Los Hijos de la Montaña

Los Hijos de la Montaña

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Los Hijos de la Montaña is a collaborative project between Sergio Mendoza, a Tucson-based artist best known for his wonderfully retro mambo group Orkestra Mendoza, and Luz Elena Mendoza, singer for Portland's Latin-flavored indie folk band Y la Bamba. Both are of Mexican heritage, frequently sing in Spanish, share the same surname, and are totally unrelated. Steve Berlin, Los Lobos' saxman and impresario of various creative outlets, is the man responsible for pairing these two Mendozas together and producing their self-titled 2015 debut. The experimental folk-pop Luz Elena has made with Y la Bamba enters the Latin arena from a back door, having just as much to do with the pastoral sounds of fellow Northwesterners Fleet Foxes as with mariachi or cumbia. Sergio, on the other hand, boldly embraces classic Latin and pop sounds, arranging for his colorful Orkestra, fronting a live band that reimagines Morrissey songs in a Latin context, and working as a sideman with Southwestern indie rockers Calexico. When the Mendozas meet in the middle, interesting things happen. Like some cosmic, psychedelic cantina band lost in the past or future, they blend together lush lounge pop, peppery rhythms, robust brass sections, folk traditions, and dreamy electronic textures into one cool velvet cocktail. Sergio largely acts as the instrumental force and occasional co-vocalist here, with Luz Elena's confident, impassioned vocals taking center stage more often than not. Ranging from sultry, muscular mambo on "El Tamalito" to cinematic electropop melodrama on the thrilling "One Breath, One Soul," Los Hijos de la Montaña offers a unique musical melting pot that succeeds for its sheer inventiveness and craft. From a production standpoint, Berlin's stamp is all over the place, effectively holding together a record that is bursting with ideas and flair. For a first-time pairing of two musicians who have no prior history together, Los Hijos de la Montaña is an inspired effort that sounds unlike anything else on the 2015 musical landscape.

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