Although they peg themselves as "Latin / Psychedelic / Soul" on their MySpace page, I don’t hear anything particularly Latino (to say nothing of psychedelic or soulful) in the music of Alla, aside from the Spanish language singing of Lupe Martinez. But on a more general level this young Chicago combo, which includes some former members of Defender, fits in nicely with some of Latin and South America’s best pop-rock outfits—Café Tacuba, Aterciopelados, Ely Guerra, Babasonicos—all of whom navigate the divide between standard rock instrumentation and strong electronic enhancements (samples, loops, and textures).
The group’s self-produced debut album, Es Tiempo, mixes ethereal pop melodies with richly layered percussion, spare guitar and keyboard licks, and driving bass lines that hold it all together. The songs haven’t stuck too firmly in my head, but the production of Jorge Ledezema—who forms the core of the band with brother Angel and Martinez—is mighty impressive, and not simply on a technological level. Still, Alla needs to make everything more forceful, from the attack to the singing, which is a bit too wispy. Still, in a city where there are hundreds of competent acts who don’t sound much different form one another, Alla have managed to stake out some original turf in the city. They perform tomorrow night, January 18, at Schubas with the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, and again on Thursday, January 25, at the Hideout as part of a release party for Make magazine.