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”.