Release Date: Sep 14, 2010
Record label: Young Turks
Genre(s): Electronic, Latin, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
Early press suggests that critics are a bit tepid about the sophomore album from Spanish indie-cum-pop artist El Guincho, aka Pablo Díaz-Reixa. That’s a shame, because despite arriving a season too late, Pop Negro is one of the best and most fun pop albums of the year and will likely leave many listeners making mental notes to pack it on the way to the beach next year (pending, of course, any new oil spills or other disasters). El Guincho’s 2007 debut Alegranza came out at a time when Caribbean and other coastal sounds were infecting the underground, from the neo-Balearic grooves of Studio to the Tropicália and Kiwi-inspired indie pop of the Dodos and the Ruby Suns to the demos circulating of a then-unknown Afropop-oriented collegiate ensemble called Vampire Weekend.
From the first steel drum thwack and insatiable handclap of opener [b]‘Bombay’[/b] right through to the ambient serenity of [b]‘Danza Invinto’[/b], [a]El Guincho[/a] (aka Barcelona’s very own [b]Pablo Díaz-Reixa[/b]) recalls all the tropicalia and beach-lusting melodies of [a]Animal Collective[/a], [a]Panda Bear[/a] and [a]Fool’s Gold[/a] put together. Combining afrobeat, dub and more samba slickness than you can shake a headdress at, the frenzied carnival rhythms of [b]‘Pop Negro’[/b] will spark a fire in your newly tropical soul that will still be smoldering come next year’s Mardi Gras. Don’t be surprised if you start taking Spanish lessons in the hope of unearthing just what the Hispanic hipster is crowing about.
Alegranza, the 2008 debut album by indie Spaniard El Guincho, plays like a dusty relic, a broken shard of an ancient artifact that inexplicably clicks into the puzzle of modern pop music. It’s patient, methodical, and recorded with a cheapness that deceives you into thinking it is familiar. I would have been more than content to see Pablo Díaz-Reixa’s pet project follow this same trajectory with El Guincho’s follow up.
If being on the forefront of musical trends paid currency, El Guincho (nom de dance of Pablo Diaz-Reixa) would be Scrooge McDuck right now. Traveling in nostalgic, watery, effervescent, less-than-hi-fi grooves, El Guincho’s Alegranza! pre-dated chillwave artists like Toro y Moi and Washed Out by a full two years, hitting upon an emerging trend before anyone even knew what to call it. What’s more remarkable is that El Guincho matched the wistfulness of chillwave in a Spanish dialect spoken only on the Canary Islands, where Diaz-Reixa is from.
If Pablo Diaz-Riexa’s second album under the name El Guincho doesn’t garner the same attention as the first (Alegranza) did when it arrived out of the blue two years previously, you can hardly blame him. Pop Negro is just as impressive as the debut was. It’s just that the indie landscape has shifted so much over that time span that someone blending all sorts of African, Latin, dance, and pop elements and influences into a whirling, glittery disco ball of sound isn’t exactly enough to stop the presses.
I am watching an interview with Pablo Díaz-Reixa, a man I know little about but who you may recognise as El Guincho. During said video, as Díaz-Reixa discusses his influences, a rampant hubbub wrestles its way to the foreground. Drums are falling over each other, and these drums are not the sort to say pardon; their brashness is marvelously unapologetic.
Pablo Díaz-Reixa's first full-length as El Guincho, 2007's Alegranza!, predicted the whole chill-obsessed, beach-minded trend that we've been more or less stuck with for two years running now. What made that record so fresh and engaging, though, wasn't its crystal-ball nature; it was Díaz-Reixa's disorienting, drum-heavy style and use of repetition. Sheets of pounding rhythm, joy-packed vocals making every structural shift sound like a parade turning a street corner-- El Guincho knows repetition can be bliss, but he also knows (unlike many of his followers these days) that bliss doesn't have to sound so goddamn boring.
Review Summary: Tropical electronic pop that suffers for not maintaining the tempo it sets itself. Picking up where 2008’s Alegranza! left off, El Guincho’s sophomore effort is yet another dance-ready record erupting out of the beautiful Spanish coast, though one that lacks the substance to deliver anything more than fleeting euphoria. Opener “Bombay” is the best example of Pablo Diaz-Reixa’s talents, with pounding steel drums underlining a layered, lush Caribbean-influenced rhythm, and it displays perfectly how overwhelmingly visceral his music can be.
An album that’s among the year’s best but will take years to unravel. Kev Kharas 2010 Alegranza, the last album Barcelona’s Pablo Díaz-Reixa made as El Guincho, owed much of its magic to its timing. The first tracks to surface from the record – hypnotic workouts like Antillas and Kalise – started working their way onto MP3 blogs in 2008, while their editors were still basking in the dank, familiar glow of Panda Bear’s game-changing Person Pitch full-length.
El Guincho dons his best Animal Collective costume on his third full-length, an album filled with Afrobeat and tropical rhythms. Yet it doesn’t sound derivative in the least, as evidenced by standout track “Bombay,” which leads the album off with a unique mix of African music and Cuban melodies. “(Chica-Oh) Drims,” the best song on the album, mixes a dream-like background harmony with a repetitive and inviting synth, which combine to serve as the perfect stage for El Guincho’s vocals.