Funky transport

There's a strange phenomenon that occurs when talking on the phone with someone with whom you don't share a first language. Sarcasm goes over like Kraftwerk at a PTA meeting. An interview turns into rambling explanations of accidental slang and the two parties disengage politely after gamely giving Linguistics 101 a go. Such was the case with yours truly and Jonas, one of the masterminds behind the Mexican border-busting, "hip-hop-for-lack-of-a-better-descriptor" duo Plastilina Mosh.

With the receiver tucked under my chin and the cover of Plastilina Mosh's debut, Aquamosh, in front of me, the typing-conversation tango was desperate. The record introduces the band as two telenovela, having-fun-by-the-seaside-in-drag vacationers, images framed on the screen of a vintage TV set in a spartan-kitsch living room built to the specifications of two art-deco tele-addicts. The combination of this and the measured-cool of multi-instrumentalist, sonic-collage partner Jonas' televoice said what no journalism can. Certainly, the pan-cultural grab bag that Plastilina Mosh employs in constructing its Latin-funk, jazz and rock-flavored hip-hop begs to be untied from the constraints of any one language. When Public Enemy's Flavor Flav exhorted P.E. deejay Terminator X to "Let 'em know y'all can speak with your hands!" the funky gentlemen in P. Mosh were tuning in and applied that same unspoken diction and vocabulary to the mixing board. Or, as Jonas says, "We just do the things that we like. At last people look at it like 'modern music.' If it sounds good, they like it. We prefer to be in a band with character instead of one with certain styles."

For those of you still seeking a concrete handle from which to dangle, Aquamosh falls easily into the slot left vacant in the pop landscape following the Beastie Boys' sampladelic masterpiece, Paul's Boutique, and Beck's sound collage excursion into American funky-folk, Odelay.

And there's a very real lineage not to be taken lightly when the B-Boys' names are dropped -- namely the Dust Brothers, who produced both of the above-cited, sonic high-watermarks. When Plastilina Mosh (the name, says Jonas, means "like Play-Doh or clay; and mosh from the mosh pit. It sounds good, but it doesn't mean anything -- it's like how we do the music and the lyrics) first endeavored to record what was to become Aquamosh, they of course sought out the Brothers Dust. Jonas and musical partner Alejandro Rosso found the DB's dance card filled up with the studio needs of a certain rock institution known as the Rolling Stones. But the inventive producers sent P. Mosh calling on northern California, freaked-out, space-lounge, music-art collective Sukia, who saw -- and helped elicit further -- some of the same sonic mirror-ball reflections of reality found on its indescribably unsettling, lush and funky, found-sound lounge opus, Contacto Espacial Con El Tercer Sexo.

But that's where that comparison ends and the listener realizes that it's the grab bag enthusiasm of Rosso and Jonas that drives this monster truck. The duo also collaborated with Mexican hip-hop stars Cafe Tacuba, as well as producers Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf. But the whole while, the expansive, inclusive sound and language aesthetics of Plastilina Mosh guided the fun.

"I think that's why the record doesn't sound like a collage," says Jonas.

The other side of the sound-resort-getaway that Jonas and Rosso -- Rosso on keyboards, bass, sampling and string arrangements, and Jonas on lead vocals, guitar and bass -- have crafted is equally compelling. The non-cut-and-paste fun to be had on Aquamosh is found in the straight-up Latin jazz, rolling fusion-funk and acid grooves that either cleanse the palate for nonsense, fat-beat workouts such as "Monster Truck" or give depth to the album's atmosphere. The poolside roll of "Banano's Bar," the intercontinental after-hours vibe of "Bungaloo Punta Cometa" and the electro-Love Boat-salsa of "I've Got That Milton Pacheco Kinda' Feeling," all spring from the same dual font, suggesting Jonas and Rosso's nights spent gigging around the Monterrey music circuit in thrash, punk, jazz and funk bands. Not bad for what Jonas says started as a "compositional project" that coupled the duo's musicianship with trips to Monterrey's open-air market for armloads of second hand vinyl--slabs from South America and the United States, as well as old Latin jazz, salsa and bossa nova.

So, while the "Rock en Español" phenomenon finds its way into more and more articles by us trend-loving trainspotters in the music press, Plastilina Mosh is helping to spread a global musical vision that realizes, in this satellite-encircled world, that once vast cultural distances are "around the way."

As for Plastilina Mosh's place in music journalists' trend-obsessed round holes, Jonas comments squarely, "I think it's better for a critic to try to talk about it."

There's no misunderstanding that, no matter how bad the phone connection. Chris Handyside always rocks when he rolls. E-mail [email protected]

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