A year ago, I was eating and drinking my way through Mexico City — oh, how I miss street tacos, and the churros and hot chocolate at El Moro — but it's not a trip out of town until I hit the record shops. Retroactivo, in the city's Roma Norte neighborhood, was exactly my speed: second-hand vinyl packed into every corner, rigorous genre cataloging and a storefront that bleeds into the street, with cheap records for the crate diggers.
I came searching for Mexican punk and psych; the store owner helpfully steered me towards early Caifanes, Intestino Grueso and Los Lichis. But then, I was struck by the sepia-toned cover for Almas Fronterizas' self-titled debut album — three long-haired dudes in a mix of native and denim threads, looking like an obscure '70s private-press record by an indigenous rock band. I wasn't too far off — just fast-forward a few decades, to the Chicano community of San Francisco. Cousins Gilberto Rodriguez, Karin Rodriguez and Carlos Rodriguez mixed psych-rock and cumbia in raw expressions of love and trouble, spun out after dark.
Almas Fronterizas' latest EP, Rosa Tropical, dials down the hard-edged psych for Chicano-soul, still led by Gilberto Rodriguez's raw and wandering voice, but ornamented by spacey and muted trumpet and slow-burning congas.
Jaimes Rodriguez directs the video, a mini-movie really, for "Rosa Tropical," capturing L.A. nightlife in the lowest of lowriders and the biggest pomps of hair. The band remains largely in the background, with cut-aways to a live performance here and there, but the story lies in the tentativeness of a new romance, and the hope of scoring a cool car for a hot date. Everyone looks fly as hell, as stylized by J.C. de Luna of Barrio Dandy, with Almas Fronterizas' self-described "barrio soul" burning the edges of the evening with chrome embers.
Rosa Tropical is out now via Bandcamp.