Cabezas de Cera

Hermandad 2012 CD $12.
Ear Audio

Not Yet reviewed

...un segundo 2002 CD import $16.
Ear Audio

Cabezas de Cera is truly a trio of equals. Drummer and percussionist Francisco Sotelo plays just as integral a role in the compositions as his brother Mauricio Sotelo (Stick, Grid, guitar and vihuela) and Ramses Luna (diverse wind instruments, wind-controlled synth, and voice). Each member has an incredible sonic pallet at his disposal and uses it very effectively.

"...un segundo" is the band’s second CD. They’ve released three and a live concert DVD as well (En Directo). All of their release are exquisitely packaged and this one is no exception. They are clearly serious about their art without taking themselves too seriously to have fun in their music, a nice change from a lot of the progressive fare out there. While there’s plenty of Stick playing on the record, there’s plenty of everything else, too.

CDC writes progressive rock pieces dressed-up in ethnic costumes. And there are lots of costume changes. That means you can expect radical metric shifts, fast and intricate Stick and drum grooves and spacey synth washes, screaming saxophones, wailing vocals and a huge assortment of completely unidentifiable sonic elements. Familiar elements occasionally and briefly emerge. Shakti, Happy the Man, Andean music, but it’s gone as quickly as it came. Cabezas never does anything for long before supplanting it or morphing out of it or simply setting it aside. Maybe they’ll come back to it, maybe they won’t. It’s hard to believe when you get to the end of this CD that you’re listening to the same band as when you started.

You might find this record in the sound track bin for your dream life. Every kind of dream, from cloudy abstracts to frenetic chase scenes. At times nightmarish, and at others idyllic, a vast range of human emotion is conveyed. Most of it is fairly surreal, but not gratuitously so. Lots of ear candy (of the constantly changing flavor variety), backward tape interludes, and Luna’s voice, sometimes a muted murmur, sometimes the keening call to prayer from some unidentifiable Middle Eastern land (or is that German?).

There’s a lot of stereo fun, very nice for headphone listening. The band’s acoustic instruments have a certain low-fi character when surrounded by lush synth pads and big reverb spaces. Clearly, much attention has been paid to the effect created by the shifting orchestration. When Mauricio Sotelo puts down his Stick and picks up the acoustic guitar, they resist the temptation to fill up the low end with synths and big fat drums. Much credit goes to the band’s audio engineer Edgar Arrellín, and he’s even listed as a member of the band in the credits.

There is an overriding sense of playfulness, and of exploration as its own reward. The joy is in the conversation, not in the meaning of words said. And that is the illusion the band creates so well, like casual banter in a well-rehersed play, we forget the lines were written long ago, and though the actors speak them night after night, somehow they are still fresh and spontaneous. Amazing how quickly 47 minutes can fly by.

Greg Howard