When it comes to mesmeric Alt Latino music and all things rough and Rock En Español, no ensemble is mightier and more bizarrely diverse than Chicano Batman.
While its origin story begins in the clubs of Los Angeles in 2008, their sound – so far, across a handful of EPs, singles and four albums including their most recent volume, “Invisible People” from 2020 – is both ancient, modern and all across the global map, as it borrows from from Brazilian tropicalia, Brit psychedelia, monochromatic Krautrock, prog, folk and good old American R&B.
On Wednesday, Chicano Batman – Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arévalo, Bardo Martinez and Gabriel Villa – bring their Latin-laced, multi-verse magic to Philly’s Union Transfer in the Eraserhood with opening act Los Retros in tow.
“At the birth of all this, it was just me trying to get my ideas out there, and finding people to do it all with,” Bardo Martinez told me a few months ago about forming Chicano Batman with wildly like-minded friends and neighbors in the Los Angeles Latin alternative music scene.
While Bardo was Chicano Batman’s full-time songwriter at its start, and its eponymous debut in 2010, he has been pleased to share the sonic load and the songwriting duties on albums that followed such as 2014’s “Cycles of Existential Rhyme” and 2017’s “Freedom Is Free.” Martinez added: “Time goes on, and we become equal voices. Totally.”
Talking about coming up in 1990s Los Angeles before Chicano Batman’s formation, Martinez – whose first name has nothing to do with a Tibetan-Buddhist backstory tied to the liminal state between death and rebirth – brought up the sounds and stories of backyard parties and break beats, as well as the oldies stations that his parents listened to daily, both the American AM dial and those stations dedicated to his Latino heritage.
“When my dad wasn’t playing the radio, he was playing his old Latino records,” recalls Martinez. “All of that music combined was on the same wavelength for me. There was never any separation. If it bangs, I use it. Put it all in the same bowl of soup.”
Considering that Martinez spent a chunk of the pandemic’s quarantine working on new Chicano Batman music (released over the summer, a double sided single “Dark Star” / “Pastel Sunrise”), as well as his first solo album, “Everywhere Reminds Me of Space,” the singer, guitarist and synthesizer player feels as if he has come back around to the front, and full circle toward making all of his own decisions sans any democracy.
“Whether these solo songs of mine were recorded with friends just hanging out, or by me on my own, they’re not dictated by anyone else,” said Martinez. “It was really just me saying, ‘I love this song,’ or ‘I love this energy,’ and deciding to put it out. Just me working ceaselessly. It’s more beat-driven, but that’s just how I mix things when I’m on my own, producing myself. I wasn’t aiming for anything one way or another.”
With that, there’s just a little more of a hard soul feel in Bardo’s solo “Everywhere Reminds Me of Space” trip, as well as some Blaxploitative funk (blame his time in film school studies), Latin jazz, and spoken word poetry whose vibe and stature come from the influence of early rappers The Last Poets and the late Gil Scott Heron.
“I’m set on the vision that I have, so whether it’s as part of a collective or on my own, I’m psyched to go down whatever rabbit hole it is I’m going down,” said Martinez, talking as a solo artist and a member of the magnificent Chicano Batman. “Sometimes I’m not sure exactly what rabbit hole that may be, but I’m always cool with it.”