Founded in October 2018, by multi-talented artist, Stephen Watkins, TexMex Shaman is a genre-defying project that combines funk beats, intense blues-flavored guitar, smooth bass, and captivating samples, into tracks that are at once familiar and novel. Watkins has been composing and performing for over 20 years. After receiving a degree in music from the University of North Texas, he spent the 1990s playing across Texas. TexMex Shaman has released six tracks on the EP “Fever in the South”. More tracks are being composed to complete a new LP that will be released in early 2020. This is honestly one of the best blend of electronic and organically based recordings I have had the pleasure of listening to in the past few years. It’s powerful, beautiful and haunting, the music builds and swells with the imagery it conveys. The samples make it sound like you’ve ascended into different dimensions. I’m not sure how to describe this music as other than transcendent and resonating.
There is a lot of emotion in this music. You really feel it when you listen. That’s rare in popular music; I’ve experienced this kind of emotion with Classical and progressive rock music, but very seldom with anything else. “Fever in the South” is beautiful, empowering, thought-provoking and philosophically deep, which is fascinating because it’s completely instrumental, except for a handful of vocal samples.
“Beautiful” might seem like an odd description for a sequence of tracks that showcase an assault, of balls to the wall, bone-crushing guitar riffs and motifs, but it really is hard to define it any other way, except maybe by using the word “genius”.
From the moment the EP kicks off with the wayward intensity of “Yeah, they deliver”, you realize this is not a Saturday night ‘singalong around a fire with your friends’ record. This is a heavy slab. It’s a pressure that weighs upon your chest, pressing down relentlessly for the duration of this stunning release, until delivering the final killing blow on spacey, psychedelic and almost beat-less “You look kinda like my neighbor Gordon”.
A musical project inventing a genre in such an ambitious fashion is always fraught with potential pitfalls, but instead this is a masterstroke. A nimble dodge of the usual tropes, and a carefully thought out, intelligent and passionate release that drips catharsis, closure and amazing storytelling, without actually singing a single word.
And the masterpiece arrives quickly, in the form of “Roll over Matryoshka” – a piece of intensely guitar-driven chill that would never make the list of ‘background music’, as metamorphoses into dancefloor funk and back again.
“What it do” is an affirmation of all the heavy shit that’s come before, and a promise that there is more on its way. Melodic vocal samples abound, drowned in the washes of overdriven guitar, growling basslines, and banging drums.
With the combination of multiple guitars, moving strings and exceptional bass work, it’s evident that every instrument has a chance at the spotlight on “The nicest most well dressed gay man in Hong Kong!” At least until the screaming lead guitar grabs the spotlight. As its lengthy climax rages on, it’s another fantastic testament to how crushingly heavy crescendos can sound beautiful instead of brutal.
“Peking Bass” is built around a thumb-slapping funky bass that cooks alongside some crazy space-age sounds and robotic voices. It’s a potpourri of sonic madness and rhythmic ecstasy – a deep rooted emotional roller coaster.
Relying heavily on rock guitar motifs for impact, this EP treads a fine line between progression and cacophony. And it does do brilliantly – never too much of one, and never too little of the other. TexMex Shaman has carved out a dense set of songs with many layers, and multiple listens will help us to further examine what makes this piece of music tick, and uncover all of its moving parts. It’s an essential listen and something I would highly recommend to music fans searching for a new, more challenging listening experience.