"We're a dance band," says Jose Luis Pardo, the guitarist for Los Amigos Invisibles. Tuned into groove culture from Detroit to London to Tokyo -- thanks to the Internet and a busy tour schedule -- the Amigos began work on their new album AREPA 3000: A VENEZUELAN JOURNEY INTO SPACE with a disco sensibility. Admiring French DJ/producers the band sought a heavier house sound in contrast to the retro and lounge elements of THE NEW SOUND OF THE VENEZUELAN GOZADERA. "The lounge thing sounds more Japanese," says Jose Luis. "The house sound is fresher, the disco songs we do sound more like that. The album is more electronic in certain ways."
Since their ground-breaking US debut the Amigos have lived a double life. In their hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, they've hosted underground club nights for years (the most recent called 'Super Sancocho Variety'). Then, insouciant single-entendre songs like "Sexy" and the doggy-style anthem "Ponerte En Cuatro" landed them on MTV and radio, and before long, the six young men found themselves pop idols. It wasn't hard, but their hearts remain on the dance floor and in the clubs.
AREPA 3000 is live instruments, start to finish. "Electronic music tries to simulate human sounds," says the guitarist. "It's really easy to buy a groove box or an 808 to make us sound like techno. So we try to get those sounds from our instruments, to go the other way. Make the human sounds sound electronic. When we do our club shows, I'll spin before our set and we'll add live instrumentation. We can play four, five hours like that."
"Amor" is a prime example -- a bumping slice of SalSoul-era disco beefed up by Masters At Work-style production. The ridiculously catchy anthem is actually the work of a little-known Venezuelan composer Jorge Spiteri and his band Ma–ana. "No one knew about them here, but the song was a UK number one dance hit in 1980," says Jose Luis. "We were amazed, we knew the guys -- they're session musicians and they do jingles." And it was fate when he walked into their practice space a day before they were to travel to San Francisco to begin recording their new album with a stack of his old records under his arm. "We fell in love with all of them, but when we heard 'Amor', we were like, This is incredible!"
From junglist Roni Size/Reprazent to relative newcomers Groove Armada and Rinôçérôse, Jose Luis has watched club culture swing back toward live playing. "It confirmed our theory," he says. "It's really fun to see a band playing and feel the energy...The deal is to understand that a DJ has all the possibilities, all kinds of music to make the crowd happy. Then the live band brings the energy. So if you can have a live band play like a DJ, it's the best of both worlds." Even better, the Amigos know no stylistic boundaries. Sexy tropical dance tracks like the hyper merengue "El Sobon", the classic salsa "Llegaste Tarde" and electro bossa nova "Si Estuvieras Aqui" demand respect on Latin dancefloors. Mixing house, funk, and Latin elements with nods to hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, and lounge, Los Amigos' versatility is worth their weight in vinyl.