What do you get when you blend a reverential take on the diverse canon of popular Caribbean music with an all-star cast of seasoned studio musicians from the heart of Brooklyn? The answer lies in Combo Lulo’s much anticipated debut studio long-player, Neotropic Dream. The group takes its influence from the deep musical heritage of New York’s cultural pedigree, especially the heyday of the city’s Caribbean record distribution industry — a culture of music that still bubbles today in the crevices of the city’s independent neighborhoods and record communities.
Despite the general scope of the muse, it’s hard to precisely pin down this fantastic re-imagining. In some ways, that’s why the title for the band’s debut album is Neotropic Dream, a nod to the biogeographic region that encompasses the countries along the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, a region intensely diverse in its climate, fauna and flora. This theme manifests musically as you journey through Combo Lulo’s original compositions and cleverly chosen covers. More than anything, it’s a dreamy storm of styles and musical moments born anew. And just as weather swiftly travels and transforms the Caribbean, so the varied musical styles carry the listener from the album’s start to finish. Not just a talented band’s showcase of styles, but rather a sumptuous feast of savory and sweet ingredients on display, together. A musical curry roux, if you will, that fits together so harmoniously, it’s no wonder the band engenders automatic appreciation both in their studio recordings and in their uproarious live shows.
Whether it’s cumbia gone rock steady, or reggae gone chicha, or vocal vs. version, there’s a little something for everybody on here, depending on where you drop the needle. With splendid original compositions and horn arrangements from band leader Mike Sarason and saxophonist Anant Pradhan, respectively, Combo Lulo is quickly proving themselves to be a powerhouse of the highest caliber.