In a year that forces the question of the right to exist within borders to the forefront, Cochemea Gastelum’s debut LP for Daptone seems almost as presciently political as it is a tour of cultural force. Bestowed by his parents with a name that means “they were all killed in their sleep,” Cochemea comes with a born-in reminder of disparity. Drawing as often on the rhythms of his Yaqui and Mescalero Apache ancestry as he does on ‘70s jazz-funk fusion and Mexican huapango traditions, Cochemea brews a potent picture of the bedrock diversity that drives the true heartbeat of America. Gastelum has described the record as a call for unity – a reminder of what melodies and rhythms bind us rather than what differences divide us. There’s no denying that he’s woven a tapestry that so finely crosses cultures its difficult to see the stitches, but getting the masses huddled under it for comfort is another challenge entirely.
The reliance on indigenous rhythm, chants that feel like prayers, and playing that not only invokes movement but meditation are all pushing the record past any standard fare jazz or funk records bubbling up in 2019. Like Sons of Kemet’s acclaimed LP from last year, this is an album constantly in conversation with culture. Its attempting to bridge genre, genealogy, heritage within the boundaries of a country that’s constantly at odds with its own revisionist history of who’s land stretches between those shining seas.
More than anything, though, this feels like a record that’s a reflection of self, rather than an amalgam of taste, time, and tenure. Gastelum’s worked with everyone from the Dap-Kings and Antibalias to Beck and Amy Winehouse, but this is a deeper dive into what makes a person whole, rather than what makes a person move. While not a tangible word is said over the album’s course, the subtext hums loudly. The chants draw out the salt from the wounds. At its core, All My Relations strikes a balance between melting pot mentality and patchwork precisions – as Gastelum and his cohorts erase the divisions between genre they’re careful not to completely wear away the imprint each culture leaves on the music. They’re reminding listeners that we’re only the latest to dance across this particular dirt, and lines or no lines, we won’t be the last.
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