Label: XL Recordings
Since Paul Simon kidnapped Africa’s most prominent musicians for Graceland, the perception of world music has been distilled to mean Soweto or Los Lobos. Occasionally some bands flip external sounds internally with great success, such as Vampire Weekend, but there’s no substitute for the real thing. Pablo Diaz-Reixa, an achingly gifted Spanish musician, has found great indie acclaim with his El Guincho persona, putting out several albums’ worth of funky, Latin-drenched exotica with pop sensibilities and sonic layering. It’s no surprise he lists Animal Collective among his biggest influences. On his latest record, Pop Negro, El Guincho has woven nine fascinating tapestries of his unique mix of Spanish music, samba and electronica, creating a sound as memorable and engulfing as the octopus that adorns the album’s cover.
The album is sung entirely in Spanish, which may turn off casual listeners, but the lyricism rewards additional effort. While it is possible to enjoy the package for just the surface level, DIaz-Reixa’s voice is delightfully mid-register, and his tempo acts as another instrument, creating a metronome effect that interplays with the eclectic instrumentation. “Danza Invinto” features a catchy, thumpy bass synth and slightly hollow vocals as the chorus of “Hay algo en ti que no pueden tocar- el ritmo” floats and envelops the listener. (Translation: “There’s something in you they can’t ever touch- the rhythm!”) “FM Tan Sexy” features tribal backing vocals and piercing synths creating a delectable cacophony that perfectly evokes paradise, with its sparkling, sparse backing track sliding along nicely, like a calm ocean wave.
“Muerte Midi” sparkles with a syrupy, high-pitched synth line that gives way to a solitary mournful horn sound, and then all the way back, only to resurface with a gorgeous saxophone line. “Lycra Mistral” is built around a funky samba guitar line and sparkly keyboard riffs, while “(Chica-Oh) Drims” has a slinky call-and-response percussion line that is guaranteed to make bodies move. Opener “Bombay” falls into the same category, beginning with Roland snare hits backed up with synth spurts, later dropping in a steel drum line and Diaz-Rexia’s lower register and smooth cadence.The breezy, sunny demeanor of the record makes it an ideal spin for parties- it’s bright enough to play in the daytime and slick enough to light up an evening. On Pop Negro, El Guincho has crafted a record that has as much spirit as it does appeal, and he did it without having to pillage villages. He just tapped into the rhythm of his heart, and judging by this record, neither beat will be stopping anytime soon.
by Rafael Gaitan