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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Music Reviews »

Permalink Los Twang! Marvels: "Jungle of Twang"

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(This is very long, and I apologize, but I really love this CD and I had a lot to say about it! I hope some of you can get through the whole thing and find it worthwhile. For those with ADD just read the first and last paragraphs!)

I’ve not been shy about my love of Los Twang! Marvels over the last few years. As far as I’m concerned, they’re at the very top of the international surf music heap. A simply amazing band. I’ve gotten to know their lead guitarist Alex Faide over email over the last few years, even becoming good friends and establishing a bit of a mutual appreciation society. Very Happy It just happened that our new CDs came out around the same time, so we happily swapped. I’ve had “Jungle of Twang” for over a month now, and must have listened to it multiple dozens of times in that time. I think it’s the best thing they’ve done so far, and a big step forward for the band. And ultimately I think it’ll be one of the – if not THEE – best surf music releases of the year, no question about it.

The album is their fourth, though only their second full-length of all new material (their first release was a 5-song EP and their previous release was a compilation with five or six new songs). They recorded it in the same studio in Spain where I think the Longboards record. This studio is apparently renowned for all their vintage gear and vintage recording expertise. The sound on this CD shows it – it’s extremely warm without the squeaky-clean hi-fi quality of a lot of modern recordings, but without being lo-fi or dirty in any way. It sounds very organic, for lack of a better word. LTM also changed labels and this is their first release with the German label Kamikaze, which has put out a lot of surf music over the last decade-plus. Los Twang Marvels, BTW, consist of Alex, his wife Marisol on rhythm guitar and vocals, Bisfer on drums, who has been with the band for the last couple of years, first playing on the extra tracks on their previous compilation, and finally the new bass player Christian de Santis. Bisfer is a really excellent drummer, always extremely tasteful and classy and his playing is ALWAYS swinging – which is the way it should be! But the real star of the show is Alex. He is definitely one of the top guitarists playing surf music today. He’s got a touch like few others in the surf world, and tons of technique just waiting in the wings for when it’s called for. Alex actually studied with Robert Fripp in his Guitar Craft workshop. But his playing sounds nothing like fusion or anything but pure surf, with a bit of exotica and rockabilly thrown in. (He also plays in a great rockabilly band in Germany, called Ray Allen and the Blue Rhythms, playing some amazing stuff!)

What matters of course is the songs, and they’re astonishing. The CD opens with “Sea of Glory,” a song with a melody that I think Roy Orbison would have been proud of. Like many of his songs, the mysterious and dramatic melody just builds and builds without any of the parts repeating, and without any obvious chorus or bridge. I remember Rip Thrillby once saying that his goal was to one day write an instrumental song with a structure like Orbison’s. Sadly, he never got that chance, but Alex did it for him. I think I’ll always think of Rip when I hear this song as a result. It really is glorious, with increasing complexity as it nears the end and some fantastic off-the-cuff improvisations at the end. It took a while for this song to grow on me, as it’s pretty complex, but it gradually revealed itself like a blushing bride Rolling Eyes Embarassed with each subsequent listen. Simply awesome.

“Tunisian Moon” features a fast beat and a slightly exotic melody, energetic yet still sensual. Los Marvels have this wonderful quality of never sounding like they’re pounding the listener. Even their energetic songs have a delicate, almost feminine, quality which is rare in surf. I don’t know if that is because of Marisol or because Alex is in touch with his feminine side, but it’s one thing I really enjoy about them.

“Surf Dilemma” is probably the most standard surf song on the album, being an energetic piece with a double-picked melody. But Los Marvels being Los Marvels still make it special through their sheer melodic inventiveness and special touch. It’s a beautiful and very immediate track, and in a better world it would be a big chart hit.

“Nose Walkin” is a completely unique song, with great amount of texture, something rare in surf music (Alex is a big fan of the Cocteau Twins and to me this song exhibits some of their sonic experimentation, while staying completely within the confines of surf). The guitar on the left side of the stereo spectrum is very dry, playing Link Wray-ish, bluesy parts, while the lead guitar on the right side is heavily ‘wet’ with tons of reverb, tremolo and echo, and the two parts interact in a very cool and imaginative way.

“Sad on Mondays” is an atmospheric and moody song, with a deeply melancholy and evocative melody. If you’ve heard Los Marvels’ full-length debut then you know they have a special way with ballads (I’m thinking of Eyesore and Back Home in particular), and they do not disappoint here. A gorgeous track.

“Return of the Space Cossack” is probably my favorite track on the CD – yes, because of the title. Twisted Evil Actually, it’s just a kick-ass song! Fast, and sporting some rapid guitar playing and really imaginative parts, Alex did me a great honor by choosing that title, and I’m very grateful. There’s no way I could have ever written this song or probably even just played the super-fast and tricky parts, but I’m happy to bask in the song’s reflected glory!

“Adventures of the Green Camaro” is a Los-Straitjackets-sounding song, with a deep dance groove and a simple but appealing melody and some nice interplay between the two guitars.

“Mr. Twister” is also a Los-Straitjackets-sounding instro tune with a fifties-like melody that I’m sure gets people dancing within seconds. It’s the simplest and most straight-forward song on the CD.

There are also five cover songs on the CD (out of 15 total). The first one is “Kaha Huna,” originally written and recorded by the sixties studio guitarist Gene Moles (who I think had some sort of a connection to the Ventures, though I can’t remember what now). The original track can be found on the “Beach Party: Garpax Surf’n’Drag” comp on Ace Records, and it’s pure corn, real sixties game-show music only redeemed by some very imaginative playing by Moles. Los Marvels transform it into a true surf track, albeit a very happy one, and Alex replicates (though in his own way) much of Moles’ original guitar gymnastics while making the song more energetic and interesting.

The second cover is “Cumana.” I don’t know the original, but it sounds like a latino standard done up in the Astronauts 3-guitar style, with a very heavily reverbed guitar track on the left, a drier rhythm on the right and a moderately wet lead in the middle. The Astronauts go Cuban! It’s got a gorgeous melody, and Alex simply nails it in every respect

Then there is “BaliHai,” a Rodgers-Hammerstein standard done up surf-style in the sixties by a little known band the Irredescents and compiled on the classic LP “Diggin’ Out.” But Los Marvels go much further with it, effectively conjuring up an image of a jungle – of twang! – full of writhing natives in the middle of a lethal ritual. The band gives it a slower, more sensual and much deeper groove than the Irredescents’ version, while Alex makes the melody a lot more sinister by using some weird extended chords (that schooling paying off!) that are not in the original. And then there is the whole middle-part which is completely original, yet sounding soooo right, with extended descending guitar figures giving the image of sinking into the depths of the jungle, never to be seen again. The song is pure surf-exotica heaven. Fifty Foot Combo also covered this, in my opinion also improving on the original, but Los Marvels’ version blows both of those away. Definitely goose-bumps time.

“Siboney” is an old Ernesto Lecuona standard, performed in the surf/instro world in the sixties by Johnny Fortune and in the nineties by the Vara-tones and the Hellbenders as well as by the phenomenal Finnish euro-instro band the Mustangs. LTM play it a bit subdued, not fully emphasizing the latino rhythms, but giving it great fragility and softness. It’s such an incredibly beautiful melody that it doesn’t take much to make it come alive, and Los Marvels definitely do the song justice.

“Danza Del Sable” is a straightforward copy of the version of the old Katchaturian classical piece done by the amazing sixties Belgian instro band the Jokers. I’ve always loved this song, and for my money the Jokers have done the ultimate version that will never be bettered by anyone. Los Marvels very wisely didn’t try to better it – but incredibly enough they actually match the quality of the Jokers’ version! Really astonishing. It’s not easy to copy a classic like that note-for-note and make it sound just as good. A great, great job with this, and a fantastic way to end the album.

There are also two vocals on the album, a first for LTM, both originals and both simply fun. “Somos Los Twang Marvels” features Marisol on vocals and goes for a bit of the Trashmen sound with some prominent “papa oom mow mows” by the backing vocals. Nothing earth-shattering – unless played live and having the entire crowd spontaneously rise to their feet and start shimmying away, in which case the Earth may actually shatter! “Esclavos De Amor” is sung by Alex and is a hard garage grinder. Again, for me not the highlight of the album, but extremely well done and people that like that sort of a thing will like this one.

There you go, an album chock full of real gems, and one that can easily stand up to repeated listenings, being so incredibly diverse and deep. As I said, I’ve been listening to it for a month and a half straight on my iPod, and I’m still hearing new things every time I listen again. I can’t recommend this album highly enough! (Go check out three songs from the album on their myspace site: http://www.myspace.com/lostwangmarvels) 2008 continues to shape up to be a truly amazing year for surf music, and Los Twang! Marvels have made a major contribution with “Jungle of Twang,” keeping our favorite genre alive and vibrant and relevant.

(It seems that Kamikaze doesn’t have very good distribution in the USA as I don’t think the CD is available anywhere here yet, but you can buy it direct from Germany here:
http://www.soundflat.de/shop/shop.cfm?artnr=12718
http://www.kamikaze-records.de/shop/shop.cfm?k=219&prodid=1276&CFID=38330752&CFTOKEN=12470106
Don’t wait – just do it! You won’t regret it!)

Ivan

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

you are right ivan, great band, with the incredible Alex Faide, a great player from the "argentinian legion".........but don´t forget the extraordinarie cover art of my friend Sol rac, top illustrator and designer !

El Papu & los Fantasticos Reverberantes

Thanks for bringing that up, big papu. Yep, the artwork is fantastic, and I realized I forgot to say anything about it after I submitted the review. Well, music is what's important! But it's damn cool artwork, too!

Ivan

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

IvanP
... “Kaha Huna,” originally written and recorded by the sixties studio guitarist Gene Moles (who I think had some sort of a connection to the Ventures, though I can’t remember what now).

Meles co-write "Scratch" with Nokie Edwards, didn't he?

-Warren

That was excessively violent and completely unnecessary. I loved it.

Dear Ivan,

Wow, what can we say...your review it is a full ego massage Wink !
And coming from someone we deeply respect and admire...even more flattering Cool
In that sense thank you very much for taking the time and writing such an amazing review. We are totally happy and glad you enjoyed our new album.
To deliver quality can be enduring, hard, tough, against-the-gravity, expensive and so on.
But certainly always rewarding when supportive friends like you are around.

Have a nice staying in NY, and a fun run at the convention, man, how we´d like to be there!

Let´s stay in contact.

best wishes

Alex

hi alex!

I hear your cds @ solrac house, real nice stuff!....love the tico tico version @youtube with caleb in the bass

wish to meet you someday here in BA

broderly regards

el papu

El Papu & los Fantasticos Reverberantes

Last edited: Jul 31, 2008 12:52:28

This will be CD #3 of the suicide purchase: I'm holding off on the madiera, surfites and twang marvels until the new Barbwires comes out, then I'm going to buy them all at once, listen to them in one sitting and see if I come out breathing

Storm Surge of Reverb: Surf & Instro Radio

This is an AMAZING disc from every standpoint...the recording quality, the choice of cover tunes, the originals, and of course the playing is phenomenal. On first listen, I didn't even recognize Siboney. I kept thinking, where have I heard this? Then the melody popped out at me.

Sabre Dance is also such a cool cover, staying with the Jokers arrangement, I kept envisioning the guys doing the twist in the studio like old video of the Jokers Smile

I know the year isn't over but I don't think I'd be jumping too quick in saying this is the best CD of the year.

Shawn Martin
http://www.drummerman.net
http://www.youtube.com/GKacedrummerman
http://www.facebook.com/drumuitar

Is there a source for this in the states yet?

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

The only problem I had buying from soundflat.de was high shipping cost, almost as much as the CD--it is worth it though. One of the best CDs ever! Maybe someone can order a batch and resell them here.
I think Cumana sounds more Mexican than Cuban, I listen to a lot Mexicana and the rhythms are simpler than most Cuban music. It is infectious and your feet will move. Toes on the Nose is one of the coolest bass lines I've ever heard, it really drives the song. I had a similar experience with Siboney, not recognizing the melody immediately. The playing on that one just stuns me, so fast, precise and emotional. The production has a unique sound that a hack like me can't begin to describe but it sounds "old" and dark and perfectly fits the Jungle of Twang theme. Buy it and their last one too!

Speaking of Siboney, Ivan weren't you planning on recording that for the new CD?

Danny Snyder

Latest project - Now That's What I Call SURF
_
"With great reverb comes great responsibility" - Uncle Leo

I'm back playing keys and guitar with Combo Tezeta

DannySnyder
Speaking of Siboney, Ivan weren't you planning on recording that for the new CD?

Hmmm, yes, I was thinking about it for a while, but then we had a thread about the song on SG101 and it turned out that it's been covered a lot more times that I thought (Johnny Fortune, the Mustangs, the Hellbenders, the Varatones, I think some others), so I decided against it.

Glad you enjoyed my review, Alex! Happy to provide a 'full ego massage'!! Laughing More surf bands deserve those....

Ivan

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

I just received my copy a few days ago and I'm pretty much playing this thing non-stop in my car. Such an incredible CD! What I really like most about the album is the the mix of guitars. I would say that the album is pretty evenly split between Alex's use of a strat and jaguar for lead guitar. The strat songs are absolutely stunning melodically. Very euro-instro with beautiful melodic compositions.

My favorite song on the album is probably the opener, Sea of Glory. Now that is a song for the ages. I rarely hear a melody this strong or powerful. This is incredible stuff here.

Other notables include their version of Siboney. It is just spot on and very similar to Johnny Fortune's rendition, but has a much more latin feel. Simply beautiful. Also Return of The Space Cossack is a jaw dropper!! What a great homage (if that was the intention?) to the great Space Cossacks. You can definitely hear the ghosts of the Cossacks all over this one. Probably my 2nd favorite song on the album. Lastly their version of Sabre Dance is also spot on. Almost an identical arrangement to the Jokers' version. If my ears server me correctly this is the only song on the album with a Jazzmaster as lead guitar. Alex is quickly becoming one of my very favorite guitarists today.

On the negative side, there are a few songs I'm not crazy about (We are Los Twang Marvels most notably) that I generally just skip. But overall this is a monumental record. I highly recommend picking up a copy from Double Crown records immediately!!

Ryan
The Secret Samurai Website
The Secret Samurai on Facebook

Brian
Is there a source for this in the states yet?

Sean at Double Crown brought them in. I just ordered it from him
a couple days ago.

Bob

Bob

Guys,
Thanks so much for your incredible support and nice points of view on the record. We are totally flattered and we´d like to be able to spend more time over here exchanging impressions and stuff !!!! hope you are not upset about our lack presence over the whole topics and threads.

we absolutely dig this forum.

Stay well,

Alex

This is a drop dead knockout CD. I will try to write more when I can formulate some thoughts. All I can say now is WOW WOW WOW.

Stylistically there are a couple of songs that sound out of place, but strangely work. There are one or two garagey vocal numbers, some groovy Los Straitjackets style rock-n-roll numbers, and my favorite, the barn burning, melt your face, full on Euro-Surf songs.

STUNNING. Shocked Shocked Shocked Worship Thumbs Up

5 Phils from me.

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

Cool I had a chance to listen to this album last Saturday after the TomorrowMen show while crusin'(w/Ben & my lil' Bro) for a place to eat. And we where kinda lost so this gave me a chance listen to a lot of the tracks on this album and I must say that I really dig it. I can't remember any particular song titles because all I did was listen to it while finding our way through SF. But I really like this album. Ther is some really great song writing and a lot of it is heavily influenced by all sorts of genres. It had some really infectious grooves, and some kick ass tunes. I will definitely be buying this CD. I also had a chance to listen to some of their other albums that Ben had which I also liked. But the only song title that I can remember at the moment is "Cumana". And I must say and sorry for the inappropriate language, but man my mind was Fucking blown away by this tune. It's so dam good. We almost entered the dam freeway while being distracted by the song, plus we wher talking so that also had something to do with it Laughing

Stormtiger
I think Cumana sounds more Mexican than Cuban, I listen to a lot Mexicana and the rhythms are simpler than most Cuban music. It is infectious and your feet will move.

Hmmm Doug I'm not too sure as to what region this song is influenced by, because certain Countries do it differently for Ex: Mex Cumbia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOQk0NEEFy8 And Columbian http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAe7V9Csd84 but it definitely is "Cumbia" music. The only difference is that ther is some guitars with Reverb. Which is a dam good thing. Smile

The Deadbeats

Yeah I've had this album for a little while now and (save the vocals) I absolutely love it. Already, this cd holds multiple all-time favorite songs of mine. Admittedly, I at first wasn't very partial to the rock n' roll numbers, especially in comparison to the impeccable surf and Latin numbers, but they've all grown on me and by now I fully love every instrumental track on here.

Like Abraham, Cumana is my favorite--far and away the most infectiously danceable surf song I've ever encountered. What an irresistible groove! I love, loove the drumming throughout, and the two layers of rhythm both complement the melody so perfectly. Backed by a smoothly grooving bass, this track can't be avoided. Really I'm in love with this song--the arrangement, the high and low calls/responses on lead guitar, the yearning whammy dips--everything about it is a hook. Interestingly, when I first got the cd I was blasting it full force out of my car on the way to band practice at Abe's house, and he was convinced it was some genuine Latin cumbia.
(Off topic: Abraham... this is a Cumbia-off. My favorite Mexicana and Colombiana Laughing ) I don't know the song's origins, but I do know Cumaná is a port city in Venezuela. Hmmm

The other Latin song, Siboney, is also a winner. I was skeptical about how I might like this song in comparison to Johnny Fortune's recording (the only other surf version I've heard, but which I totally adore), but it turns out I love this one as well for entirely different reasons. This is suave too, but much more upbeat--another great dance number (damn, these guys and gal do dance rhythms so well. In fact, our drummer John has said that this band has inspired him to take up drum lessons so he can learn Latin beats--Merengue and stuff. I made a pact with him that I'm gonna take guitar lessons as well. We'll see how well we follow through). Anyways, the Twang! Marvels version is great. I love the drums, the rhythm guitar, the clave, the high verses, the false stops--actually pretty much everything about it.

Unfortunately the Latin numbers are the minority, but then again maybe it's not so big a deal since the rest of the album is so enjoyable. Sea of Glory and Return of the Space Cossack strike me as the strictly surfiest numbers on the album, and are probably tied for my number two spot among favorites. Sea of Glory has some really interesting guitar work--lots of changes in direction and things going on all over the fretboard. It's weird in that it doesn't seem very linear, but never gets you lost or distracted. It's actually quite enjoyable all the way through and has a slightly dark and melancholy air about it. I find it really achingly beautiful in a genuine and not at all sappy kind of way.

Return of the Space Cossack is a killer plain and simple. It's not exactly heavy, but definitely driving and forceful. This is surf guitar for the ages--impeccable double picking, dramatic chords, great melody. I'm listening to it right now and getting all fired up. Laughing

Other highlights are the infectious Tunisian Moon with a fun ska rhythm backing more great double picking, and Surf Dilemma with it's cool 1-2-3 -1-2-3 -1-2 rhythm, claves... and more great double picking. Man, I really love Alex's playing all over this album. His precision and versatility in playing styles on this album alone make him a standout among surf guitarists.

I could go on a lot longer about this album, but I'll restrain myself. It's a great album all the way through, and a must have for serious surf fans. Considering the range of material covered on Jungle of Twang, odds are it's bound to have something to please you regardless of your leanings within the genre... So get it! Thumbs Up

Listening to the songs again and reading the older reviews (it's been a while since I last did), it seems that Sea of Glory has piqued a certain interest. I'm realizing more and more that this song is really something pretty incredible. The melody is so strong and unique and dramatic and complex and... I think it's through-composed! Crazy! Shocked If anyone ever needs a reminder of surf's legitimacy, this is a song to turn to.

Huh! Thanks and much thanks for your kind and nice words !
I am certainly always around, but I´m kinnda shy for making statements, and my ingnorance and lack of information doesn´t allow me to make substancial contributions to the contents of the site.

It is certainly a great thing that this site exists, it is a source of shared experiencies, inspirational, motivating and a great gear check-out/critizism stage. Even dealing with the pals seems to be way possible...

Stay well,

Hugs and all the best for 2009!

Alex Anthony aka El Slavaje

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