Joachim Cooder released Fuchsia Machu Picchu earlier this year. It’s an EP he says was inspired by his daughter, who is now three years old. The songs layer instrumental sounds, some recognizable and some not. Joachim involves crazed textures and tensions and odd little rhythms and vocal explorations throughout Fuchsia Machu Picchu. Minimalism tempers the more complex ideas, while other songs play dark and pensive, and still others frivolous. All echo urban folk and early Delta, whose roots are in West Africa. It takes a few listens before I finally get the idea that Cooder, without ever claiming to do so, has updated American blues music.
This story has a local connection, and his name is Bill Wesley. Wesley lives in Golden Hill. He builds an instrument (among others) called the mbira. It’s an electro-acoustic thumb piano with a dizzying 150 tines that play through three octaves. It sounds like a cross between a harp and a marimba, and it’s become Cooder’s go-to instrument for live performances.
Cooder, 39, grew up in Santa Monica. He first came to the buying public’s attention by playing drums on his father Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club album. He still plays drums in his dad’s band and on this tour, and he opens the shows. Joachim grew up around the senior Cooder’s bands, surrounded by a Hollywood assortment of first-call players. How he and his father manage to sound similar — given that Ry is a guitarist who quick-changes genres with almost every new album and Joachim plays drums and once told a reporter that guitars “never made any sense to him” — is a mystery. A critic once referred to the younger Cooder’s music as “electro-Congo-Bali-blues.” Mix in some funk, and the same could be said of Ry’s. Like father like son? A little yes, a little no.