El Jefe's Amorphous Phormula

El Jefe

Zip Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Dammit, I don't LIKE hip-hop. This is one of those ironclad personal rules of mine. So I'm offended that Bay Area rap/punk/reggae/hip-hop outfit El Jefe has dared to have the audacity to lay down some tracks that even I, a hopelessly uncool, unfly, and unhip music journalist can enjoy. Because, O Ye DV Faithful, El Jefe rocks. Their debut disc, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 El Jefe's Amorphous Phormula, is probably going to appear on my year-end Top Ten, thereby fulfilling one of the signs of the coming apocalypse. Meanwhile, however, let's enjoy it, shall we?

El Jefe is a five-piece band, and all five pieces are astonishingly good. Fernando Cardoso lays down serious drum beats as a foundation, Peter Lazarus plays a mean bass, Ken Bryant's guitar flickers from genre to genre with astonishing felicity, and the twin vocals of Darren Reid and Carlos Gonzalez are brilliant, bridging the gap between rap and spoken-word with an almost beat-poet sensibility. Add in a myriad of fun, unexpected flourishes, and you have something that transcends normal, run-of-the-mill hip-hop like nothing you've ever heard before. Sometimes El Jefe puts me in mind of serious old school poets like KRS-One, and it's no mistake perhaps that they've opened for him. El Jefe is who quasi-poseurs like Limp Bizkit want to be, and thank the gods they're around. Amorphous Phormula is tribal chants for tribes that meet under highway overpasses, and whose shamanic fetishes include subway tokens and stoplights.

As such, this is a very very cool CD. Tracks worthy of note include the horn-laden "Intro," the surprisingly deep "1/2 Self, 1/2 Expression," the street poet's hallucination of "Nightmare On Cesar Chavez Road," and the shamanic journey of "Mushroombeat." The high point, by far, is the oddly gentle "Weather Radio," whose piano (yes, I said piano) puts me in mind of Radiohead or other dark progressive groups. Toss in samples from the National Weather Service and rain sounds, and you have a lyrical snapshot of the rare moments California gets a good soaking.

El Jefe's Amorphous Phormula is a brilliant piece of work from a band that I hope is around for a very long time. It's changed my mind about a lot of things, and I can't give a piece of music higher praise than that.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zip Records, and is used for informational purposes only.