Máscaras, comprised of three Portland music scene veterans (members of Sun Angle, Deer or the Doe, O Bruxo, Cat Hoch, Paper/Upper/Cuts, and literally dozens of others), is what happens when an off-the-cuff jam session between friends really, really works. Even in its recorded form, “it’s a jam with themes that live and breathe,” the band says, “leaving room for the unexpected.” The trio, comprised of Papi Fimbres (drums), Theo Craig (bass), and Carlos Segovia (guitar), plays heavy, propellant psychedelic music with surf-rock twang and mathy sensibilities. They call it “maximalist indigenous psych,” and while it’s not exactly the kind of music that one would normally identify with Portland—these are, after all, three brown dudes in the whitest city in America—they have become local favorites since their low-key formation in 2013, placing third in Willamette Week’s prestigious annual Best New Band Poll earlier this year.
Máscara vs. Máscara, the band’s first proper release, is made up mostly of songs that were written in the band’s first few jam sessions, and they are bursting with the energy of invention. Opener “Burgers & Balrog” is a surf-rock micro-epic that squeals with spiraling riffage from Segovia; “City of Ruins” finds Fimbres pummeling his set as Segovia plays intricate, Assyrian-sounding licks; “NewYorican” features playful interaction between Segovia and Craig, while Fimbres whips out the shakers and plays a latin beat (Segovia and Fimbres also play in Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, a cumbia group with over a dozen members). These are urgent, intense songs, but they’re also playful. It’s the sound of three homies making exactly the music they want to make, for no one else but themselves. It just so happens that people love it.