A Bounty Hunter's Guide: Como Asesinar a Felipes

Somewhere between the Jazz Age of the twenties and today’s Conscious Rap movement, Como Asesinar a Felipes tumbled through a rift in the space-time continuum and landed in Chile.

Como Asesinar a Felipes (photo by Gonzalo Morales)
Como Asesinar a Felipes (photo by Gonzalo Morales)

It’s hard to classify a band with such a bipolar musical style. In the past they have been likened to the Chilean version of The Roots. They could also be described neatly as a combination of rap and jazz.

But it seems overly simplistic to classify Como Asesinar a Felipes (CAF) just by lumping two genres together because when they play, every acoustic element fuses naturally into the band´s carefully crafted strand of musical DNA.

This musical fusion sweeps over the crowd when the group performs live; one lilting rhythm flows into the next, calling to mind a hauntingly melodic dystopia. Their sound is clean; each note breaking through in perfect, chaotic concordance.

Pianist SubMarcos’s ivory keys off-set the relentless beats of DJ Sp@cio. The cuts and scratches flourish, supported by SebaBala’s bass, and vocalist Koala Contreras synchronizes his punch lines to Metraca’s percussion.

Como Asesinar a Felipes (photo by Gonzalo Morales)
Como Asesinar a Felipes (photo by Gonzalo Morales)

On the international stage, there is no one musical genre that identifies Chile. Cueca and cumbia have certainly both contributed immensely to the Chilean cultural landscape, but, for a foreign listener, there is no equivalent to Brazil’s samba or Argentina’s tango to compare new sounds to.

This vacuum has allowed innovative bands like CAF to be recognized for having their own distinctive style, which they’ve been doing with great success since 2007. Initially playing at different bars and clubs in Santiago, the band has worked their way up to their first North American album release, Un Disparo al Centro.

The album continues in the same eclectic vein the band has always pursued, this time incorporating the Juvenile National Symphony Orchestra of Santiago as instrumental back up.

While Un Disparo al Centro skillfully encapsulates the band's sound as a stand-alone album, their entire discography is worth a listen, even for non-Spanish speakers. Perhaps because it draws on such a diversity of genres, the music maintains its acoustic integrity not only in a crowded music venue setting, but also during a quiet moment spent next to an open window as the early hints of a Santiago spring sneak in.

La Mano Ajena (photo by Gonzalo Morales)
La Mano Ajena (photo by Gonzalo Morales)

CAF have produced exceptional recordings, but the best way to experience the band is at a live show. Fortunately, that’s easy enough; they love to perform. In early September they played at the Sala Master del Radio U de Chile where their innovative vision extended beyond the music. They turned the traditional layout of a performance on its head by staging the entire event as a battle of the bands, alternating song for song between themselves and fellow-headliners La Mano Ajena.

Another musical conundrum in and of itself, La Mano Ajena plays a hybrid sound dubbed “klezmer a la Chilena” by the Chilean press, extracting and overlaying elements of Eastern European, Latin American, French and Russian music.

You can catch CAF’s next big show on October 19, 20 and 21 at the Octubre Festival de la Vanguardia or check out their sound cloud http://soundcloud.com/como-asesinar-a-felipes. Also, be on the lookout for a new video featuring the band produced by Revolver’s own Gonzalo Morales and Oscar Gonzalez.

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