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Pop Music Review

Los Amigos Invisibles More Than a Novelty Act

March 31, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER

It's tempting at first to categorize Los Amigos Invisibles as a harmless diversion in the field of rock en espan~ol, but doing so would be a serious misjudgment. Despite its novelty trappings, the Venezuelan sextet is responsible for some of the most gorgeous musical moments in the entire genre.

On Wednesday at the Conga Room, Los Amigos demonstrated their ability to transcend their obsessions: lounge kitsch, glossy disco and the sensibility of a hormonally overwhelmed teenager grappling with sexuality and romance.

Underneath such party jams as "Cachete a Cachete" and "Ultra-Funk," however, lies the mature craftsmanship of guitarist Jose Luis Pardo. The group's main composer, he combines an instinctive understanding of vintage genres with an experimental vein that pushes him toward edgier sonic textures. It is his keen manipulation of vocal harmonies and melancholy keyboard lines that turns the crass "El Disco Anal" into a celebration of longing and desire.

The five songs the group played from its forthcoming album, "Arepa 3000," reassured any fans who feared Los Amigos would begin to repeat themselves. Although the merengue lounge of "El Sobon" and the Afro-Cuban combustion of "Mami Te Extran~o" are hardly a stylistic departure for the band, the musicians showed a confidence that allowed them to delve even deeper into their resurrection of myriad guilty pleasures, from volcanic mambos to sexy bossa novas.

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