Build - Rupa & The April Fishes

Electric Gumbo Radio Music

It would be presumptuous as an observer to try and connect the dots between the first two albums from San Francisco five-piece Rupa and the April Fishes, with their latest release called Build. The mind of multilingual singer/songwriter Rupa Marya must be a complicated place. She’s a musician, activist and internist physician. There’s a balancing act for you! The band surfaced on Cumbancha Records with eXtraOrdinary rendition in 2008. The title referred to the American counterterrorism practice of farming out the interrogation of suspected terrorists to countries that have reputations for torturous techniques. The political forthrightness was delivered to the ear in a startling cabaret of gypsy jazz, Balkan beats, Indian ragas, Latin, Caribbean and African references. The 2009 follow-up Este Mundo (This World) equally broke genre molds, trashed preconceptions and explored the sweeping range of global emotions, from transcendent joy to the depths of human suffering. If one were to draw a line through all those dots leading up to the new album, Build seemingly would represent a skyward progression from the foundations laid before? Maybe so. The opener and title track will promote a new documentary on the Generation Food Project, championing smarter ways to grow and eat food now so there’s plenty to go around in the future. The musical templates on disc are eclectic as ever with some new textures woven in. Notably the second track called Weeds wrings out the one-drop reggae as the title might suggest. Track 3, Sur La Route brings a chill, atmospheric vibe to the table evoking Morcheeba and Portishead. And, in case what Rupa & The April Fishes has built gives you twinges of vertigo, they throw in a touch of the familiar covering Guns Of Brixton, a song of discontent reflecting tensions in urban England at the time Paul Simonon of The Clash wrote it. The Fishes’ new label Electric Gumbo Radio Music gets its own jingle to close the disc, with field recorded flotsam and jetsam and a hip hop flow ala Manu Chao. Speaking of closing the disc, the multi-fold cardboard cut-out sleeve is actually an ingenious stencil for taggers. But, like that road map in the glove box, almost impossible to properly fold back together again. I’m displaying mine partially reconstructed into a pentagonal sculpture.