Album Review: Mixtolobo – Frontera – Spain’s maverick wolves.

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I don’t often say ‘I’ve not heard anything like this before’. But when I put on Mixtolobo’s Frontera with a dodgy, cigarette-smoking, beat-up wolf on the cover, but little else to give away what’s coming, I start thinking ‘hmm, I haven’t heard anything like this before’. It’s flamenco, but with some dirty electric guitar funky blues alongside the crisp sounds of the classic Spainsh instrument. Is Mixtolobo a guitar band (basically 2 guitars, bass and drums, with some guests on other stuff) paying flamenco, or is it a flamenco band dressed in indie clothing? And which do I want it to be?

As track 2 Al compas de la valvula rota starts I reach for the volume – to turn it up loud. It’s Led Zep with an enigmatic electric guitar opener. Then flamenco vocals come in. I find it cooler than the flamenco remix sound of Ojos de Brujo. You sense a gritty band. Blues harmonica. Riffs. Laughs out. They’re having fun. Here it is..

Track 3 Dieguito is instrumental. More flamenco-led, with claps, but that electric wolf always skulking around in the background. Track 4 features guest flute and feels a bit more breezy Brazil, than downtown Seville. It fades out. The band’s sounding less daring.
I’m more into track 5, Malika. Mixtolobo are best when the play on this electric-acoustic rivalry-brotherhood thing. A vocal chorus rounds off the number but is soon subverted by electric guitar intertwining its whining.
Track 6 El Guaro is all Santana-esque heavily echoed guitar line and groove. It’s cool enough but although this is a mellow number I want it to be a touch more dirty.
Track 7 Perla Negra features 2 acoustic guitars complete with olés and holas. It reminds me of guitar-whizz-legend Antonio Forcione.

But low-strummed electrics and grungy kick drum on A Buscarme Vienen make me think the band may have a Jekyll and Hyde split personality thing going on.  The flamenco vocal comes in again. For me this is the interesting sound of this band. Sax, bass and drums jam on a groove for a short time, but it is the lead guitar played by Jorge Gomez that makes this band and the tracks where he’s credited with composition stand out for me.
Steve – that’s Track 9 – is a exploratory dialogue just between the two guitars with not much else. That makes sense at this point in the album. It feels improvised but composition is credited by two people not in the band, so there’s a little mystery too, but it doesn’t make me wonder who Steve is. Not like the way I still wonder who John McLoughlin’s David is.
Track 10 sounds like it might be a live recording. And I guess this band would be great live. The track give a sense of this. It takes a little time, as flamenco does, to build up and the climax is all to brief. But then clixames are brief.

Finally I’m worried about the remix finale Puga e Ivan. Mixtolobo seems to be a ‘real band’. Why spoil the album with a remix? But Lance Quinn has taken enough of what I like about their sound to make this a great end underpinned by some low-end frequencies. And maybe the band could even take something from this remix to translate into their live show.

I go back to tracks 1 and 2 to double-check. All in all I think Mixtolobo could dispense with saxes and flutes and play more to the strenths of their core, and unusual, gritty sound, that would not be out of place at most rock festivals.

Worth checking out more by these guys? Sure!
Go and see them live? Definitivamente! And you can watch the first track Tomi Mio live version here..

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