With diversity in influence and instrumentation, sometimes it’s important for a band to just go for it. The presentation of Canadian-based The Battle of Santiago certainly does just that, mixing Afro-Cuban beats, improvisational jazz, ambient sound, and electronica into something both new and familiar. The current lineup includes Michael Owen (bass), Michael Butler (saxophone), Daniel Mansilla (lead percussion), Lyle Crilly (guitar), Jason Hay (flute & sax), and Joel Perez (percussion).
The record opens with the inspiring groove jam, “Republic.” The percussion busts out a sweet rhythm while the flute and horns dance around with one another. Mansilla serves up a majestic drum solo just before the band launches into the second half which brings Crilly’s guitar into place alongside the rhythm. The song finishes strong with everyone delivering a piece of wonderful chaos.
“Opposite forces” is more of an interlude, featuring a steady beat beneath electronic noise and random pieces of conversation. The track ends abruptly, leading into “Empire”. More than most the of the album, this tune struck me with its unique mixture of atmospheric electronica and the continued theme of Afro-Cuban beats. I really enjoyed how easy it was to slip away into this song, getting lost in the slowly evolving rhythm and the oscillation of synthetic flourishes.
“Brooklyn Aftermath” nestles itself in a sweet groove while the horns return to great effect. Again there are electronic elements thrown in here, but they are far more subtle. Instead the horns dominate, resting just above the mind-bending guitar work for part of the song before allowing it to rise. “Victory in Madrid” is a sexy salsa rhythm that will get your hips moving in no time. Again, as with “Empire” I really enjoyed the background ambiance beneath the rhythm. Occasionally the ambient elements will take over for just a moment, before relinquishing their gained ground to the rhythm.
“Black Legends” is the last new track on this release. The dub rhythm here is very inviting, but the horns really paint it with streaks of mystery. There’s an unsettling element to this song that I really enjoyed since it was largely very different in tone from the rest of the record. I would imagine this song would be an excellent one to witness live with its funky transition toward the end. The album closes with three remixes of “According to Legends” from the band’s debut release,Full Colour. This is a nice bonus as the remixes are done very well. If you enjoy instrumental music, specifically of the Afro-cuban style with dub, post-rock, and jazz influence, then please give this album a chance. If the rhythm doesn’t draw you in the funky, droning harmonies will.
MP3: The Battle of Santiago “Empire”