Boleros Psicodélicos: Adrian Quesada's Border Collaborations

Grupo Fantasma was legend in Austin in the late 1990s and early 2000s, particularly at Antone's Night Club. Adrian Quesada, a former leading member of Grupo, with whom he won a Grammy, went on to create Echocentrics, Brownout, Ocote Soul Sound and, most recently with Eric Burton, the Black Pumas.

In July of 2022, Quesada released Boleros Psicodélicos on ATO Records, a project with a genealogy that harkens back to Grupo Fantasma years. In an NPR Interview, Quesada explains his reaction to hearing (again for the first time) the Peruvian band Los Pasteles Verdes's, 'Esclavo Y Amo': "Well, I had a few moments, but I remember specifically as soon as it started, it sounded like a hip-hop beat. It sounded like a Wu-Tang Clan song. And then the singing was so dramatic and so passionate and just really psychedelic – it had, like, a slap-back delay and reverb, and it was just amazing. And that was it. You know, at that time I was even more of a psychedelic person than I am now, and it just completely blew my mind. This is the craziest thing I've ever heard. It was so wild."

This music had always been adjacent to Quesada, "It was a much more traditional music, that came from Cuba and had a heavy presence in Mexico. A lot of trios harmonizing vocals, and acoustic guitar or some light percussion. Absolutely gorgeous music. And I have a huge appreciation for it now that I didn't when I was young."

Boleros Psicodélicos is a dreamy wah-wah album of psycho-de-lectrified ballads with mesmerizing organs, twanging guitars, and a precision of rhythm and percussion that captures the intentionality of Quesada's re-working of known compositions. Though it is the vocals that enchant and captivate the music itself, weaving notes and breath and cords and beats into other-worldly and deeply present songs that caress desires and lamentations with a burst of joy and clamor. Boleros Psicodélicos is also an album of collaborations, like "Esclavo Y Amo with Natalia Clavier, or "Mentiras con Cariño" with Puerto Rican vocalist Ileana Cabra, iLe. You can check out the video here. Or "El Payaso," featuring Girl Ultra. This remake of the Spanish singer Jeanette's, El Muchacho de los Ojos Triste, will wah-wah brass its smoky saunter into your hips and heart. According to udiscovermusic, the song has "more than 100 million streams…Quesada flips the arrangement from breezy and bouncing to sauntering and smooth, laying down a heavy and horn-filled groove beneath Tita [Moreno's] alluring lead vocals."

As explained in a press release for the album, this project allowed Quesada "to pay tribute to that sound that I was already hearing in my head without realizing that people had already done it. Balada changed the face of Latin music forever. If something like that happened today, it would be normal because everyone's connected on Instagram. Think how powerful this sound had to be for everyone to be connected through the songs. As someone who grew up speaking two languages and living on both sides of the border, I love how much music can transcend barriers and boundaries. It really is a universal language, especially back then."