The pandemic offered many musicians the opportunity to finish languishing projects or start new ones. For Oxnard native Mauri Tapia, or as he is better known by his stage name, Los Retros, it gave him the opportunity to dip back into the vault. The result was a new(ish) EP titled, Looking Back and it’s out via Peanut Butter Wolf’s label, Stones Throw Records.
This short trip in the wayback machine takes the listener back to 2018, when Mauri was just 16 and recording songs in his parent’s living room surrounded by his progenitor’s collection of vintage rock and roll LPs. These old records played a crucial role in the development of Mauri’s own musical vocabulary, a fact was evident on his breakout 2019 EP Retrospect, but the roots of his sound are less self-consciously exposed on Looking Back.
Looking Back was recorded during the same sessions as Retrospect, and the difference in sound and feel between the two releases appears to be the consequence of Mauri sorting out the more progressive-leaning tracks for his debut, leaving the more straightforward tracks in the pantry to season with age. It was probably the right move, as the kind of ’60s and ’70s Latin soft rock that forms the basis for Mauri’s aesthetic has only become more popular between now and the time when these tracks were recorded.
The melodies on Looking Back are all around pretty tight and memorable, and the slightly titled quality of each, in combination with the otherwise approachable and pleasant profile of their psychedelic pop hooks, is highly reminiscent of The Beatles mid-career material. This is not surprising of course as the Fab Four are still one of the more influential groups to ever hum a bar on FM airwaves, but it is worth mentioning as the band was particularly influential in the era of South and Central American rock music Mauri is drawing from. Amongst the many talented, but under-acknowledged, artists of these places and periods is the Argentine rock group Los Angeles Negros, after whom Mauri takes inspiration for his one band’s name, and whose unique blend of liquid psychedelic and funk is well represented on standout tracks like “Likewise,” with its effortlessly patient grooves and subtle wake stirring reverb.
Opener “Amtrack” steps lightly as if attempting to walk on water, and upon finding itself successful in its miraculous endeavor, begins to spin and somersault like a leaf caught in the current of a stream. “Deep Seated” has a discernibly more funky undertow which is very reminiscent of the type of slow, sensual jam that Nick Hakim has come close to perfecting. A similar melody and groove is manifest under a rumbling tide of reverb, cut with sharp, glancing guitar tones a la Barrabas on “Moon Ride.” The most soulful tracks on Looking Back is likely “It Had to Be You” which pours out a little rare funk to add a low-heat simmer to the album’s middle passage. Lastly, “Purple Night” winds things down with a spacey break-beat-driven arch of R’nB that rides an indulgent synth line over the horizon and out of sight.
You can buy and stream Looking Back via Bandcamp below: