American Mythology

Beto Hale

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American Mythology Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

Beto Hale must be one of the most intriguing artists on the music scene today. The Mexican-born multi-instrumentalist trained at home before honing his skills in the U.S., and his exuberant embrace of myriad musical styles suggests that whatever cultural shock he experienced, it never spiralled into a culture clash. Instead, Hale brought together not just north and south, but Old and New World, modern musical fashions and their earlier antecedents. Mono-lingual listeners will be at a bit of a disadvantage, as Hale delivers half of American Mythology in Spanish, so if there is an overarching theme or concept to this set, it's lost in translation. His music, however, speaks for itself, and much of the Western world, for his love of music, all types of music, imbues every note of this set. Hale's subtle and supple blends of genres are evident from the get-go, with "Un Dia Mas" built on a muted hardcore riff, but the soul of the song belongs to the post-punk era, with the jangly guitars inspired by Echo & the Bunnymen. "Bring Me Joy" brings together Britpop and U2, while "Look at the Way" recalls the new wave, as does "The World from Above," which tips a hat to the Cars. Rewinding time a few years, "Save Us" is pure punk, "En Tus Labios" and "No Puedo Ver Mas Alla" the polar opposite, both rock ballads, two of a clutch of such moving numbers on the set. "Don't Run Away from Joy" meanwhile speeds straight into the arms of '70s British rock, as does the Mott the Hoople-flavored "Manto de Luz." These electric guitar-driven pieces are counterpointed by numbers that are built around acoustic guitar, like "Hoy" and "Forever." "Septimbre," in contrast, features sophisticated, jazzy guitar, and "Atardecer" a folky feel. But the fulcrum of virtually ever song on this set is the drums, whose rhythms are far removed from the normal rock fare. These complex rhythms add another stylistic layer to the songs, often contrasting and counterpointing the musical arrangements above. This perhaps is Hale's signature, for his use of drums is absolutely unique, and on the album's most experimental piece, "Fish," it's breathtaking as he lashes out a big-band drum pattern which underpins a piece that shimmers across national boundaries and genres. Hale's America may be far from perfect, as "Save Us" makes plain, but her melting pot of music has provided him with sustenance and inspiration, and as with so many immigrants, has provided him the opportunity to fulfill his dreams. A myth in the making, this phenomenal self-produced album is a masterpiece.

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