Admittedly, the first thing that most indie music fans will first notice or remember about Chikita Violenta is that they’re Mexican. Despite protests to the contrary, alternative music is a rich world, Anglo-American-dominated style of music, and not just because of the preference for the English language – how many indie bands are among the countless numbers of Indian English-speakers? But once you’re past the curious fact of Chikita’s nationality, does their new TRE3S hold up on its own merits? Yes it does, as while their third record can feel a little confused at times, it has an interesting and enjoyable mix of fuzzy expanse, rhythmic underpinnings, garage-pop catch and more.
First brought to the wider world by Canadian producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Los Campesinos!), the fuzzy, higher elements on many of the pieces do have a Canadian tinge, but it also means that such elements are done right, such as the growing "All I Need’s a Little More". However, Chikita also employ a rhythmic underpinning to keep their pieces from floating off into the upper echelons of the atmosphere; slightly rough, there’s a lo-fi-ish garage feel, but it comes at the sound from an entirely different direction than your run-of-the-mill Brooklyn garage-rock outfit, ghostly but also substantial in "The Pause". There are times when the differing sounds don’t fit together so well, like the wandering instrumental "Holiday" or mixed up beats and samples "The Monster (Was Last Seen Approaching the Power Plant)" – the band is better when there’s singing (all in English, just in case you were worried…).
But more often, the two are made more than their sum thanks to a bright catch. Though it would seem at odds with both the airy nature and rhythmic substance, "Tired", "ATPG", and closer/bonus track "Laydown" have an indie-pop, bright-garage style that is both catchy and evocative. While that is the band’s best work on TRE3S, there’s also the psych-power-pop "España" (reminiscent of Oklahoma’s Colourmusic – QRO live review), shiny shamble-procession "My Connection", and more. While one can’t help but wish that Chikita had kept some of their ambitions in check and played it a little straighter (especially for their first album to be released internationally), as some of the shifts can be jarring and they’ve found a wheelhouse to swing in, there are rewards as well.
Every once in a while, Mexico gets a look-see from the music world, including the alternative music world, thanks to its geographical and cultural proximity to the U.S., plus America’s own large Mexican-American market. 2003-2004 saw Monterrey’s up-and-comers dubbed the ‘Avanzada Regia’, which Mexico City’s Chikita Violenta got swept up in/categorized with/ignored alongside after that scene never came to fruition (American eyes moved north to the ‘Canadian Invasion’ of acts like Broken Social Scene…). And only last year, Brooklyn DIY concert impresario Todd P attempted to create a new festival south of the border, a Mexican answer to Austin’s South-by-Southwest (QRO recap), but it was plagued by bad management/chickening out bands/monopolistic bus companies, depending on who you ask. Toronto label Arts & Crafts seems to have found a more sustainable model in releasing Canadian & American records down there, plus booking the odd show in the ‘Distrito Federal’. Chikita Violenta no doubt helped that, but this is all really just a side-note to TRE3S (albeit one that will be highlighted), an interesting and enjoyable album that has familiar elements in new ways.
MP3 Stream: "Tired"