WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because something this cool, slick, sleek and svelte should not be something you dig next year when everyone is digging it. Which is to say: Feel free to dig it NOW.
By Eugene S. Robinson
Totimoshi is some distinctly non-standard metal-influenced rock.
Fronted by husband Tony Aguilar on guitar and wife Meg Castellanos on bass, with a revolving door for drummers, they’ve opened for everybody from Mastodon and Helmet to The Melvins—their bona fides as some of the hardest working folks around have been established over the past 14 years. Meaning, if they’re not playing their own shows, they’re roadies, or selling merch for others and working any number of side hustles to make the business of making music make sense.
A blend of acoustic guitar, vocals achingly sung in Spanish, and the dance, always the dance.
But this is not about that. This is about one of their very specific side hustles.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Alma Sangre.
“Well, I’ve been dancing flamenco for about the last 17 years,” says Castellanos from Los Angeles, an adopted city for these recently departed Oakland familiars. “But I just started performing solo and it’s a … commitment.” A commitment well met. When we first see the video for their song “Bruja,” directed by French film documentarian Mariex Xme and Lyn Gaza, well, shock is not a strong enough word to describe how we were transfixed by their plangent blend of acoustic guitar, vocals achingly sung in Spanish, and the dance, always the dance.
Full disclosure: Mariex Xme also directed The Luxury of Empire, a documentary about Eugene Robinson’s own Oxbow.
”My background is in theater and dance—I studied dance, Butoh and then flamenco—and I always wanted to combine them,” Castellanos says. ”We can use some of the quieter ideas and melodies that never made it to recordings, and while I may play a small guitar or acoustic bass on some songs eventually, right now, I’m using visual ideas and dance to give a different life to Tony’s music. It’s … intimate.”
When you hear Aguilar’s voice, usually slathered in guitar feedback and monster amp-age in Totimoshi, solo and strikingly so in this setting, you get it right away. The name suddenly makes all kinds of sense: alma, the Spanish word for “soul,” and sangre, the word for “blood.”
”I always write the music first and the vocals phonetically then add the lyrics last,” Aguilar says. ”The subject matter has changed in that it’s less a train of thought and a lot more specific but writing in Spanish is easier delivery wise to me. It’s not as choppy as the English language. However I’m not as articulate in Spanish so writing the lyrics is harder even if I spoke Spanish before I spoke English, since after my parents divorced I only spoke English at home.”
And it’s this kind of dislocation that makes listeners at least of their past efforts comfortably confused about both what they’re hearing and seeing. ”Not what I expected at all,” director Mariex Xme says. “Deep and sad and something very true about it. In it I see people fighting for their vision of life and their culture. Beautifully.”
Heading overseas in late spring, Alma Sangre is steering itself toward playing non-traditional venues which, for this pair, means fewer all-black, beer-stained cellars and many more art and theater spaces. It’s much more clear that their duet requires and deserves it.
But seeing is most decidedly believing.