Comprising members of the Blue Noise Band, the Golden Arm Trio and Sun Vocina, Austin's Grupo Fantasma meld their disparate influences over the roiling Colombian cumbia beat. The nine-piece group floats a three-man horn section and call-and-response Spanish vocals atop a double rhythm section. Fantasma defies even sufferers of advanced rigor mortis not to dance. While the rustic cumbia beat is always infectious, the group layers on the big-city sophistication with the various members showing off their funk, merengue, jazz and spooky dub influences to great effect. It's music you can think about while you're shaking your ass, though you'll likely be too entranced by the primal grooves to engage your frontal lobes.
The first-year band has already had some strange stage-fellows. While it's not that odd to ponder Fantasma opening for Flaco Jimenez and Los Lobos, KRS-One does not leap to mind as an ideal partner. The band also headlines a biweekly gig at Austin's Empanada Parlour.
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Grupo Fantasma's eponymous album was one of the finest releases in any genre from Austin this past year, giving that city's underrated Latin scene yet another boost. With La Tribu and the various Super Seven gatos also on the prowl in the area, el capital is giving San Antone a run for its money as the Central Texas Latin music hub. So all those Austinites sick of Texas-style John Hiatt wanna-bes and "heart-felt steel guitar chords" can go to Medellín in the meantime.