*This was originally posted on repress.*
Hot off their debut last April, Sr. Carajo are one of many creatives showing up those of us who’ve got nothing done during lockdown, now releasing a new EP and looking to make waves. Reigning from a budding underground scene in Bogotá, Colombia, these guys flit between punk, rock, and psychedelia like it’s their day job – and they certainly don’t hate Mondays. Sporting a colourful and entertaining sound adoring not nearly enough grateful ears, they release Malviaje today, a follow-up to last year’s 80.000 V Ojo de Dragón Morrison.
Last time out, singer and frontman Ariel Chapavel told me that the band’s first EP followed the story of a mythological fantasy world split between a magical kingdom and a non-magical kingdom, the former ruled by a powerful duck entity and the latter ruled by the mighty Diablo, Beelzebub himself. It chartered the tale of titular protagonist Ojo de Dragón Morrison and his battles with Diablo across bash, playful and bouncing rhythms spanning King Gizzard, Black Sabbath and At the Drive-In comparisons, all played alongside its own special li’l spice.
He told me that most other Colombian music had become increasingly laborious as it just talked about breakups. Perhaps Sr. Carajo and their music are exactly what Colombia needs. Perhaps they are exactly what we all need, still, to this day, cooped up in our homes, scrambling for any semblance of fun or adventure amidst a time that feels as if it’s time that’s been forgot.
Malviaje (or Mishaps), continues in a similar vein, as joyously as that first foray but with yet more swagger. Whilst the Spanish-spoken lyrics are lost on me, the carefree festivity vibrating through the music suffices to tell a detailed story, its irreverent verve meeting jest in Chapavel’s vocals that serenade and shout like a seesaw that’s probably had a drink too many.
Straight off the bat, this new EP sounds fresh. The first of five tracks, Tardes Moradas (Sueños y Malviajes) (or Purple Afternoons (Dreams and Mishaps)), graces us with a sturdy, fudgy bassline (courtesy of Joel Mohnblatt) hopping at a mid-pace alongside crispy hi-hats – it’s a groove. Guitars float in bit by bit, and by the time the vocals slumber we’re amidst a delightfully psychedelic trance, that popping bass being a particular highlight, somewhat akin to Polygondwanaland sounds.
We find another mid-pace psychedelic bop in track two, Luego Vemos, with watery guitars flowing between an accomplished, steady melody dipped in the odd fuzz pedal and synth sound, adding a necessary twinge of seasoning to a song that could find its home in any local venue to swaying hips and nodding heads. There’s a patient, progressive feel to this new EP, a little less hyperactive than their first, a little more mature despite the fact there’s only a handful of months between them. I’m told that the band wanted to focus on issues that concerned them this time, as oppose to just otherworldly battle sequences. I’m fine with either, honestly. And for good measure, Sr. Carajo manage to mix in both.
The wonderfully off-beat fourth track saunters in with a nod or two to the plight of Ojo de Dragón Morrison and introduces a new character in the titular Buda Eléctrico (Electric Buddha), a character I’d love to get to know better with its intriguing stop-start rhythm, whilst El Hombre Avispa (The Wasp Man) pounces on the back-end of the comfy, almost shoe-gaze sound on Luego Vemos to bring in an aptly timed burst of energy, approaching the subject of “bees dying because of the use of pesticides”. It does so with a brash confidence told through big chunky riffs across a meandering song structure that just gets better and better with each listen. I learn that the word Avispa (Wasp) is used in Colombian Spanish as an insult to the sort of loser who tries to take advantage of a situation at another’s expense. You tell ‘em.
Capped off by a mysterious, roaming adventure through Párajos, Cordilleras y Agua (Mountain Ranges, Birds and Water) — which, I’m told, explores raising awareness about water usage — this little 5-track EP I feel manages to fit in more than their first one could. With Malviaje, Sr. Carajo add earthly blues and greens to a musical colour pallet that already sounded kaleidoscopic. They swap a focus on punky chunkiness for a more progressive, introspective, but still equally fun sound that gives off an aura of wanting to achieve more, whilst retaining that sardonic edge that keeps their feet firmly attached to the ground.
It’s a short musical journey, this one, but it feels like a journey nonetheless, straddling sounds almost akin to Thee Oh Sees and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s finest solo work (see Cizaña de los Amores) – and that’s exciting to me. A razor-sharp, spacious mix loaded with fuzz, reverb and flangers makes it feel like a step forward from their debut, not only musically but production-wise, too. Cono González certainly knows how to hold a drum beat here, and Juan Daniel García seems like a guy who’s having the time of his life playing around with all the guitar pedals he got for Christmas, his odd inclusion of synths here and there being a very welcome inclusion. This is a band enjoying themselves, and they aren’t taking themselves too seriously in the process. That honest lack of pretense really shows itself in the music, here, and yet they still seem to have something serious to say about the world that’s worth listening to.
Where I felt like Sr. Carajo could have expanded their sound further after 80.000 V Ojo de Dragón Morrison, I finish playthroughs of Malviaje completely content that they’ve done so. Only now I’m awaiting a full LP release with eager anticipation – and a European tour perhaps? Let’s spread the word. To anyone into anything remotely psychedelic and/or rocky, give this little EP a go. You won’t regret it.
best tracks: El Hombre Avispa, Tardes Moradas (Sueños y Malviajes)