Very Be Careful
Escape Room (Barbes Records)
By Devon Wendell
Los Angeles’ own Very Be Careful has been putting its unique twist on Vallenato and Cumbia folk music traditions of Columbia for over a decade, continuing with their current release, Escape Room.
The combination of Ricardo “Ricky G” Guzman’s ethereal accordion sound and confident vocals with the steady pulse percussion of Craig “Peabody” Martin (guacharaca), Dante “The Rip” Ruiz (campana), Arturo “Brickems” Guzman (bass) and Richard ”Mil Caras” Panta (caja Vallenata) is a powerful yet often too brash blend. The material at its best inspires constant motion.
Most of the album consists of original songs such as “La Furgoneta,” “La Abeja,” “La Broma,” and “La Sopresa.” VBC’s music is close to that of their mentor, composer Alejo Duran, whose music was centered around the accordion and songs of loss, death, and love. But the mood is festive and the CD itself comes with a pair of 3D glasses to view the cover sleeve of a cat bartender sharing a stiff drink with a dog that’s holding a shotgun, demonstrating the band’s offbeat sense of humor.
Unfortunately, on too many tracks VBC’s sound lacks dynamics and the accordion and vocals are mixed way too loud, often giving the album the feeling of a slow bludgeoning. Even on Calixto Ochoa’s piece “Manantial del Alma,” the vocal harmonies are harsh and sloppy. The potential for a more delicate sound is there, but is lost in the vocalist’s over-enthusiasic hastiness.
“El Hospital,” ”La Alergia” and “Playas Marinas” are album highlights, with tasty percussion and syncopated accordion rhythms establishing a sultry yet melancholy ambiance. “La Gata Perdida” is delightfully menacing, having the feel of a minor key dirge and featuring Ricardo Guzman’s mournfully powerful vocal delivery, with “Brickems” Guzman’s bass dancing around his brother’s sinister accordion motifs.
This mood, however, is soon lost in material that becomes growingly redundant and cloying, again having mostly to do with the mix of the vocals in conjunction with the assaulting accordion. Eleven tracks is at least a pair too many for the album’s overall sound, with Escape Room‘s strong points offering ample proof that subtlety can be more enticing than brashness.
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