerendio" (non-translatable) or "Bruja," (“Witch”) or “Una Disco Llena” (“A Full Disco”) there is no denying the group would not be the same without bassist Jose Rafael Torres. All masters have had their teachers, and Torres lists his biggest inspirations as “Chic, Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies, and Rush" saying he's learned from them to "be part of the song, but not to show off."

For fans of the group, if it seems as if it’s been a while since their last album, Torres says there is a reason for the three year recording session for the album Commercial. “We take a month here, and a month there to record. We don’t just take three months off to fully do it,” says Torres. But this record, which combines the fun, funky elements of previous records and adds in a new flavor, will not disappoint fans and newbees.

Songs such as “Loco Por Tu Amor” (“Crazy For Your Love”) and “Sueno Erotico” (“Erotic Dream") take the listener to lounge heaven, while “Es La Verdad” (It’s True”) and “Oye Mi Nene” (“Listen To Me, Baby”) bring you back to the 60’s Latin-Jazz era in full form. Venturing into neo-disco, “Vivire Por Ti” (“I’ll Live For You”) sounds as if a Mexican Diana Ross could’ve sung it in 1979. “Dulce,” (“Sweet”) dives into candy-flavored pop, while “Mentiras,” (“Lies”) and “Como Sabes Tu” (“How You Know”) take on a darker, edgier take on modern electronica.

Commercial’s first commercial single, “Mentiras”, blends the party vibe of the band’s earlier hits with a fresh new-wave production. The single is both club and radio worthy, but have you wondered why you haven’t heard it? Well, U.S. mainstream radio hasn’t touched the group in almost ten years.

As Torres puts it, “we don’t even get support from American Hispanic radio; but I think we did at first with “Ponerte en Cuartro”(“Put You on Fours.”) As a result, "Ponerte en Cuartro" is the bands signature song worldwide and a concert favorite. In support of Commercial, the band is currently on a worldwide tour, which marks their return to Atlanta for the first time in over a year. Look for them at The CW Midtown Music Complex the Loft on October 16 at 7 p.m. If their only live CD/DVD En Una Noche Tan Lina Como Esta (“On One Night, How Beautiful It Is”) is any indication how they are live, it will be a dulce experience.

With catchy Latin beats and eye-catching music videos, it’s a wonder that the band has not reached commercial appeal. Unlike other acts who SAY they are content with their underground status, Torres speaks for the group when he says “we’re making a living off our careers, but if more success comes, we welcome it.”

On the brightside, the groups’ new album has already boogied its way into the top ten Latin charts on iTunes and Amazon. "Sexo" sells?

Hardly the producers of child-safe music, with songs such as “El Disco Anal” (“The Anal Disco”) and “Caliente” (“Hot”), Los Amigos have had their share of raunchy lyrics. At times, the group’s songs are more graphic than many rap and reggeaton songs. Listening to the tracks, though, one can't miss the hint of irony and humor hidden in the lyrics. Torres concurs, commenting on their lyrics; “they are sexual, but not meant to be taken seriously.”

With such erotic lyrics, surprisingly, Torres says that women make up most of their fan base. While their topics of lyrics range from love songs to graphic erotic poetry, the band perhaps shocked their fans the most when they covered "Yo Soy Asi," (“I Am This Way”) a Venezuelan track about coming out. More shocking, the music video for "Yo Soy Asi” featured the band members dressed in full drag. "The song is about a gay man coming out of the closet, but for the video we thought we'd take it to the next level; with drag!" says Torres. Regardless of the gay-friendly lyrics and the sound that has exactly what the club scene lacks and needs, Torres says that their gay fan base is rather low.

Perhaps their sales, luck, and fan base may change with their new album, Commercial, which, while it may be commercial, isn't commercial tripe. Los Amigos Invisibles are breath of fresh air from the pre-teen, Sweet’n Low-pop of Britney Spears and the worn-out Hip-Hop of the Black Eyed Peas. Think of Los Amigos Invisibles as a fresh Mojito in a world of warm Diet Coke and boxes of cheap wine. Commerical (Nacional Records) is in stores and iTunes now. For more information, check out the band's official website:

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