Florida is a strange place. Live here long enough and you either grow complacent with its strip-mall lifestyle, learn to love the projected simulacra, or curse its paradisiacal pretension, suburban drag and discordant crossroads. But one man's cultural wasteland is another's reverie, and there's no band on the peninsula that dredges Florida's under-the-radar urban sublimity like the Spam Allstars.
The Miami outfit's first international release, Introducing Spam Allstars, is a funky hodgepodge culled from the band's last three discs. Frontman and Florida transplant Andrew Yeomanson, aka DJ Le Spam, is a half-British, half-Venezuelan Canadian who grew up bouncing between London, Tampa, Bogotá and Miami. Yeomanson cut his teeth DJ'ing on a pirate radio station in Miami and assembled his supercharged, A-list posse while gigging at Little Havana's nostalgic Cuban nightclub'turned'Latin hipster haven Hoy Como Ayer. There he attracted musicians like guitarist Adam Zimmon, a former member of Shakira's band; timbales player and vocalist Tomas Diaz; A.J. Hill, a Miami jazzman who plays sax and has performed with Sly and the Family Stone and Herbie Hancock; sax player Steve Welsh; flautist Mercedes Abal, a Cuban refugee and former member of the Albita band; trombonist and vocalist Chad Bernstein; and percussionist Lazaro Alfonso, formerly of Irakere ' Cuba's top Latin-jazz ensemble, founded by pianist Chucho Valdés.
As Spam Allstars, they spin a web of heady grooves around Yeomanson's uncanny manipulations, resulting in a harmonious melange of electronic elements, samples of old Latin vinyl and the live muscle of a Latin conjunto. The band even coined a new genre to describe its confluence of improvisational electronica and hot Latin rhythms, especially those of the Afro-Cuban variety. Actually, they've invented two: Electro-descarga and electro-charanga. The former is an allusion to the behind-the-scenes jam sessions that fueled Cuba's Golden Age of music in the '40s and '50s, and the latter a reference to the popular string-and-flute'infused Cuban dance form that emerged around the same time.
Introducing captures the synergy between old and new and Spam Allstars' chemistry onstage and in the studio. This dream team echoes the old-school approach of traveling bands honing their skills on the road before anything else. Especially adroit at manning the decks on the fly, Yeomanson sets the tone for the rest of the crew, each of whom brings a distinct sabor to the conversation as it swells into masterful interplay. 'Gallo Pintoâ?� is a retro tumbao with a hustling horn section, chugging chekere, an insistent funk guitar riff and soothing flute. 'Ochiminiâ?� packs trance-inducing verve, with its heavy bass line and Yoruban chant. The more melodious, light-on-your-feet 'Afrikaâ?� entices, while 'Descarga Gusanoâ?� is a freewheeling jam session layered with brass and handclaps ' all of which reflect the in-between-worlds muddle that makes our state one of the most surreal and postmodern places in the world.