Desert rock from the Pacific North West
Borracho – the Spanish word for drunk – might be from the home of Donald Trump (from January anyway) but the clue to where their hearts lie is in the title of this album.
The three piece from Washington DC are less about the White House than the brown dirt, though as “Atacama” takes its name from a desert in Chile, which the cover depicts and appropriately the music contained in its eight tracks occupies the same dry as dust as habitat.
One of those records that views convention as something that are a starting point, not a destination. Two of its first three cuts are instrumental, for example. Of these, “Descent” sets the stall out by locking itself into an almighty riff, while “Flower” is lighter and more blues orientated, evoking a night under the stars with Cactus plants for company.
Even when the vocals do kick in, they do so sparingly, because although Steve (like Cher, he doesn’t need a last name) does a fine job, he recognises that here, the guitar tone is king. Not as downtuned as you might think either, “Gold From Sand” has more than a hint of early Monster Magnet about it, and the brilliant “Drifted Away From The Sun” lives and dies by its light and shade, with the singing akin to Neil Fallon at his most belligerent.
“Last Song” is stripped down, with plenty of instrumental moments, doing an excellent job of building itself up to a crescendo that never quite comes, and when the wonderful “Lost In Time” lets its hair down, you can only surmise that this trio would be very special indeed in the live arena.
Capable of epic moments of almost psych rock – “Overload” is a near 11 minute journey that is aptly named – Borracho are a band that are verging on the impossible to pin down.
“Shot Down, Banged Up, Fade Away” sees the rhythm section of Tim and Mario (who are superb throughout) really to the fore as they go at one last time, and those that like to imagine Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity formed a supergroup will have their fantasies closer to coming true here.
This is one of those records that will get called “stoner” by people who have no idea what that epithet actually means. Instead, “Atacama” is a mighty and magnificent slab of scuzzy, fuzzy, bluesy hard rock.