Words by Howard Male
It is no surprise that this band formed around three Colombian percussionists, because nearly every track has at its core a complex rhythmic storm. But the rest of La Chiva Gantiva (two Belgians, a Frenchman and a Vietnamese) prevent things from becoming predictable or generic. One fairly typical song, ‘Me Voy De Mi Cabeza’, kicks off with choppy Afrobeat guitar, playful cumbia call-and-response horns and sparse bass guitar interjections. But then in comes some heavy rock guitar chords and dissonant soloing. Incredibly, the end result is more Clash than chaotic clash of cultures.
It’s not all punk-funk global fusion with shouty choruses. There’s also an experimental arty aesthetic at work here. The unpredictable chord progressions and angular avant-garde arrangement of ‘Loco Como Yo’ is so off-kilter it somehow evokes both Bowie and Beefheart (two artists one doesn’t usually think of as working in a similar terrain). But that’s the beauty of this record; it leaves you searching for accurate comparisons and coming up short – Manu Chao being one often made about the band, but the resemblance is fairly superficial. It’s absurdly early days, but Vivo could be a contender for a place among this year’s best albums.