Local Music

Electric Kif Realizes Rock-Oriented Sound on New Album, Jefe

Electric Kif continues to evolve.
Electric Kif continues to evolve. Photo by Claudia Sanchez Silva
Electric Kif plays for the people, not for other musicians. Despite producing complex and technically impressive arrangements — and dabbling in genres known for flashy embellishments and minutes-long solos — the Miami-based instrumental fusion band never gets too heady. Instead, the collective shoots for memorable grooves, melodies, and atmospheres.

Keyboardist Jason Matthews, who also plays in the local jazztronica duo Twyn, says touring together for three years has turned Electric Kif into a band with "a sound that is uniquely us."

"Our last record, Heist, is an amalgam of all these different styles, but they weren't really blended into the same sound yet," he says. "This one is more like everything has blended together a little more. Everything kind of gels when you're touring together for so long... It's still eclectic, but you get the whole picture when you hear the full record."

The quartet's group-oriented approach has never been more apparent than on its forthcoming record, Jefe, available on streaming platforms beginning September 17. The band will celebrate the album's release with a show at Lagniappe this Saturday, September 14. The record is also being pressed to vinyl, a first for Electric Kif.
Originally setting out to create its own genre — "postnuclear," or electronic music with analog instruments — Electric Kif has slowly gravitated toward a heavier, rock-based sound, though strains of funk and jazz fusion remain embedded in the group's DNA. Each member of the band — bassist Rodrigo Zambrano, guitarist Eric Escanes, drummer Armando Lopez, and Matthews — is an all-star instrumentalist but not the type who needs everyone to know it. Diverging from the jazz performance paradigm where each player steps up for a solo to show off their chops, the band specializes in writing songs that listeners can sing back.

"Nobody is trying to outshine anyone else," Matthews says. "Even though we're an instrumental band, we're not all about the solos... I think we got kind of bored with that format. We've done that style for so many years, especially from playing jazz. How many times can you go back to that format? We're just trying to take you on a journey with a song."

"On this record, you'll notice there isn't a lot of that Hey, here's a melody, now go into a solo, now back to the melody," Zambrano says. "We're trying to set moods."

Lead single "St. Germain," for example, is a densely layered song with a soaking-wet bass line, weird analog synthesizer noises, and wisps of catchy phrases, but nothing sticks around long enough to entirely steal the listener's focus. The song is a demonstration of the members' tendency to play together, not over one another. It's the sound of a band clicking.

Electric Kif. 10 p.m. Saturday, September 14, at Lagniappe, 3425 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-576-0108; lagniappehouse.com.
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.