The Spam Allstars are a cosmic Afro-Cuban band based in Miami who are a popular live act with their blend of Latin, funk, dub, hiphop, soul, electro and improvisation. Their sixth album Trans-Oceanic, is out now on vinyl by Peace & Rhythm (CD on the group's own Spamusica imprint).
Trans-Oceanic, the long-anticipated, brand new record from Miami’s Spam Allstars, is chock-full of tropical electro space-funk spiced with a heady dose of Cuban flavors. Instant trans-oceanic beach party! Download card with the extra bonus track “Agua de Poço” included.
The six-piece Spam Allstars have been at the forefront of Miami’s culturally blended, highly creative musical scene for twenty years. Formed by the multi-talented Andrew Yeomanson aka DJ Le Spam to create electronic descargas (Latin jam sessions), the band’s unique sound was incubated in a live setting while in residence in the Cuban-themed nightclub Hoy Como Ayer on Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana (their weekly night is still going strong after 15 years). Le Spam and his all-stars took their inspiration from the fabled improvisational Cuban jam sessions of the 1950s and ‘60s, deftly mixing them with funk, dub, electro, rock and hip-hop elements that reflect the city’s multi-cultural makeup. Through the course of six albums, international touring, and interesting collaborations with the likes of Phish side project Vida Blue, New World Symphony, and Rumberos de la 8, this cosmically jamming dance ensemble seamlessly combines various traditions and enlightens in ways you won’t find anywhere else. Their new long-player, Trans-Oceanic, offers up a tasty batida (tropical fruit shake) of funk, rumba, charanga, electro beats, fat bass and bouncy brass that leads to relentless grooving throughout the proceedings.
Spam Allstars have their own studio in Miami, the well-respected City of Progress, where the inspiration freely flows through like a fresh sea breeze, both for the band and for many other musicians and producers looking to work with capable studio head Andrew Yeomanson, who is a producer, engineer, and audio archivist as well as a beat-maker, guitarist, and turntablist. It makes perfect sense that Yeomanson and his cohorts work in Miami because the population demographic – and hence the music – is so culturally rich there (both today and historically speaking). The deep voodoo rhythms of Afro-Cuban and Haitian culture, the 808 blasts of Miami’s own ‘booty bass’ music, the wealth of local soul, funk, R&B & disco, as well as Caribbean soca, Latin freestyle, Dominican merengue, Colombian cumbia, rap, reggae, house, country, art rock, even noise...you name it, Miami’s got it. The city has a rich past of Cuban musicians and singers that forged uniquely hybrid sound back in the 70s and 80s that built up until it spilled over into the international success of Miami Sound Machine, Gloria Estefan, and Willy Chirino; indeed, today the Latin music industry calls Miami home. And of course all those visiting pop stars that had classic albums built at storied spots like Criteria Studios surely soaked up these varied sounds and cultures as well, while stumbling through the city’s streets in search of a feeling, a feeling Yeomanson channels quite deftly; in fact, he’s worked with some of the city’s old-school producers and engineers to preserve their recorded legacies. The general vibe of the city is an interesting combo of relaxed beach culture and urban chic, of vacationers and retirees, artists and business people, immigrant strivers and refugees seeking a better life, ultra-rich and quite poor, all co-existing (sometimes not so harmoniously), thus bringing all the ingredients needed to make what DJ Le Spam playfully calls ‘Spamusica.’
Trans-Oceanic is the latest edition in Le Spam & Co.’s storied catalogue and indisputable proof that their block-rocking yet melodic sound has gone to the next level. With its unique instrumental combo of organic and electronic, the Spam sound (expanded here to a 9-piece in the studio) manages to weave together seemingly disparate elements into a seamless whole, much like the experience of traveling through Miami’s different geographical zones on any given day. Sensuous strains of violin, choppy funk guitar, gorgeous flute and strutting soul horns seem to float atop a rhythmic foundation of crisp timbales and skin-slapping congas, with a sprinkle of djembe and clave thrown in for good measure, while at the bottom runs a warm Gulf-Stream current of drum loops, robo-machine-beats and synth burbles, with the result that this music kicks you onto the dancefloor like no other. Whether you are a rumbero, hip-hopper or funk fanatic, you will be no less moved by the deep tones and soulful style on display here.
In fact the six tunes on the record (plus the bonus download cut) offer something for everyone, with different moods and intensities. The party-rocking title opener sets sail into wild synth, tasteful djembe, and a hand-clapping groove with a sweetly melodic front line of horns and flute. “Cosquilla” (Tickle) is a sexy Afro-Cuban rumba-inspired number with humorous Spanish lyrics kept in place by funk drums and a rock-steady montuno vamp played on Cuban tres guitar buoyed by some deep pulsing synth-bass. “Ruby Carat” is a funk-charanga hybrid (charanga is a traditional old-school Cuban dance orchestra with flute and violin lineup) aided by a rumba section and gorgeous trumpet underpinned by the timbales of Tomás Díaz. The centerpiece is the cosmic R&B number, “Satellite,” which is already receiving enthused responses from radio and club DJs alike. That’s saxophonist A.J. Hill pulling double duty on soulful vocal around the funky synth and fuzzy guitar solo. “Around the Track” is a great slice of Afro-funk with some rock axe to make it bristle with guitar swagger. The violin is back on the electro-soul cut “La Concha,” with some countryish guitar stylings just to flip the script a little. “Agua de Poço” is the bonus track on the download card and it’s a freaky djembe–driven electro-afrobeat number that has a lot of club DJs bumping the digital right now.
The title ‘Trans-Oceanic’ reflects the trans-national diasporic roots that give the band its superpowers. Of course the music of the Caribbean is at the core (rumba, descarga, charanga, reggae), with the Atlantic and Pacific getting love as well, from funk and soul to jazz and electro, all right there with Mama Africa going straight to the gut. What makes this swirling wave of music so strong is the fact that the horn lines are tight yet sublime, the foamy synth concoctions actually seem like they belong, plus the gorgeous and clear flute contrasts with it all quite nicely, and so combinations of instruments that may seem at first odd actually make sense in a visceral way, weaving throughout the aqueous blend with such assurance and ease that you don’t stop to question why, you just let it refresh and wash over you, taking your body blissfully down stream. And as head-noddingly interesting as this experimental electronic-fusion set-up is, it’s booty-moving music first and foremost; those bassy drops and tickling timbales are calling you to the floor.
Also in line with the music’s mix of old and new, organic and inorganic, cosmic and earthy is the quintessentially Miami album cover artwork which manages to at once combine vintage art deco and futuristic sci-fi, utilizing a nostalgically inviting Caribbean palette to color an almost chilling machine-like sphere in a stunning combo that would be off-putting if it didn’t work so well. Italian born cover artist Francesco Lo Castro uses an unorthodox painting technique involving the intricate layering of pigment and resin to achieve a heightened sense of dimension and depth, in much the same way that DJ Le Spam and his Allstars layer their music to create a rich recording that flows harmoniously and says a lot in an effortless, fun-loving manner. The Spam Allstars and Peace & Rhythm could not be more thrilled to showcase Francesco’s work in this highly appropriate cultural context.
Industry and press pull quotes:
“Perhaps one of the city’s most influential and long-lasting sounds, Spam Allstars is finally bringing some new beats to our booties…[Trans-Oceanic is] …every bit as awesome as they already are." - Prism, Creators of Culture
"The latest batch of arrangements is collected on Trans-Oceanic, the Spam Allstars’ sixth album. The band’s hypnotic grooves are still firmly in effect, but so is a concrete sense of song structure. This is despite an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach: Fuzzed-out guitar riffs sidle up to conga rhythms and voice samples from the National Weather Service.” - Ocean Drive
“...Spam Allstars are the creator of the contemporary Miami sound....” - Miami Herald
“…an authentic Miami sound is being forged by DJ Le Spam and the All Stars.”
- Rolling Stone
“Often credited as pioneering the new Miami-fusion sound, a synthesis of electronic music with Latin beats from Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, and other countries whose musicians have migrated to Miami, the Spam Allstars combine live and improvised electronic music and turntables in a vigorous rhythmic celebration that defies categorization.” - Boston Globe
“Spam creates a Cuban vibe mixed with hip hop and dub, with great swinging violin, horns, synthesizer solos and flute parts. It’s fresh and highly danceable, and you'll wonder why you didn't hear of Spam earlier.” - The Gazette (Montreal)
“The Spam Allstars are generating a buzz in the music business for their rhythmic mixtures of electronica, Latin, funk, hip-hop and dub. And the band members are just as diverse as the music they groove to.” - NPR
“A good old Latin jam, a ‘descarga’, with the same spirit of Cuba where descarga originated.” - BBC
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Here's the video for "Agua de Poço", available on Trans-Oceanic CD and as a bonus free digital download with purchase of LP. Check it out: