The Adventures of ‘El Santo’ : The long-delayed follow-up to King Chango’s debut album takes the rock en espanol band to distant places via electronica.
Fans of the notoriously kaleidoscopic rock en espanol outfit King Chango are in for a surprise with the band’s next album.
They’ll find the seductive presence of electronica everywhere in the sextet’s revamped sound.
“There’s new textures in our music,” said Andres Blanco, the Venezuelan lead singer with King Chango, which will preview material from the new record, the group’s second, Sunday at JC Fandango in Anaheim. “It’s not only about mixing different musical styles, like before. It’s also the addition of loops and samples. Half of the record is [based in] electronica.”
When it debuted on the rock en espanol scene, the New York-based band was all about the combination of ska with some reggae and traditional Latin rhythms, though there were hints that behind the ska inflections lay more promising musical adventures.
Whether that promise will be realized should be answered in January, when David Byrne’s boutique label Luaka Bop releases “The Return of El Santo,” the much-delayed follow-up to Chango’s 1996 debut.
“Every song [on the new record] sounds as if it was the soundtrack of a different movie, with its own identity,” he said. “There’s a merengue, some jungle, a calypso and a ska that sounds just like the Specials.”
Blanco sounds frustrated with the hang-ups in getting the album released, part of which resulted from Luaka Bop’s parting from Warner Bros. and seeking a new deal for major-label distribution.
But the recording process itself also took longer than expected. The album slowly became one of those recorded in different cities around the world under various producers.
Some tracks were produced by KC Porter (known for his work with Ricky Martin and Fabulosos Cadillacs.) Because Porter also was producing Santana’s comeback album at the time, the band did some sessions in London with Richard Blair and a few others in Spain with producer Macaco.
Another factor was the relative glut of material.
“On the first record, we had 14 tunes [written] and recorded 13 of them,” he explained. “This time around, we had to choose [from among] 40 songs.”
The long waits gave Blanco the opportunity to hone his songwriting. Until recently, his contribution mostly involved lyrics.
“Now,” he said, “I’ve started helping out with the music as well. And convincing the other band members to embrace the electronica sound.”
Blanco was inspired by the British trip-hop and drum-and-bass movements, but also by British uses of Latin music. He also cited the latest album by Colombia’s Aterciopelados, which was more or less trip-hop en espanol, as an important influence.
“It opened my eyes,” he said. “I realized that there’s so many things you can do with electronica.”
The singer also has a strong hand in the visual concept behind the album package, a bonus from his days as a graphic designer in New York.
The title and cover art are an homage to El Santo, the masked wrestler and cult figure who has appeared in countless campy Mexican movies.
“What I love about El Santo movies is that they are retro and futuristic at the same time, just like our music,” Blanco said. “The ones I have on video are shot in this muddy sort of black and white.
“You see El Santo fighting female vampires, or zombies,” he said. “There’s something very mysterious, even esoteric, about the vibe of these films. They are for children, but at the same time they appeal to adults.”
Although King Chango is highly respected within the Southland’s Latin-rock scene, it has yet to emulate in the U.S. its success in Blanco’s native Venezuela, where it routinely plays in stadiums and its members are considered superstars.
“It’s funny, because in Venezuela, they think we are extremely wealthy,” he said with a laugh. “Somebody will be telling me I’m a millionaire, and at the same time I know that I only have 10 bucks in my pocket.”
* King Chango will perform Sunday at JC Fandango, 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim. 11 p.m. Doors open at 9 p.m. $16. Information: (714) 758-1057.