Buoyant energy drives Buyepongo’s groove-heavy ‘Todo Mundo’

Essential Tracks

The Los Angeles-based Buyepongo.

(Edgar Robles)

Buyepongo, “Todo Mundo” (Buyepongo). Those hearing the Los Angeles band’s new album minus any context could be forgiven for wondering about its origins. Opening with a reggae-tinged patios shout, a crooked kick-drum beat and a multi-lingual music-backed monologue, the record mixes so many instrumental dialects that their sound is tough to place. Is it from Bogotá or Bell? Tegucigalpa or Costa Mesa? Is that a hum of rumba echoing behind that cumbia beat?

The six-member band itself, founded by Edgar “Meshlee” Modesto, who sings while playing congas and guacharaca, cites traditional roots music of Central and South America. Specifically, the 12 tracks on “Todo Mundo” move with the percussive textures of Dominican merengue, Honduran punta and Colombian cumbia. But mixed within this rhythm is the West Coast hip-hop sensibility of the band’s native L.A., where Buyepongo began in the mid-'00s.

SIGN UP for the free Indie Focus movies newsletter >>

If “Todo Mundo” sounds packed with influences, it’s in fact loose and groove-heavy music. “Pegao” opens with a fluidity that suggests John Coltrane’s classic quartet before jumping into an up-tempo, horn-punctuated dance number. The accordion-driven “Verde Monte” rolls with merengue propulsion as Modesto offers texture and guitarist Jorge Vallejo strums out an off-beat reggae rhythm.


But identifying the regional influences is a distraction. What matters is the buoyant energy that drives “Todo Mundo,” and that’s in abundance throughout.

KING, “We Are KING” (KING Creative). In 2011, a trio of Los Angeles-based women released a heavy three-song EP called “The Story.” Each track bumped with a different take on curious, off-center R&B. Consisting of twin sisters Amber and Paris Strother and Anita Bias, KING drew attention but didn’t break out. So they toured and did a few guest slots while continuing to push toward a more substantive set of songs.

Five years later, “We Are KING” fulfills that promise. The album was produced by Paris Strother and recorded in their Valley Village home studio, and its 12 songs are uniformly gorgeous, connecting candlelit Sade gems, down-tempo house music and the mercurial soul of avowed fan Erykah Badu.

Opening the album, “The Right One” wobbles woozily, each measure wonderfully unpredictable. The synth-bass that drives “Mister Chameleon” steers with a heaviness, but a delicate melody turns it beautiful. Also included on “We Are KING” are the three debut tracks, but each has been remixed and extended for the dance floor. Or, in the case of “Hey,” the bedroom. Lusty and lubricated, it’s a choice addition to Valentine’s Day mixtapes.


FIDLAR, “Why Generation” video (Mom + Pop). In FIDLAR’s new emoji-only video for “Why Generation,” frowny-faced emojis pogo and mosh as four avatars rock onstage. Scrunched faces drink emoji beer steins, eat emoji pills, vomit emoji puke. On a cartoon streetscape, emoji cyclists race, cars crash; a billboard overhead advertises using the praying-hands character. Happy faces take selfies and eat emoji hamburgers in front of emoji penguins, pigs and koalas at the zoo.

Throughout the infectious animated clip, social-messaging characters drive the narrative as though we’re stuck in a game app soundtracked by FIDLAR’s hard, catchy punk rock. Directed by longtime FIDLAR collaborator Ryan Baxley and animated by Nolan Fabricius, the video is best viewed on a smartphone. After a brief introduction in which drummer Max Kuehn is shown in real life eating a burrito and staring at his device, we enter the game through his eyes and commence the animated action.

Avatars for the four members of the Los Angeles band — Zac Carper (guitars/vocals), Elvis Kuehn (guitars/vocals), Brandon Schwartzel (bass) and Max Kuehn (drums) — march in unison toward a performance, stomping through smiley-face emoji poop, dodging a head-on collision, witnessing a bank robbery (with frowny devil-face perps shooting emoji guns and carrying bundles of emoji money) and successfully arriving at their destination. Only to be drenched in vomit. At key moments, we’re reminded that we’re watching this on Kuehn’s nearly juiceless phone.

Taken from the band’s 2015 album “Too,” the song lays out in simple terms a major hurdle of the social media age. “There’s a secret we wanna know/ How the hell, how the hell are we supposed to know/ How to live in the 21st century/ When every move you make everyone can see?”

Get our daily Entertainment newsletter