Caramelo Haze

Caramelo Haze: “Una Mañana” (ACL Fest Pop-Up)

We may already be knee deep in Levitation Fest, but that’s not stopping us from sharing just a couple more pieces of backstage magic from ACL Fest. And that cavalcade of unique performances continues today with Caramelo Haze.

This Grupo Fantasma/Brownout offshoot made a bold entrance last June with their debut full-length Noestasaqui, whose lead single “Window Seat” quickly became a KUTX airwave heavyweight. Based on the band’s membership, a baseline of Latin neo-soul is to be expected. But what separates Caramelo Haze from its predecessors is a stronger emphasis on synth sonics, rather than more traditional conjunto arrangements.

Noestasaqui not only scored the quartet an official SXSW spot (plus an appearance during our Scholz Garden live broadcast), but also a big break on that ambitious BMI Stage this past Sunday at ACL Fest. So after enjoying some elbow room atop BMI, the live five-piece managed to cram into KUTX’s pop-up space for a bit more personal of a performance; Caramelo Haze gave us a glimpse of a prettier tomorrow with their rendition of a José José 1969 classic, “Una Mañana”, which at the time, had barely been on streaming for a full day. Beauty may be in the ear of the beholder, but if you don’t like this one, frankly, you’re wrong.

Caramelo Haze: “Something About Goodbye” (feat. Amalia Mondragón)

With the explosive success of Black Pumas, Grupo Fantasma producer Adrian Quesada has become a household name in the mainstream consciousness. But that doesn’t mean Adrian’s the only visionary coming out of Grupo. Far from it. We can’t overlook Grupo Fantasma co-founder and guitarist Beto Martínez, who’s also been the major driving force behind Austin Latin outfits Money Chicha and Brownout. During the first summer of the pandemic, Martínez hunkered down at Lechehouse Music, his personal recording studio out in Buda, Texas. However, he wasn’t about to embrace isolation all on his own. Instead he broke some branches off the extended Fantasma family tree: Fantasma/Brownout/Chicha drummer John Speice, Nemegata multi-instrumentalist Victor “El Guámbito” Cruz, and Dos Santos composer-producer Alex Chavez.

Although the four have crossed paths plenty of times before and collaborated on countless projects on different scales, their natural chemistry was uninhibited by any prior artistic direction or clearly defined roles, and the quartet emerged from Lechehouse as Caramelo Haze. True to their name, Caramelo Haze is a steamy neo-soul treat. They effortlessly stir in formulas from familiar styles like psych and cumbia but don’t shy away from low-end electronic synth work, something relatively unheard of til now in the Fantasma dynasty. Last Friday Caramelo Haze released their debut full-length NOESTASAQUÍ, ten tracks that capture the exciting spirit of a genre-less adventure. We highly recommend listening to NOESTASAQUÍ front to back, but as we wrap up Pride Month, we’ve gotta shout out Queer Latin Grammy nominee Amalia Mondragón, who lays down impassioned airy vocals on the album closer, “Something About Goodbye”.