If you put musicians in a room and tell ’em to jam, you’re going to end up with fewer hits than misses. But sometimes, you end up with something like Máscaras, the Portland instrumental surf-psych-punk trio of Papi Fimbres (drums), Theo Craig (bass), and Carlos Segovia (guitar).
Máscaras was borne from a series of jams, and they went so well, the band took a bunch of the resulting songs and turned them into a debut album, 2015’s Máscara vs. Máscara. It’s explosive, urgent, and fiery—a carnal collision of wild-eyed rhythms, fuzzy bass lines, and tightly wound electric guitar riffs.
Which brings us to Máscaras’ new five-song EP, El Morán. Let’s get right to the point: The band’s glorious, chaotic energy still courses through these tunes. The recording process took a lot longer than Máscara vs. Máscara, largely because Fimbres moved to Germany for a year after tracking the drums. But those circumstances sucked none of the joy, spunk, or attitude from Máscaras’ music.
As for the songs, they feel more fully formed than those on the debut. The title track kicks things off, and it’s a prickly beast built atop earth-moving bass, with Máscaras pumping new life into the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic before Segovia shoots off to a different planet, one where they breathe reverb rather than oxygen.
“Kiksadi” showcases the band’s math-punk side, with Fimbres and Craig engaged in a frenetic wiggle until halfway through the song, when Segovia again cranks the psych-guitar up to 13. The organ that peeks in here and there is basically the greatest sound ever made.
The pedal-to-the-metal groove in “Habesha” is a tribute to Portland’s beloved (and defunct) Ethiopian lounge and punk club, while “Brainwaves” pairs heavy chug with the delicate flutter of a pan flute. “Blood Smoker” closes the EP with some surf-punk zigzag that sounds like Man or Astro-man? crashed their spaceship into a pool of pure Old Portland gutter sludge.
Five tracks. Five bracing blasts of awesome to soundtrack your summer. Thank the heavens for Máscaras.