You Might Have Missed: Disfrutalo!
Leon casino, Photo: Courtesy of Artist
I get to experience Houston in ways that you wouldn’t believe. I get to see artists in their element, and I get to see bands in their earliest forms before their incarnations become a reality. It’s funny to hear, but there are plenty of bands here that have always sounded amazing whether it was at their berth, or after they’ve had time to develop. One of those acts, is Houston’s Disfrutalo!. The first time I saw the four piece, I had to make sure someone didn’t spike my drink. They basically blend sounds to make a mix of psych, Latin fusion, and progressive rock into one beautiful and lush landscape of ear candy. I’ve often felt like they make the listener feel like they just dropped acid with Jim Morrison in the desert, and they’re just waiting on a white horse to take them to the next level. Last year, they very quietly dropped their debut album, “Disfrutalo!.” Normally that wouldn’t be the biggest deal on earth. A band makes an album and then they release it. However, this album was produced by the late Ikey Owens. The same Ikey Owens who was a sound manipulator for The Mars Volta, as well as the primary keys player for Jack White III. The band, didn’t want to appear like they were attempting to cash in on Owens’ death, so they put the album out with little fanfare. The sad part of that, is the simple fact that this album, is one of the craziest and gorgeous masterpieces you haven’t heard.
I’m assuming that you haven’t heard it, but maybe you have. The six song release kind of sat for some time before it was released in December of last year. Recorded right here in Houston at Studio 713 in 2011, Owens was flown in by the band to oversee its production. The band then let Owens take the album back home to mix and master it in California, as well as performing on one of the songs. When the band had gotten artwork together, and was ready to drop it, Owens left this world. What he left the listener with is an album that fills in all of the psych gaps between what began with bands like The Doors and ended with The Mars Volta.
The album kicks off with the highly energetic sound of “It Only Takes Three Hits.” The band takes what sounds like a soundcheck in the opening to a more jam feel. The bombastic drums feel like you’re a part of something greater, while one guitar sets the songs pace. The other guitar is in an almost freefall solo, and the bass thumps and rattles like a bass should. This setting continues while the guitar seems to almost form another song, and as the listener; it feels like the strange trip is just beginning before the song comes to a close. This is followed up by the bass lead “Mandala,” where more classic psych elements are employed. Anthemic guitar, squeals from another guitar, and that heavy handed bass bring the song to life where the drums aren’t as upfront as the opener. The guitar and bass elements of the song make you feel like that LSD induced feeling is building to its’ peak, before the song trails off. The third song, “La Luna Llora Sangre” paces in with varying drum sounds and a thick bassline that makes it feel like a jam outside of a gypsy camp. The percussive weight of the song is segued by a meandering guitar, and lyrics that are sung in Spanish with a hint of reverb attached to them. It’s as if you’re peaking in the Sahara while Jim Morrison is leading you to a mountain top. The song, which clocks in a little under six minutes feels like the anthem of a lost generation who can only take hallucinogens to communicate any raw emotions. The guitar that sounds like something Carlos Santana would dream up, leaps in and out of the track while those percussive elements keep the song grooving along.
Around the fourth track, “Earwax Hash,” you should realize that this is a band that does things on a completely fresh and inventive plane. The song has a more seaside beach kind of feel where the scale heavy guitar is intertwined with a more rhythmic guitar while the bass is in the back, and the drums are present but less upfront. When the vocals sneak in and out of the song, they’re interrupted by an almost synthetic guitar sound. That’s not a bad thing though, as it allows for the harmonica to lay a whole new component to the song. The didgeridoo opening of “Dreamtime” that’s coupled with a whistle like space sound and eastern sounding percussion, gets cut by a soft and subtle guitar that starts to take the song on a new path. The psych rock elements that open the track don’t hinder the bass from popping in and out like a free form jam. The song has a very subtle build that gets additional notes from an egg shaker and a snare that make you feel like you’re literally dreaming; making it the most straightforward track of the six. The album gets closed off by the standout sounding “Freedumb.” The song has a very no holds barred sound complete with those upfront drums and an echoed vocal track. Like the early days of Red Hot Chili Peppers where the band felt like they were on another planet comprised of jazz and funk, Disfrutalo! achieves the same sound here. With an additional vocal that has an almost hip hop narrative, the song changes pace several times only to keep diving deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. There are times where it sounds like the band is being sucked against their will into space before the song reaches its end.
There aren’t too many times you can hear an album that feels like what the band intends it to feel like. So if Disfrutalo! wants their audience to feel like a happy based trip on mushrooms, then mission accomplished. Through six songs you feel like for the first time in a very long time, there’s a band who understands the genre of psych rock; and who has made it their mission to take you on a journey. The album, is one of those where if you allow it to, will take you to parts unknown while expanding your mind. Which in reality, is what every band should hope to achieve, yet few actually do.