Ocote Soul Sound is the brainchild of two incredibly accomplished musicians, who continue to operate just under the radar;one more project to occupy the diminishingly available time of guitarist Adrian Quesada and flautist Martin Perna. With roots in the otherworldly grooves of label mates and benefactors Thievery Corporation, Ocote Soul Sounds' Coconut Rock
(ESL, 2009), builds on the band's "Chicanos in Outer Space" groove by adding a cinematic quality reminiscent of David Axelrod
, Weather Report
and other fusion era powerhouses.
From left: Martin Perna, Adrian QuesadaM
Adrian Quesada is the man behind the bombastic funk of Grupo Fantasma and its alter ego, Brownout. When not leading those groups, performing at Super Bowl parties thrown by iconic genius Prince, and occasionally doubling as The Purple One's backing band at impromptu gigs in Austin, TX and Las Vegas, NV, the Austin, TX-based Quesada somehow finds time to share song ideas digitally with the never-stationary Perna. A founding member of the Afrobeat orchestra Antibalas, Perna has added his flute and saxophone to recordings from the likes of TV on the Radio, Scarlett Johansson and DJ Logic.
Coconut Rock is, by far, Ocote's best record to date, showcasing the growth of the band as, well, a band. Whereas 2007's The Alchemist Manifesto (ESL) was smoke-filled rooms and psilocybin dreams, Coconut Rock is dense layers of horns and percussion, Axelrod on vacation in Tijuana or Mandrill in the bomb shelter with Madlib. "Vampires" recalls the proto-raps of Gil Scott-Heron, "The Return of the Freak" shadows the pimp walk of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Sun Ra and Parliament/Funkadelic were the freaks and weirdoes of their era, much like the Rodney Anonymous' and Flavor Flav's of Perna and Quesada's adolescence. As music fans, something always draws us to artists who seem a little odd, the tortured genius or eccentric entertainer. "The Return of the Freak" as Perna puts it.
In addition to the punk rock aesthetic of Quesada, and the mutual love and admiration of the golden era late '80s hip-hop, Ocote's sound is peppered with the chants and percussion of Yoruban religion. "A lot of the chanting that you hear on songs like 'Pan, Chamba y Techo' and 'Coconut Rock' comes from Perna's background in Yoruba. The origins of some of the vocals is obviously African, Yoruban, but the influence actually comes from 70s bands like Mandrill, bands that didn't have a lead singer, they just had a bunch of dudes who sang."
With a solid band in place for the first time, Quesada must now find time to balance the ever-hectic schedule of Grupo Fantasma and Brownout with the touring demands of Ocote Soul Sounds.
"More and more I lean towards staying home and making records but it's hard these days, especially with bands the size of Grupo and Ocote, to make any money. You just have to play and play a lot," Quesada says. "For me personally I like the fact that Grupo Fantasma and Ocote can kinda divide and conquer and play different parts of the country. Now there's an Ocote band and it's great 'cause we don't have to defer to any other band and its schedule. The band is growing in confidence and developing its own sound."
No doubt, Coconut Rock is documentation of a band finally comfortable in its own skin, finally acknowledging its status as a "real band," no longer a pet project of two staggeringly talented musicians with too many ideas in their heads and not enough outlets to explore them.
"Every musician who gets to a certain point in his/her journey begins to confront questions of identity, roots and core values," Perna reflects. "I think that is where we are right now with the music. It is a challenge to try to articulate where we are at, where we are from, and were we want to go in our own words."
Ocote Soul Sounds, Coconut Rock (ESL, 2009)
Ocote Soul Sounds, The Alchemist Manifesto (ESL, 2007)
Ocote Soul Sounds, El Niño y El Sol (ESL, 2005)
Courtesy of Ocote Soul Sounds