One of Chile's greatest exports Como Asesinar a Felipes have released their sixth studio album Elipse via Bill Gould's Koolarrow Records.
Their unconventional yet highly addictive fusion of hip hop and jazz has made them one of the country’s most popular emerging acts, something which Bill immediately recognised and embraced via his record label. Elipse was of course engineered/mixed by Bill Gould and recorded at Estudios Koolarrow in Oakland, California. Bill's Talking Book collaborator Jared Blum was also part of the production process.
Here is more on this adventurous new release from the Koolarrow website.
Elispe coincides with two major events – CAF’s tenth anniversary and the departure of their longtime keyboardist. With his exit came the addition of renowned South American saxophonist Cristián Gallardo, a much in-demand jazz musician. CAF is comprised of Koala Contreras, SebaBala, Metraca, DJ Sp@cio, and Gallardo. “While it is a CAF album, we were heavily influenced by the addition of Cristián. We are always researching, progressing, and Cristián came with a musical contribution that worked perfectly.” The addition of the saxophone creates an almost palpable darkness and element of chaos into the project.
What also worked perfectly was the album title, ELIPSE, which translates in English to ellipse. Unconventionally, the six-track album is really a single piece of music divided up into six songs. “The album is one long song, recorded as a continuous piece with no overdubs. One part is inspired by Bach´s “Crab Canon,” an arrangement of two musical lines that are complementary, going forwards and backwards, similar to a palindrome. This represents the infinite, like the Möbius strip; there is something we like about this theme of continuation. It represents the circle of life, and like life itself, nothing is perfect– the circle is more of an elipse.”
Our friend Adriano Mazzeo spoke to Bill and Felipe Metraca about this album for Mondo Sonoro (Original Article in Spanish).
Why do you think CAF is a band worth working with?
I think they do something really different. They follow their own sound, it's not something that many groups are doing, it's very unusual. They are even different for Latin America. When we started talks, I realized that I could help them in some ways. I don't like to work just for fun, I'm a rather vague type (laughs), but when I find something I can be useful in, I like to get involved. It gives me energy.
How do you feel about the result of Elipse? Do you think it's the album that defines the sound of the band?
I'm very happy. It was a challenge because it's the first time that the band recorded without a keyboard player. Also the way it was recorded: it was done in a continuous session, from beginning to end, so what you hear is one piece. I had never done this before. You will notice that it was an important challenge when mixing it, because the music has many changes and sounds. So I'm extremely happy with the result, I think it's different from the other albums, it's a lot more psychedelic and it's a big step forward for them. I can guess that in the future they will continue to advance in different directions, but they are certainly in a great moment.
In this record they added a saxphone, it's new instrument, a striking protagonism.
It's just that these guys are not afraid of change. They remind me of certain groups in San Francisco in the 1980s in that regard. There were no rules, it was all very punk. There really was not a "music industry", that was for the best. People took risks constantly and this is something that is not seen now. Each subsequent generation was becoming more and more conventional, but they were not. And they do not do it, they're just being themselves. They do it very safely, and that is a strange thing. I'm very excited to meet that kind of vision.
Was it an idea from scratch to record it in one shot?
Yes, they came with an idea and a structure. In Chile they tried that structure for several months and the idea of how the album was supposed to "happen", but also left room for improvisation. They arrived in San Francisco and the first day we were in the studio controlling everything was perfect for the recording. The next day they played the record twice and the next two more times and already, back to Chile (laughs) It was really fast! But they knew the structure and every time they touched it it sounded very different from the previous one. I do not know how they did it, because I was never in a band that works that way, but it was very effective. They were very trusting among them.
So you have four versions of Elipse.
Yes, maybe five. It's interesting, we can offer alternative versions (laughs). There are differences in the drums, in some cases it has more swing, in others it is more relaxed. The sax is completely different from one version to another, Gallardo has an amazing technique and plays with great naturalness. The rhythm section is fairly consistent, but still has important variations. And what was most impressive was what Koala did, that even when his partners varied their way of playing from one version to another, he nailed the vowels to perfection at all times. I do not know how the hell he did it. Amazing.
What attracts you the most about producing bands from other countries?
There are two things. Working with good music is always fun. And doing it with people who have a good sense of camaraderie is great too. I feel like I'm doing something good by helping groups from other countries as the United States exports most of its music and is not interested in what goes beyond its limits, so it's good to try to level that disadvantage and fight against that kind of mentality.
I see some similarities between them and Faith No More. In both cases they are groups with members who have different types of influences, other musical tastes and also come together to create a unique sound, do you agree?
Yes! I agree and that is possibly the reason why I connect this way with them. The similarities are not musical, but they are in the way different types of people end up in something that they had not done before.
And do you think it is important to have this type of configuration inside a band to achieve original sounds?
No, I don't think so. I think the important thing is how you are going to use the conditions that the human group presents you, as you do when you are about to start cooking and you think what spices and how many of them you will use to reach the best possible dish. And of course it is important to be in touch with what you feel. Obviously it is important to have people do something great, it will be much more interesting among many than just, but the main thing is that these people are connected with their inner voice. I think there are no rules, or maybe yes and they could be "do not think too much and do not want to be something that you are not.
What other things are you working on these days and what are your plans for the future, Billy?
Good question. I am involved in many things but when I ask myself, I'm left blank (laughs). I'm involved in probably five things at the same time right now. Let me think. Well, we are entering the stage of mixing with The Talking Book, the project I share with Dominic Cramp and Jared Blum - who is guest on "Ellipse"-. We hope to have it finished in the next month. It took us two years to get to this point. It is not easy, at least for me, to move forward with this project. It is time-consuming music. But the process is well worth it. Once we have it finished we will see how the hell we do to play it live, because the truth is that it is a pretty crazy material. I'm also producing a movie about a rock band from Afghanistan. It's a very interesting story. I met the director and immediately offered my help as a producer. Possibly be released next year. It is the first time that I've done something like this and I learned a lot, as well as I asked for advice to many friends who have done this before. The story is very funny and it is curious to see how a garage band survives in Afghanistan, and the sacrifices they must make for that. It is fascinating. I like to take on these challenges, it's what keeps me young and does not depress me (laughs).
|Jared Blum in the studio|
How would you define Elipse?
This new album is a dark psychedelic trip. It is important to note that it is dark because we have been mutating during the development of the record, and there is no color in Elipse , as you can guess after reading that it is a psychedelic record. It has a lot of weight, a lot of density, a lot of improvisation too. We considered having basic structures, but they were flexible. That is new for us since we always work the compositions with rigidity, respecting them strictly. It's amazing when one is playing something and does not know what will happen to others, so it has its reactions and returns. We had never done this and it was a very special trip for us. "Elipse" is fifty percent preconceived structure and fifty percent improvisation, while in our previous albums we handled a ratio of 95% and 5%. I think that the album consecrates our search, our way of working, that of being so stubborn. As Billy tells us, we like to reinvent ourselves, we are never comfortable in the place we are. We had an armed project and then came the change of formation, so with the entrance of the saxophonist we wanted to erase everything and start from scratch. In fact we talked to the guys and it was like starting a band again. Getting to make this album required a huge amount of work, even the sax was not something that convinced us at first.
How does the idea of the album and its concept come about?
We are totally "rehearsed", we rehearse a lot. In one of these rehearsals came a conversation in which I as musical director put myself in the shoes of "Mister" and analyzed the virtues of each player of the band. With Cristian Gallardo I noticed that the improvisation was generated very spontaneously, and one day Koala came saying that he wanted to talk about life, to be born, to live and to die and thus we were accommodating each other within the idea. We were always fans of the conceptual rock albums of progressive rock and every record we made tried to add a concept. That momentum is very noticeable in this disc. To reinforce the concept, we set ourselves the goal of never stopping music, so it is done in a continuous session.
How complicated was the change of mentality when incorporating Cristian Gallardo?
It was very difficult. Musically it was very complex. We had been playing with the keyboard for ten years. There came a time, when our second keyboard player went, in which we thought about stopping the band or follow, but to continue we did not want a third keyboardist to come and review the whole repertoire. We had the energy to do something new, so the first thing that occurred to us was to find musicians who handled well the analog synthesizers, the modular ones. We did a survey, but we did not find anyone who knew how to do that here. If Jared Blum lived in Chile would have worked perfect. That's when we tried Gallardo. He attracted us all the roll he carries with the effects, the pedals, et cetera, he is not a classical saxophonist. We started making new music, but it was very difficult. It took us eight months of "laboratory" to set up a show in which the whole band had to take on new roles. Spacio, our DJ, had to start playing in certain parts where it was one hundred percent necessary, and his part was not so improvised or free. It was complicated but today I can say with confidence that the band is better than before. We are more interesting and we have more to contribute. Although it is also true that some hard fans did not accompany us in this change and no longer follow us. In any case, the main thing in this change was to have very well matched the human factor: we are not a group that is becoming a millionaire, therefore it is fundamental that the relationships are good and can withstand the bustle of rehearsals, recordings, tours, etc. In the end that is more important than the fact that musicians are virtuous.
Having successfully undergone this change, can you think that the sound of the band can continue to mutate without limits?
There's a DNA back there that weighs: we're still four of five founding members, maybe it's a comment that comes from deep inside, but I'm sorry. We managed to make a record that sounded like Como Asesinar a Felipes because when we added saxo we always made it clear that we did not want to be the typical "experimental band with sax", like Mr. Bungle, So-and-so, Zu, etcetera. We wanted to incorporate this instrument into our sound, giving it a rather pianistic approach and not a noisy and prominent element.
It is clear, the saxophone in Elipse has a very notorious melodic protagonism.
It was the way to get deep into the project. The idea was to make a record to be integrated, so that he began to be part of the group.
How did Bill Gould get involved in the album process?
Bill could be one of us, we look alike. He is very respectful. He is not a guy who comes and wants things done in his own way. He is dedicated to being the recording engineer and to putting a stop to that. He is always very concerned about the sound, he likes to produce very much, he is careful with the position of the microphones, we try the battery for a whole day. His contribution comes from that side, almost nothing from the musical. Then when he starts to mix, he changes everything again, he becomes a cook who changes colors and tastes all that is needed. It is a perfectionist, but it also leaves room for the unexpected, perhaps a strange noise appears that we do not know where it came from and, if you like it, propose to leave it. He is very hardworking and organized.
The record takes you further away from the jazz-hip hop sound to get you into old electronics or krautrock. How do they relate to the influences they incorporate?
We share a lot of music between us, also books, films, paintings ... We are coming to the new influences in a very natural way. I do not know what that will be called, but I feel that many people in the world are connected because they have similar influences and ages. It happened to me with Jared with whom we started talking about The Beatles and we realized that that influence came to us in the same way: late in our lives, and that we liked the same songs on the white disc, etcetera. I feel that there are many connections that are made by what is happening in the world, a kind of symbiosis between people of different origins. This must have a name, I know it's not a very original theory (laughs). For example our relationship with jazz is changing as well. When we started we were very"Kind Of Blue" and the work of McCoy Tyner, and ten years later we turn to places that have connections with what Miles Davis did ten years later "Kind Of Blue" . I think they are natural searches when you want to get a new sound.