Angelica Garcia At Amoeba, Wednesday March 11th 2020
On Wednesday night, Angelica Garcia was building an amazingly loud sound, all alone on the small stage of Amoeba, she was celebrating the release of her new album ‘Cha Cha Palace,’ using just a few loop pedals and her voice, a beautiful and often commanding powerhouse. Little by little, she was layering up her loops, scaffolding piece by piece her breathtaking collages of sounds and vignettes of life, not unlike I have seen Moses Sumney doing it a few years ago.
In the first song she performed, ‘It Don’t Hinder Me’, Angelica evoked her hometown with the most delicious details, from the patio parties to dogs fights in the street, and mango peeling in the kitchen, she was also longing about the cooking that her grandmother made, and it was a colorful vision driven by Angelica’s expressive hand gestures and an insatiable lust for life. Her voice was soaring as strong as her pride for her Latinx roots and her Chicana and Mexican-Salvadoran heritage. ‘Lucifer Waiting’ had some backyard cumbia tempo behind Angelica’s acrobatic vocals, and ‘Jicama,’ a song picked by Obama as one of his 2019 favorite tunes and named after a popular Mexican vegetable, was a vibrant ode to Chicano culture, populated by ancient seeds and roots, working as a revendication of her dual identity with that line ‘Dichotomous-Guadalupe-Angeleno breed.’ Like a guava tree (a recurrent theme in the lyrics), the song, native to Mexico and growing in California, was not only embracing both cultures with the same appetite but also rebuking ‘the idea that you have to come from glamour or money to be cool,’ as Garcia explained in an interview, ‘My ‘beautiful’ and ‘cool’ version of LA is the immigrant household of my grandparents,’ she also explained.
Angelica was performing with a lot of emotions, sky blue eyeshadow on her eyelids, arms stretched in front of her, hands in the air, with Mariachi and Ranchera evocations in her elaborated wall of sounds, and the pathos of her voice was matching the Mexican folk songs of the movie ‘Frida’ soundtrack. And the fact that the title of one of the songs of her album is ‘I Don’t Believe In Death’ can only give more meaning to this comparison.
‘The Big Machine’ was a complex and magical forest of voices, all Angelica’s, while she blended even more influences in the following song. She admitted being a bit nervous, but it never resonated the slightest in her layered collages of voices.
After her 2016 Warner Bros. debut, ‘Medicine for Birds,’ Garcia dropped the big label to release ‘Cha Cha Palace’ on influential Richmond indie label Spacebomb Records, and the result is nothing like anything you have ever heard, a patchwork of genres and idiosyncratic ideas with plenty of LA street corner moments, the city where Angelica grew up, despite the fact she is now living in Richmond. From dancehall earworms to roots-celebration anthems, and Mexican backyard barbecues, she embraces it all with gusto.
It Don’t Hinder Me
The Big Machine