It's been a few years since Charlie B. Wilder was just another crate-digging DJ with a college radio show on New York's WNYU station. As the host of “Passport,” he'd often invite local artists to his show to play music and be interviewed.
One of those artists was Chico Mann (Marcos Garcia), a solo producer and guitarist with the Brooklyn-based Afrobeat collective Antibalas. As fate or serendipity would have it, the two developed a friendship and musical partnership that continued through their separate, individual moves to Los Angeles and has now spawned Night Visions, their first LP as a duo.
“I was a fan of his music since then,” says Wilder, who spins and produces under the name Captain Planet, “and we were kind of on each other's radar in New York. I saw him perform with Antibalas a bunch of times.”
The 14 tracks on Night Visions live up to Wilder's global superhero moniker, as each track flirts distinctively with bits of funk, tropical/Caribbean rhythms, Latin American instrumentation, hip-hop beats and more. The songs switch up from dance floor scorchers to laid-back jams perfect for sipping rum and Coke while lounging on a hammock.
“We have a shared, overlapping, diasporic sound, with Marcos being super schooled in all things Fela Kuti,” explains Wilder, “and me just having a love for all pan-African sounds. A lot of reggae and Caribbean sounds finds [their] way into the mix.”
Wilder grew up a farm boy from New Hampshire, as he likes to put it, who found his way into music through a number of punk bands and hip-hop mixtapes before being seduced by African and Latin beats and rhythms. Garcia, meanwhile, was raised in a Cuban household in New York and New Jersey by parents who worked in the Latin music industry.
Some time after Garcia visited WNYU's studios, Wilder got to work on one of the guitarist's songs for a remix contest. Wilder didn't win (“I think I came in second or third”) but Garcia recognized him and the duo reconnected and later collaborated on 2014's “Un Poquito Mas.”
Wilder was already living in Los Angeles by then, and Garcia's move to L.A. early last year was the perfect catalyst to get the duo back together to work on an LP. They came up with the title after numerous conversations about the positive aspects of late-night hours. Garcia is the exact opposite of a morning person — unless you think staying up until dawn makes someone a morning person.
“For me, the night time is the most creative time,” explains Garcia. “It's the suspension of linear time and it opens up a whole world of non-linear creative time. That's where I do my best work. There was a point where we were recording during the day, [and] I'm completely not used to writing music or being fully engaged in the creative process during daylight hours. Fortunately enough, there are no windows in Charlie's studio so it felt like this vortex of never-ending nighttime for me. Once I got used to the fact that I'd be showing up during the day and hiding out in that room, it was like time disappeared.”
“We had talked also about how darkness has two sides to it,” adds Wilder. “There's the easy, superficial idea we have of the dark side, like in Star Wars, you know, evil things happening at night. But we also talked about how there's a liberating thing that happens in the dark where when you're not in the lights, you're free to be yourself. People dance in the dark and there's that side of the darkness where you know nobody's watching [and] you feel more free to express yourself or show a different side of yourself.”
The duo will headline a Night Visions release party at El Dorado on March 16 but won't have any more shows or head out on tour until the summer. “Charlie's about to have a baby,” explains Garcia, “and typically, childbirth and shows don't mix well.”
Chico Mann & Captain Planet's Night Visions is out Feb. 24 via Bastard Jazz and available on Bandcamp.