I can’t help but imagine Frank LoCrasto building his record collection from the same hand-me-down foundations that many of us did—with exotica and easy listening records plucked from his parents’ collection. Martin Denny, Walter Wanderley, Herb Alpert and the like, the sorts of hip-to-be-square midcentury performers in maroon tuxedo jackets and horn-rimmed glasses that evoked exotic tropical locales and cover models in cheeky poses. It’s music that might easily appeal to a young person just discovering an artist like Stereolab or Broadcast, or briefly retained some cachet through the retro revivalism of Mad Men.
It’s not clear whether that’s how LoCrasto found his way to vintage cocktail soundscapes, but they captured the Brooklyn-based composer’s imagination since his youth in Texas—thousands of miles away from the Pacific coastline. He’s made a career of bridging the gap between downtempo electronic music and ’60s-style lounge, evoking a kitschier take on the cinematic groove of an artist like David Holmes on albums such as 2015’s LoCrasto and 2019’s Lost Dispatch. Yet with Gung Ho, his first under the name Kolumbo, LoCrasto leans heavier into a world of bottomless mai tais and topless beaches, a fantasy playground from an era that might not have ever existed but is easy enough to visualize.
Gung Ho exists in a state of perpetual dusk, bright sunrays beaming over a reflective sea in some unnamed, unseen but nonetheless vivid paradise. LoCrasto opens the album with the bossa nova rhythms of “Felicia,” a dreamily gorgeous swirl of lite psychedelia that transitions into the Wurlitzer preset kitsch of “Lost Paraiso.” It’s all so impossibly charming and enjoyable from first twinkle, but LoCrasto retains some of the funk that characterized his prior records on standouts like “Imperial Bikers MC,” a flute-laden funk seemingly lifted from a ’60s crime flick. And the warm, synthetic breeze of “Santa Rosalia” more than anything channels a more recent interpretation of lounge via Air’s Moon Safari.
Though at times the tracks on Gung Ho feel like pastiche more than anything, LoCrasto’s imagination and penchant for richer compositions keep them from ever getting caught in that trap. So while a track such as “The Key Club, 1976” initially gets by on pure aesthetics, it’s always headed somewhere more interesting, more surprising, making the journey from beachside happy hour to more abstractly evocative landscapes. The former is easy enough to love, but it’s the latter that’s worth sticking around for.
Label: Calico Discos
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.