California Sounds: Chicano Batman teams up with Miguel, Chromatics tease ‘Dear Tommy’ and Pioneer 11 premieres ‘Mango Storm’ video
Miguel and Chicano Batman, “Sky Walker” and “Black Lipstick” video (Tuguther/Mitú). For a new video series by the online channel Mitú, the two L.A.-area acts have converged to swap songs and talk music. The resulting 10-minute clip captures artists in the midst of the collaborative process, and in doing so magnifies the mix-and-match nature of Southern California music.
“People need to understand that culture is a lot more complex than they think,” Chicano Batman’s Bardo Martinez says at one point. “Things are definitely not just black and white. There’s brown.”
“There’s a lot of brown,” Miguel adds, smiling.
San Pedro-raised Miguel’s genre-blurring sounds mix contemporary R&B, pop and hip-hop with magnificently imagined rock and soul; East Los Angeles-born Chicano Batman draws on Southern California’s deep history of Latin rock, fueling garage rock, surf and soul with the energy of modern Los Angeles.
“You can sense energy in music,” Miguel says in the opening moments as he describes the uncertainty of meeting new collaborators. “You don’t know what you’re going to walk into. And as soon as we got in, man, it was even more of a breeze than I could have imagined.”
Miguel tackles “Black Lipstick,” a Batman track originally sung by Martinez. He looks on in awe as Miguel jumps into falsetto during rehearsals. The song has bilingual lyrics, and we watch as the two harmonize through one take.
They then work out Miguel’s song “Sky Walker,” with Batman providing instrumentation via fuzzy tremolo guitar, organ clusters and bassist Eduardo Arenas’ deep lines. The mini-doc climaxes at the 7-minute mark with full performances of the two songs, and by the time they’re finished, it’s hard not to hope for a “Miguel Batman” album.
Chromatics, “Blue Girl” (Italians Do It Better). The Los Angeles-based producer, musician and artist Johnny Jewel and his band Chromatics have been threatening to release “Dear Tommy,” its forthcoming album, for a few years now. Jewel, however, has been busy composing for the screen, including work on David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” continuation.
“Blue Girl,” as well as the recently issued video for “Black Walls,” suggests that the delay might be over — though nothing’s ever certain with Chromatics except the dry drum tones, evocative ’80s synth melodies and singer Ruth Radelet’s detached demeanor.
Directed by the group with director of photography Rene Hallen, the video glistens as though the camera lens were coated with Vaseline. It features drummer Nat Walker tapping his snare with long-stemmed roses and offers loving images of a glowing-eyed Jewel gazing at some faraway place.
Pioneer 11, “RF Daze: A Compilation” (POW Recordings). The Los Angeles cosmic explorers Alex Hastings and Bryan Gomez are teasing their forthcoming album as Pioneer 11 with a collection that gathers in one place what release notes describe as “acid trip jam sessions in abandoned ghost towns, collaborations with [producer] Paul White (Danny Brown, Open Mike Eagle) and miscellaneous astral odysseys.” The band is drawing attention to the roll-out with a video for one of the highlights of the release, “Mango Storm,” which The Times is premiering below.
A delicate guitar-and-synth work that somehow manages to touch on downtempo beat music, Radiohead-inspired majesty and Grateful Dead-suggestive expansiveness, “Mango Storm” seems to drift through its 4½ minutes as un-tethered as the space probe from which the band draws its name. Later in the year, POW Recordings will issue Pioneer 11’s studio debut album, “Gravitorium.”
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