Review Summary: An enticingly vital blend of Latin American fusion and progressive rock.
Scouring the myriad of new releases from progressive groups all over the world that are now readily available for online streaming is often a quite arduous pastime. After listening to ten Genesis clones and sampling the wares of the umpteenth slick outfit channeling Porcupine Tree influences into some drab and sterile offering one tends to become rather jaded. It can take something special to jolt one out of this weary and complacent state but this particular release by the Chilean prog-fusion act Hominido did just that. Take a finely honed balance of ethnically inspired tribal rhythms, delectably organic guitar riffs and chamber orchestra instrumentation. Throw in a big helping of jazz and swing and top it all off with some beautifully soulful and yearning female vocals and you've got the basic recipe for this particular blend of sweet Chile prog-fusion sauce.
This album is a collaboration between vocalist Eliana Valenzuela and some ex-members of the now defunct Chilean fusion outfit La Desooorden
. Eliana's singing is just as lyrical as her actual name and her contribution on this release is the obvious draw for a first time listener. From the first moment we hear her gorgeous voice floating softly over the intricate rhythms of opener 'Simun' it is apparent that she will serve as a melodic anchor throughout the subsequent ride through the snaking arrangements laid down by her virtuosic colleagues Pablo Carcamo, Francisco Martin and Rodrigo Gonzalez Mera. Many of the tracks on here exhibit stark changes in mood ranging from low key Latin American flavoured jazz through castanet-clicking Spanish guitar, insistent metal style overdriven chugs and fusion style lead guitar shredding. The guitar work is a particular highlight and there are a slew of memorable crunchy riffs littered among the restless soundscapes that could form the central backbone to any number of straightforward catchy hard rock songs. The band confidently employ a whole host of sonic devices to add character and contrast to their music including drone pipes, South Asian style percussion, volume pedal swells and even spaghetti western style Jew's harp, but these sounds blend perfectly with the arrangements and enhance the whole experience without descending into gimmickry.
It is not just the adventurous sonic palette and bold fusion of styles on here that grabs the attention. Slotted in among the bolder compositions are some beautiful romantic offerings such as the hypnotic 'Shalagram Shila' and possibly the most straightforwardly balladic song on here in the form of the haunting 'Desde las Cumbres al Mar' which features a wonderful performance from Eliana on vocals and a yearning violin accompaniment. However, the group are arguably at their most compelling when they mix things up a bit. Take the album closer 'Magma', for example. This eight minute slice of ethnic prog begins with a hesitant echoed guitar motif which mutates into a catchy little hook before Eliana's rich vocals take over with the accompaniment of some smooth jazzy trumpet. This relatively straightforward intro-verse-chorus structure soon gives way to some fusion guitar fills and chaotic riffing under blaring Mexican horns and eventually builds to frantic wah-wah leads to bring proceedings to a cacophonic conclusion.
There are a whole host of contemporary progressive and fusion releases that sound ambitious and impressive on the surface but much of it inevitably leaves an antiseptic aftertaste, succeeding at a technical level but falling well short of stirring the emotions. However, this album manages to avoid falling into that category. The combination of the production, the instrumentation and undoubtedly the performances on here lend the music an earthy and organic timbre that succeeds in engaging the listener, fostering a sense of warmth and entrancement. It could take a few listens to fully appreciate the album but even if you don't usually gravitate towards this type of ethnic fusion the inherent soulfulness and enticingly sensual Latin American atmosphere may just draw you in and keep hold of you.