Los Twang! Marvels
Guitars In Orbit






You can find mysteries and enigmas aplenty in deep space, so why bother about the Surf Rock combo’s Los Twang! Marvels truthful roots, whether they are a Berlin-based collective or a sophisticated bunch of exiled savages who left the craggy mountains of some Latin American country – possibly Chile – in order to spread the instrumental word about their exotic heritage. These things are not of interest when you find yourself way above the clouds as the band does in Guitars In Orbit, released in 2005 on the perfectly earthed El Toro Records.


The band comprised Argentinian lead guitarist and organist Alex Anthony Faide, Chilean percussionist and rhythm guitarist Marisol "Yolanda" Palma, percussionist Boris "Bisfer" Israel Fernandez and bassist Tom. Currently on hiatus, with a great Hasta La Vista Tour having been held in the summer of 2010, global prayers for a reunion have remained unnoticed, but will hopefully be answered once the time is right. The band visits 13 stellar destinations – 12 original takes, one surprising rendition – during their journey through adamantly surf-infused Rockscapes. The sound is highly energetic and rough, and nods to the Exotica and Space-Age genres can be found throughout the album, be it the remnants found in the track titles, the manifold galactic guitar sequences or electrifying drum patterns.


Since the band’s sound is so rough and frantic, a truly exotic feeling cannot unfold, not even in their final album for the time being, Jungle Of Twang of 2008, since the purposefully overdriven staccato interaction between the band members depicts the acidic kind of pressure and tension, not necessarily the more laid-back, dreamier approach of other Surf Rock artists who reside next to the tikified climes. Guitars In Orbit is also narrowed down in a strict way: one hectic track follows the next, the textures and surfaces remain the same, and the only true surprises are related to a bet with oneself whether the band can rev up the speed or the entangled drum sections once again, although to be fair, there are downtempo compositions on here as well. I will check out all of the 13 tracks in greater depth below.


And off we go in a mid-tempo kind of Rockabilly style with the eponymous title track Guitars In Orbit which skillfully captures the Surf Rock attitude Space-Age era in grand style. The band lines up in the orbit around the sun, for this particular piece is surprisingly bright and sun-soaked, with a harmonious polyphony and amicable openness that makes it a splendid opener. Only a few moments comprise of tones in minor, but rest assured that this track is the saccharine hillbilly anthem of the album. The following Swan’s Lake is an even greater nod to Space-Age climes and uses a common trick of that time where serious music and entertaining ditties clashed. Enoch Light interweaves melodies of Johann Sebastian Bach in his only Space-Age entry, Spaced Out of 1969, and Los Twang! Marvels do a similar thing with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake which he composed in 1875/76. The famously solemn melody is played by lead guitarist Anthony while Bisfer drums the hell out of his kit and offers a delightful performance in adjacency to Yolanda’s rhythm guitar. Depending on your viewpoint, the majesty of Tchaikovsky’s is either horribly ridiculed or terrifically catapulted into expeditious spheres.


While the leitmotif of the following Marvels A Go Go bases on the duality of a surfer’s laissez-faire attitude and a more warmhearted luminosity which clashes tastefully with the gelid space specks of a whistling organ, it is Luna Park that boosts the tempo for the first time and brings a more amorous, lovelorn aggression to the table which is then lessened by the alit chorus section full of daylight insinuations and beach vistas. Eyesore is a fantastic downbeat space theme which breaks the narrow boundaries of the album for the first time. A grave and dark ambiance lies in the air, perfectly realized by an abysmally hazy lead guitar which is accompanied by clashing cymbals and wooden drops. The whole atmosphere feels foggy and blurry, which makes the short moments of euphony and golden-shimmering harmonies all the more effective. Eyesore is a top pick, surprisingly easygoing, yet loaded with a retrogressive nocturnal pompousness which leads right to the Space-Age era.


Runaway From Zardoz already mentions the higher tempo in its title and interweaves a generous amount of Sicilian vibrato in its sunset-colored feeling of felicitousness and freedom, and The Black Widow relies on a similar positive vibe, for it features a sizzlingly glowing Western saloon setting with ringing guitars, uplifting riffs, silkened percussion and a suspense-packed two-note showdown segue. The album’s intrinsic tempo record is broken with the threnodic desperado chase theme Rancho Cucamonga and its acidic downwards spiraling guitar driblets and Bisfer’s hyperventilating performance on the drums. Corazon Loco places a camouflaged Balkan oompa placenta and grafts a forlornness-evoking contemplatively simmering lead melody, but it is the sleazy Space Tiki Twist which captures my heart with its handclap-filled rhythm, huge amounts of coolness and highly successful and interesting combinations of duo guitar melodies. The song seems to float along and serve as a dump for many melodies, but these sequences are all very enthralling; some of them sound wonky, others deliberately remote and shady. The cohesion of the two guitars in every note as well as the shapeshifting physiognomy is a successful, well, twist in Space Tiki Twist, making it another highlight of the album.


While Back Home could have been the perfect closer for the album, it is actually placed as the eleventh track and interpolates the missing ingredient of the album, namely a languorously romantic surf ballad with whitewashed, cautiously mellowed guitars. The final two songs rev up the tempo once more: Queen Gipsy Witch is built on an altered eight-note guitar motif which is consistently answered by a legato wash of dreaminess, and it is the outro Carioca which unchains a dedicated dose of surf-encapsulated Latin spirits in the form of lamenting tone sequences which shuttle between plaintive and cheerful timbres. From a conceptual standpoint, I still would have preferred Back Home as the proper finale, but heck, Queen Gipsy Witch and Carioca rule nonetheless!


For the connoisseur with trained ears and a decade or two of Surf Rock experience, Guitars In Orbit offers a wonderful variety of full throttle surf anthems with the occasional downbeat structure applied to three or four songs. There is no real dud on this album for this audience. If you approach this album from a vintage Exotica or Space-Age perspective – and its track titles and cover artwork justify just that –, you might miss the variety in-between the variety. Let me explain. An implied consequence of the combo’s focused approach is a strong coherence which some Exotica fans might not respond to overly well: the incessant stream of uptempo numbers is as impressive as it can be tiresome. The textures are seemingly narrowed down too. No theremin-like injections, spoken word samples or weird laser sounds are ever dropped, and despite the obvious reason for this – no synthesizer ever appeared in their 60’s-focused shows – I have to admit that the omission of these playful or quirky devices is a letdown. Only Marvels A Gogo has that pulsar-resembling organ sound woven in. These flaws cannot in the end destroy the humongous bestiality that is Guitars In Orbit.


The uplifting, hyper-frantic compositions have strong melodies, even greater segues and riffs and display the inexorable no-compromise attitude of the live sets the band is still so fondly remembered for to this day. Statistically speaking, in every tenth Exotica-related review on this website am I mentioning my affection for fast-paced material due to my jogging and running duties. Los Twang! Marvels cater to my athletic escapism with Guitars In Orbit in a way not many Surf Rock bands are able to. Be it the nod to Tchaikovsky on Swan’s Lake, the black hole which is crossed in the unexpectedly dark and ostentatious Eyesore or the moony mélange of guitar streams in Back Home, the album glows and gleams in blazing colors, but not in a Glam Rock kind of way, thank you very much, rather than in dirtier hatched in-your-face tinges. Los Twang! Marvels deliver a good Surf Rock album that literally begs for more electronic inclusions and wobbly injections due to its overall concept, but then again, the band remains in 60’s waters and does not want to apply too much rouge to their clear cut, veridical surf hymns. A justifiable and proper approach.


Exotica Review 172: Los Twang! Marvels – Guitars In Orbit (2005). Originally published on Jan. 19, 2013 at AmbientExotica.com.