María y José

Club Negro (Casete)

Tony Gallardo, the mastermind behind Tijuana ruidosón act María y José, pours a variety of disparate elements into his music. On "Granada," the first track on María y José's new album Club Negro, Gallardo stitches together a patchwork of sounds, including crackly lo-fi piano, dreamy synthesizers and the sound of a cat meowing.

Yep—a cat.

And, curiously enough, it all works harmoniously, bound by a sonic architect whose taut, danceable songs are marked by a playful approach to production and stylistic exploration. A defining characteristic of Club Negro is how much it sounds like Gallardo is merely having fun with sound. While he starts with some softly charming sounds on "Granada," he ratchets up the energy on the funky "Violentao" and goes hard with sirens and hand-clap percussion on the buzzing "Rey de Reyes." 

As Gallardo brings the listener deeper into the strange, albeit danceable, album, he takes left turn after left turn, offering up as many surprises as unforgettable melodies. One of those belongs to "Cripta Real," an immediately accessible mixture of fluttering synthesizers and pulsing beats reminiscent of The Knife's early singles. And a sample from Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle" propels the hazy bounce of "Ultra."

Gallardo offers something of a respite in the form of "M v t i v s," a gentle, ambient track that slowly unfolds from a simple, solitary drone into a transcendent strata of synthesized voices. The track acts like an intermission, separating the first half of the record from the second, and allows some breathing room before turning the tempo and temperature up again in the closing sequence of "Loop de Sangre" and into "Kibosé" and, ultimately, the title track, which opens with a vibrant fanfare of horns and descends into a dark throb of bass-heavy keyboards. It's a much more shadowy place than where Club Negro begins, but it shows off the full spectrum of what María y José can do: There are light, playful songs and dark dance-floor fillers, and anything in between is fair game.

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