VENEZUELA: Repeat After Me - Los Amigos Invisibles
Updated: Mar 2
The sextet embrace the musician's law - "If it feels good, do it!" in this odyssey of funk
If one is, for example, to suffer a bereavement, it is unlikely that they would have the same capacity to immediately enjoy a delicious, sweet piece of mango after hearing such news in quite the same way as they might be able to after being offered the exact same slice after having an incredible, stress-free day basking in the sunshine. With that vivid albeit bizarre example in mind, after 12 weeks of lockdown and a pretty topsy-turvy period of time prior to that it, is fair to say that when I was first recommended this album, I was not in the most positive of moods. As is normal in life, and hopefully understandable in the eyes of any of the six members of Los Amigos Invisibles who may be reading this, as humans we often project our emotions onto things which we are presented with. Nowadays, with the advent of social media, our frustrations and judgments in life, no matter how impulsive they might be, many feel that we have to broadcast them and in many cases we are unwavering in our resistance to consider that these opinions might change with time.
“Whilst the party hosted by Los Amigos Invisibles comes to an end after just 47 minutes on Repeat After Me they rarely fail to keep the beat innovative and irresistible to move my body to.”
Sometimes in life you have to hold up your hands and admit you got things wrong; this is absolutely one of those times. I can categorically say that my enjoyment and appreciation of Los Amigos Invisibles sixth album has multiplied having come back to the album in a completely different headspace. Music often acts as a magnifying glass to our emotions at the time of consuming it, and rather foolishly instead of interpreting my failure to get on board with this album for several months as a consequence of my low mood that day I first listened to it, I instead rather harshly deemed the album ‘standard, passable funk’. Whilst our response to music is so often determined by our pre-existing mood, one might argue that this is most true when it comes to funk.
Without wishing to sound pretentious, as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the genre, I often stand by the rule that if you don’t feel ‘it', then it just doesn’t have ‘it'. Whilst this ‘it’ is simply a feeling that is perhaps not possible to put into words that do it real justice, I can still attempt to do my best to define it. ‘It’ can be described as an instinctual feeling that the music gives you that makes your mind, body, and soul be completely transported by the music to a place one might only be able to replicate under the influence of certain serotonin releasing drugs. What I love so much about the genre, is that unlike any other moment of elation I might experience, be it through intense laughter, or even celebrating a goal scored by my beloved football team Tottenham Hotspur, the initial euphoria caused by those experiences have a much shorter shelf life than basking in the joy of disco music which can last for hours upon hours. When this feeling is missing, funk music can sometimes feel like background noise which fails to fulfil its function of making the listener want to move their body in the way any epic funk track can and should.
Whilst the party hosted by Los Amigos Invisibles comes to an end after just 47 minutes on Repeat After Me they rarely fail to keep the beat innovative and irresistible to move my body to. After the album’s short 11 second introduction the band go straight into perhaps their most famous track La Que Me Gusta, which even though I cannot put my finger on where exactly I have heard it before, I am sure it has been played as the backing track to a popular advert or in a coming-of-age TV series before grooving into the immensely fun Corazón Tatú. It is, however, at this point where I have my only issue with the record. The song Sex Appeal veers into the slightly creepy category. Whilst I can let the band off on the basis that English is not their mother tongue, I would argue that regardless of this they probably know that it is possible to create flirtatious lyrics without being so overtly desperate in tone.
In fact, they certainly achieve this in the subsequent two tracks, Río Porque No Fue un Sueño is seductive and sexy without going full Barry White. The next song Stay, meanwhile, contains lyrics of desperation and desire, yet it certainly does not feel pathetic or perverted like the aforementioned Sex Appeal. In fact, this is one of my favourite songs on the album; it kicks off with a bassline not dissimilar in sound to Everybody Dance by Chic, before building up with video-game like music as the tensions grow before a thumping Mark Ronson-esque space-age chorus. This chorus is perhaps only second to the club banger Hopeless Romance.
Proceeding Hopeless Romance there are indeed two songs of very different styles of very similar high-quality. Mostro, which features gypsy jazz maestros Los Hermanos Naturales, who accompany the band in what sounds like Latin-Balkan fusion. The contrast between this and the next track Like Everybody Else is vast, although somehow it seems to work. Like Everybody Else is a psychedelic rock song and its presence on the album reminds me of my favourite club night that I used to frequent as a student. Souljam at Stealth nightclub in Nottingham, was a special night that would play mostly funk and soul classics. Every so often though the DJ would judge the atmosphere in the room to be receptive for a complete change in tack, he would put on something fun but rogue for a left-field turn away from disco music such as sticking on Fools Gold by the Stone Roses. Though not at all in tone with the night, its high energy just seemed to always make the track work and get such a phenomenal reception.
The final third of the album includes the wacky yet glorious Reino Animal. A weird yet funky number that features a sublime horn section, dogs barking and bizarre lyrics which instruct us to embrace and explore our primal animalistic selves. The audience are told to embrace their inner penguins and piglets before taking it one step further by suggesting we have lost our human side completely, that we are in fact Martian. This type of whimsical lyricism is fine by me, as at this point in the imagined night out watching Los Amigos Invisibles play live, I would be happy to sign off my status as a human being if they would keep playing such fun, energetic tunes. Then comes Robot Love, a disco-house track which could slide right in to the playlist of any top nu-disco DJ from Kraak & Smaak to Peggy Gou. As the band start to bring the album to a close they finish off with Invisible Love, a great Spanish language funk track (something which I have been desperate to find for a long time) and Voltaren’s Dream, a lounge music song to gently bring down the energy levels which I imagine serves the purpose of clearing the dancefloor after their epic set. Overall, the album for me acts as a reminder that funk and disco is in my heart when I am receptive to it, and when it is done with as much flair as Los Amigos Invisibles, there is nothing quite like it. Check it out and boogie the night away.