One of my favorite albums of the early 20th century (well actually of ALL TIME) was New Order’s 2001 effort, Get Ready, a CD that I adored for its fusion of old New Wave aesthetics (dreamy, romantic vocals, intricate layers of techno/electronic music) with just the right ratio of simple rock n’ roll guitar distortion and punk aggression. And while frontman Bernard Sumner and company needn’t look far to see their influence echoed in modern contemporaries (i.e. Bloc Party, The Killers, etc.), even they wouldn’t expect to find their eclectic sound so delightfully thriving in the farthest place from native England that they could imagine:
Enter SWEET ELECTRA from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
Since their 2002 debut album Lying To Be Sweet, the members of Sweet Electra have since honed a sound not unlike that of New Order’s Get Ready, which is to say, a unique and engaging synergy of old school / new school thought that vacillates seamlessly between New Wave, Electronic, and Indie Rock whilst also retaining their native Mexican roots, drawing from other flavorful genres like Latin Jazz, Bossa Nova, and Drum and Bass.
(Sweet Electra’s “Shadow” released off their 2007 effort, CAMA.)
In other words, the ADHD generation is gonna love it.
At the core of the musical melting pot is the duo of Nardiz Cooke (vocals) and Giovanni Escalera (producer, composer, and guitarist). Escalera, who helped herald the late-90s electronic music scene in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, divided his formative years between being weaned on traditional Latin American pop and consuming the latest British New Wave. No doubt, this was a driving catalyst in shaping Sweet Electra’s unspoken modus operandi: to create truly, worldly music. After forming Sweet Electra in 2002, Giovanni relocated to Mexico City’s burgeoning bohemian art scene in 2005, where he auditioned now vocalist Nardiz Cooke. Unlike Escalera, Cooke’s upbringing was relatively more straightforward, performing in traditional mariachi bands as a youth. The idea of collaborating with the even then mesmerizing stage performer prompted Escalera to record their second album, CAMA, in 2007. And the rest they say, is history; Sweet Electra quickly established a rampant following in Mexico City off the strength of both CAMA and their live performances, and at the height of their fandom, migrated to New York City in the hopes of making it big.
Whether its posing for a picture, or doing interviews for the various media outlets, its clear that the dichotomy that both binds and separates Escalera and Cooke is not lost on them; on-stage or off, the two-some appear about as homeopathic as Riggs and Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon series. Vocalist Cooke croons about vulnerability and loss exactly how you’d expect a love of child of Sade and Shirley Manson to croon; her sultry deliveries are a fantastic juxtaposition when paired with Escalera’s manic yet meticulous gauntlet of instrumental arrangements.
And yet, with all of the band’s idiosyncrasies in place, Sweet Electra’s sound is still somehow superbly organic, and impossibly accessible, for casual fans and music geeks alike. Chill, yet brimming with controlled chaos. Expansive yet still grounded. This is the type of band you can’t wait to show off to your pretentious music snob friends or to rejuvenate that iPod long since weaned on too much Lady Gaga and Owl City (I like those too, but I’ll deny it to my grave if I have to).
Their latest album, When We Abandoned Earth, was inspired by the year they spent acclimating to their new hometown of New York and is dropping this April to already positive reviews.
“A Feeling,” from When We Abandoned Earth: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/MP3_01_-A-Feeling.mp3|titles=MP3_01_ A Feeling]
“Te Fuiste,” from When We Abandoned Earth: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/MP3_02_Te-Fuiste.mp3|titles=MP3_02_Te Fuiste]