Caramelo Haze | Texas Review | Ralph Arvesen
Caramelo Haze performing during the Austin Psych Fest at Empire Control Room & Garage in Austin, Texas on April 25, 2024. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Sonic futurism, hallucinatory escape, gut-wrenched yearning… “NOESTASAQUÍ” (you aren’t here)—the forthcoming debut album by Caramelo Haze on Nacional Records is all of these: a bold neon suite that glows in the lo-fi undertow of sunburst EQ sweeps and roasted 808s. Caramelo Haze is the newly-formed all-star outfit featuring Beto Martínez, Alex Chavez, Victor “El Guámbito” Cruz, and John Speice. Accomplished producers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists, Martínez, Chavez, Cruz, and Speice have collaborated on stage and in the studio for years, yet always in the guise of their own individual projects.

Founding-member of the Grammy Award-winning (and famously Prince-backing) Grupo Fantasma, Martínez also spearheads the critically acclaimed bands Brownout and Money Chicha; award-winning composer and producer, Chavez currently fronts the Chicago-based experimental quintet Dos Santos and boasts recent work with composer Graham Reynolds and his MxTX project featuring Rubén Albarrán/Bostiche, Grammy Award-winning Quetzal and Smithsonian Folkways; Cruz is a member of the traditional and futuristic Colombian musical family of NYC where Bulla en el Barrio, Combo Chimbita, and MAKU Sound System (founding member) gestated—the same lineage of his Austin-based psychedelic power trio Nemegata; master drummer and percussionist, Speice is a member of Grupo Fantasma and offshoots Brownout and Money Chicha (alongside Martínez), and has been a regular house drummer for Adrian Quesada’s (Black Pumas) Electric Delux Recorders and played drums for GZA, Bernie Worrell, and the Greyhounds.

These four musicians came together in the summer of 2020, deep in the throes of the pandemic to collaborate after months in isolation. They retreated to Martinez’s “Lechehouse Music” studios in Buda, Texas for a series of marathon recording sessions engineered by Martínez.

With no expectations or pre-written material to speak of, they improvised their way through a sonic landscape where Afro-Colombian folklore met steamy South Texas soul, where psychedelic Americana blended with the soaring highland sounds of Central Mexico. The end result is the electro neo-sōl speculative odyssey, “NOESTASAQUÍ” (you aren’t here). Now officially signed to the marquee Latin Alternative record label Nacional Records, the group’s debut album “NOESTÁSAQUÍ” was released on June 24th and is available worldwide.

From post-cumbia synth vamps to disco-inflected circum-Caribbean psychedelia, the genius and versatility of these musicians shines on this release, as they embraced total creative freedom. No defined roles, no predetermined concepts, just a sense of adventure and uninhibited experimentation all wrapped up in the sunbaked offing of a caramelo haze.

Austin Psych Fest
The Austin Psych Fest is scheduled for April 26-28, 2024, marking its return to the original single-location setup and springtime schedule. This edition promises an intimate atmosphere and a two-stage lineup at The Far Out Lounge in South Austin, a historic outdoor venue with a century-long legacy.

This iteration of Austin Psych Fest revives the vintage ambiance of the inaugural gathering, offering attendees the chance to enjoy music under the open sky and amidst the venue's expansive backyard, adorned with majestic oak trees and bathed in starlight.

Caramelo Haze shared the stage with Golden Dawn Arkestra, JaRon Marshall, Cazayoux, and The Point at Empire Control Room & Garage.

Caramelo Haze
web | facebook | x | instagram

Austin Psych Fest
web | facebook | x | instagram

Photos by Ralph Arvesen
web | facebook | x | instagram

Caramelo Haze Caramelo Haze Caramelo Haze Caramelo Haze Caramelo Haze