Captain Beefheart seems self-conscious in comparison.
Los Lichis (named after stray dogs, not fruit) may be the best, most unusual band you’ve never heard of. Born of collaboration among visual artists in Mexico, the group has released a series of albums since the ‘90s, each of which were generally made available through the local art scene. Until now. Feeding Tube has reissued a two-disc anthology that covers the band’s first ten years of existence. Dog features 90 minutes of bluesy, free-form, experimental instrumental music (barring the odd spoken-word passage or grunting) that’s finally unclassifiable, and consistently entertaining.
A look at the band member’s biographies—at least what cursory research into the English-language sources turns up—gives you an idea of what you’re getting into. According to his biography, painter Manuel Mathar specializes in “creating tension through saturated compositions, ironic situations and touching on strained emotions of hopelessness, anxiety and pure calamity.” Teetering on the edges of art-speak and parody, that gets right at the band’s playful irreverence. So does the LinkedIn profile of member José Luis Rojas, which features a deformed plastic pig figurine with two heads.
Dog opens with the vaguely blues-based “Le Rythme Se Précipite,” built around layers of slide guitar, phased and reverbed and looped and fucked up with the enthusiasm of the outsider who loves the blues and wants to take it apart to see what makes it tick. The lo-fi sound and inspired freak out make it hard to place a track that could easily have been a deep cut on some obscure late-‘60s psychedelic album. Yet it dates from 2003.
The under-two minute fragment “Chito’s Natural Life” is more subdued, using atmospheric electronics to build a completely different mood. Tracks like this make it no surprise that the group once released an album whose cover art suggested the soundtrack to a forgotten monster movie, with track titles like “Flatos Bajo el Agua” (“Farts Underwater”).
That track isn’t on Dog—you’ll have to go to Los Lichis’ Bandcamp page to find it, which you will probably want to after hearing a 90-minute anthology that may shift gears but is never less than intriguing. Tracks spans fragments like the 53-second “¡Vamos por Más!” to the 22-minute suite “The Rise and Fall of Chito’s Kingdom,” a moody epic recorded over the course of three years. There’s even a potential hit single buried on side D. The three-minute long “Peter Gunn” riffage of “Opium Boogie” is an instant jukebox favorite—on another planet.
Los Lichis seem to take cues from musical outsiders like Captain Beefheart and the Residents, who seem self-conscious in comparison.
Dog ends on a tranquil note with the lovely 12-minute “Drinking in the Den of Little Ears,” which suggests a lo-fi lullaby as recorded by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Poking gentle fun at the pop music special guest, this track boasts “Feat. Bolita,” but it relegates said appearance to the very end: a dog howling along with the music. The music of Los Lichis isn’t for everybody, but that’s not the group’s fault. Clearly, everyone and their dog is welcome to listen.