Album Review: Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada – Coconut Rock

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The members of Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada — that’s the full title of the band — are busybodies, not in the “snark, snark” way but in the “We also dabble in architecture and author coloring books” way. This outpouring of creativity makes them more of a commune of artists than a traditional list of players; this makes sense in the context of their music. Coconut Rock is not traditional Latin music, and neither is the back catalog of Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada.

If the title Coconut Rock doesn’t divulge much concerning its contents, knowing the album gushes like a hydrant from the streets of New York City — refreshing as the hydrant, diverse as NYC — should give some inkling. (It should be noted, however, that Martin Perna and Adrian Quesada, the two ringleaders of the outfit, met in Austin, Texas.) Here en masse is afrobeat, tastes of Brazil, funk, jazz, electronic a la carte, etc. stirred well.

That “stirred well” part shouldn’t be glossed over. Quesada and Perna are old hands at this. Both have been around the block a time or two, and the construction of Coconut Rock bears those marks. An album with this many ingredients is won or lost in the mixing, not in the writing of the songs — especially considering much of Coconut Rock is wordless. Note “El Diablo Y El Ñau Ñau”. Opening with keys and percussion from a 70s Santana record, it changes gears slightly when the drums come in, settling into a laid-back, funk sweet spot. Vocals float miles away. Did I mention it also incorporates 80s synth? “Vampires” borrows from the Tom Waits playbook and singes with its social commentary. It may be the most straightforward song on the record, and that’s saying something when Waits is your muse.

Coconut Rock does have its missteps, however, and “Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo” is the most glaring. On an album of diversity, it’s monocultural. The repeated hook from the organ isn’t captivating, and by the end, it’s nails on a chalkboard. Intermittent fuzzed guitar doesn’t add enough value to save the song. Such are the pitfalls of making mood music.

Speaking of Santana, Adrian Quesada is no Santana; however, he covers what appears to be a lack of mastery with taste. Quesada’s gift is adding a solo here or there that doesn’t raise eyebrows and scream for attention. He’s a team player, and it makes for a better listening experience. On tracks like “Vendendo Saude E Fé”, which features vocals from Tita Lima, Quesada’s guitar acts as a second voice that serves its partner.

Coconut Rock is a folding chair in the sand, the coconut tree overhead. Grab a beer. Add a lime wedge. Coconut Rock is the soundtrack for the summer of 2009.

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Coconut Rock Album Review: Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada   Coconut Rock