Written by Luka Osborne
April fools will see the return of Electro-fusion artists Tijuana Cartel to the Rhythm Hut; it’s no laughing matter. For those who haven’t heard of Tijuana Cartel before, a good place to start is their latest release Psychedelicatessen. Just over a year ago, the album launched them on a nationwide tour including Woodford and Falls festivals. This album is a show reel of all their best elements and fusion ideas. It is an album that you must listen start to finish; it is thematic in that it employs samples from gonzo journalist Russel Guy’s philosophical radio show from 1978. Guy’s samples combine with the cosmic instrumentation to create an album that explores travel and diversity in a very Australian sense.
In an interview with MusicFeeds Tijuana’s Paul George stated: “I was strangely nervous about approaching Russell to ask him to use his material… He was this edgy, gonzo hippie from my adolescent imagination so I didn’t know quite what to expect or what approach to take.”
Read more at HERE
Unique Tijuana Cartel is that a roots/flamenco/folk song can blend into a dance banger and vice versa. Never knowing what to expect, guitar samples may be mixed with live drums and percussion before a chorus blasts you through the stratosphere with pumping beat.
The albums introductory song Skyfall begins with Russel Guy’s dialogue embedded in a sea of psychedelic squelches and swooshes. Out of this ascends the songs dominant bass hook that slips in through a fat backbeat. The combination has a stoner-rock head banging aesthetic however the guitar sound is flamenco and acoustic. Each successive chorus employs a thick square wave that cuts above the mix with panned synth sequences.
Following, ‘Endlessly’ is a track that really makes you want to move. With classic rock sentiments the distorted funky bass-line will likely cause a bobbing of the head. The chorus is big and fuzzy and all the while synth textures and upbeat vocals help to build the track and make it uniquely Tijuana. The song ends with a cryptic quote by Guy, mentioning cats and dogs as good travel companions. The travelling companions theme carries over to the next track ‘Lost my head’. This track is upbeat and a head nod to the Beatles psychedelic period; think ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ but with modern compressed drums and Flamenco guitar. There is a variety of textures as long echoed guitar lines blend with shorter plucked acoustic lines, creating a sense of depth and space.
The following track ‘Fall‘ is one of the darker tracks on the album. The vocal work of this song guides the simple unassuming verse before the huge chorus unfolds, employing fuzzy diminished chords reminiscent of slow metal varieties. The juxtaposition between the verse and the chorus can almost catch you off-guard, a classic Tijuana trait. The sporadic nature keeps you on your feet… literally. As Fall fades, Guy reassures us that Australia is just an extension of Antarctica, to the beginning percussion of Music Parasol. This track is a classic ‘four too the floor’ dance anthem with offbeat synth instrumentation. Guy’s dialogue continues after the dreamy ‘Taste for life’, where he mentions his encounters with Indigenous Australian’s on his travels. Though cryptic Guy’s dialogue builds an image of a diverse and mystic Australia.
Spend Ya Money has a classic synth wave/dream pop vibe with slight anti-capitalist undertones. A big backbeat outlines spaced out vocals which fade into the distance forever. The main vocals in the chorus seem to assert the back of ones mind on a Friday afternoon as they chant: ’Lets get drunk and spend your money’.
Offer yourself begins with calm acoustic guitar arpeggios with tastefully built layers of synth work. Thick square waves can be heard before a ‘wub wub’ LFO bass before fading into a spaced-out string interlude. This creates a great snapshot of Tijuanna cartels mastery of blending the acoustic and the electronic. The song ends with kookaburra samples.
The last track on the album ‘Sedative heart’ serves as a calm outro. Smooth synthesizers are layered onto a backbeat. The short track has layers of echoed guitars create a peaceful atmosphere.
This album is a masterful blend of genres and instrumentation. The composition is playful and not afraid switch genres in the blink of an eye – all the while Russel Guy provides a uniquely Australian backdrop. It’s an album that is forever changing and progressing, where any moment shock or calm, get you on your feet or the couch. If I haven’t convinced you then let Tijuana Cartel in person on the 1st of April at 7pm. Details and ticket found HERE
They will be playing Psychedelicatessen as well as their older catalogue, including extended dance remixes.