Fernando Burgos, better known as Oro de Neta in his role as keyboardist for Mexico City experimental pop band Hello Seahorse!, has been moonlighting with a dance-rock outfit called Samal Ayuka. It’s a side project deserving of main-stage attention. The remaining members are drawn from other Mexican bands, namely Sistemas Vocales, The Jungles, Teen Flirt, and Laboratories. So, even if it’s not quite a supergroup, it’s at least a pretty-great group. The members have been gigging around Mexico since 2014, releasing a few singles and a couple of videos. This year, they have released a more substantial document in the form of a self-titled EP, accompanied by more live dates.
The name Samal Ayuka refers to the Samalayuca Dune Fields, a desert area outside Ciudad Juárez. All of the members – frontman Óscar Daniel Segundo, percussionist Juan Pablo Gutiérrez (“Pita”), bassist Jorge Alberto Vázquez Escobar (“Chito”), drummer Héctor Ruíz Silva (“Reez”), Erland Ramírez Cardiel on electric piano and Burgos, who plays synthesizers in this band as well – call the border metropolis their hometown and met each other while in college, though everyone is based in D.F. today.
The name suits the band’s moody sound, which is simultaneously desolate and urbane. The five-track EP is unified by dark synth lines, cool dance beats, and tight grooves, which are haunted by mournful vocals and draped in noise. It glances backward at bands like The Faint yet the sound is as crisp and fresh as its 2016 vintage demands. Hello Seahorse! fans will find the atmospheric melancholy on this release familiar, partly because Burgos mans the keys, but this side project is even more danceable and, in some ways, more accessible. It’s also as intriguing as it is easy on the ears, with a cool and stylish surface that just barely softens a turbulent, Fantasmes-style psychedelia. Música del desierto mexicano, indeed. We can only hope the members find time to record a full-length.