Ojos de Brujo
PIAS 5.11.07

This is what it says on the box – “live settings of the much-praised studio album, Techari.” Surprising – you’d’ve thought they might have enough material not to release a live version of a studio album for their second release! But there’s quantity here – it’s a live album and DVD of the same gig. Song orders are re-shuffled for some reason and some extras appended (music videos, backstage snippets). This is a record of an evening in Barcelona in December last year, documenting this mash-up of a band. Being an anarchist collective drawing on Romany traditions, amongst others, the cast is ever-changing at the front, in the way that other collectives like Crass or Chumbawumba like to give everyone a chance in the spotlight. There the comparisons stop, since Ojos De Brujo fuse Latin rhythms with hip-hop, flamenco, funk and other bits and bobs. The highpoints are where the tres comes to the front and a salsa beat predominates or where distinctively Indian drum patterns feature. Spanish culture has long been a fusing ground of the Middle Eastern, North African and European – this adds in influences from the Americas to bring it up to date.

The album opens with a relaxed beat not a million miles from The Eagles, dressed up with flamenco clothes – easy but unchallenging. Things get more interesting with some turntablism, scratching, and Latin moments. At times the horns dampen the energy while aiming for a jazzy mood. Other times they punctuate effectively but it is the percussion that defines things here. A cover of Marley’s Get Up Stand Up re-injects energy and we move on to some rapping, then Dance Hall toasting before Indian tabla patterns frame a couple of numbers. It is surprising that the urge to a dance frenzy is a little muted and only kicks in now and again, where flamenco usually has my toes tapping hard – I think it is the dilution with modern beats. Still, you have to credit them with something for dragging all this stuff together, stirring and playing with the results. There’s some talented playing here and the DVD lets you see the ever-changing cast of performers. If you were after a spicy soup of dance for a party – this’d put a tang on any jaded tongue.

Ross McGibbon