El Guincho: Alegranza!


El Guincho


Rating: 4.0

Label: Beggars XL Recording

Once, whilst in the grips of a high fever, I made a collage. Using old art and music magazines, I clipped out tiny photos and glued them together to form a bigger image. In the center was a man falling, surrounded by eyes and naked breasts; lots and lots of naked breasts. Whatever circulated in the phantasmagoria of my fever-addled mind, it was definitely Freudian, but I proudly hung the piece on the wall for all to see.

In the music world, sampling has become so commonplace that we are now buying albums made up completely of previously recorded work. Look no further than Girl Talk for such honors. But the placement of a sample, especially when intertwined with one’s own work, is an art form unto itself. Earlier this year, Spanish artist El Guincho (Pablo Díaz-Reixa) released Alegranza!, a burst of sonic energy incorporating “found” sounds – rock, Tropicalia, reggae- with vaporous mantras, rudimentary drumming and basic pop songwriting to form one of the most original releases in a long time. Though heavily bootlegged and only available in import form, Alegranza! has finally received a much-deserved North American release.

Named for an uninhabited island in the Canaries, Alegranza! could not be more international; though the primary flavor is Spanish, El Guincho uses everything from traditional Indian music to folk samples imported from Kenya. In almost each and every review, El Guincho is directly compared to Panda Bear for his use of interlocking rhythms, but beyond that, the comparison dies. While Panda Bear bows to the altar of Van Dyke Parks, El Guincho does not hitch his saddle to just one sound. It’s a whole world out there and by using elements from so many locales, El Guincho creates his own.

Though Alegranza! does not have the “name that tune” novelty of a Girl Talk album, something about the melodies and sounds feel instantly recognizable and comfortable. The children’s chorus on “Buenos Matrimonios Ahí Fuera” loops over and over until becoming part of the basic structure of the song. The unexpected, killer chorus on “Kalise” is an unshakable expression of joy and the trippy beat of “Antillas” could be something from an Animal Collective jam session.

The word “joy” continues to plague me as I press further into this review. Like Fellini’s Amarcord,Alegranza! uses a kaleidoscopic worldview to press its agenda. The songs are frenetic, alive, willing to change tempo or melody at any second. This mercurial nature allows the listener to glean a new experience with each spin. There is just so much going on, combined with a breathless abandon, that simple digestion is not an option. That said, the album does not feel out of control at any moment. Díaz-Reixa knows exactly how to grip an audience with the skill of a great manipulator.

As the Northern Hemisphere moves into the chilly grips of winter, and the impending arrival of flu season, the sunny rhythms and bright outlook of El Guincho could be a tonic for the gray-sky doldrums. Sprung from the tropical, sun-kissed Canaries, Alegranza!, with its danceable beats, ambient noises and impeccable rhythm is not unlike that fevered collage I created so many years ago. It may sewn together by thousands of tiny universes but it forms one mighty piece of art.

by David Harris

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