Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Album Review: Alegranza by El Guincho

El GuinchoOkay, before we begin, there are some things we must know about El Guincho. First of all, El Guincho is one man, Pablo Díaz-Reixa, and he named his album after the uninhabited island of Alegranza, which is at the northeastern tip of the Canary Islands, which are—of course this is common knowledge—an autonomous domain of Spain located on the west coast of Africa. Díaz-Reixa is from these Canary Islands, and, via Barcelona, he creates swirling and excitable indie pop using loops and samples and an amalgam of musical influences ranging from Benga (Kenyan traditional music) to Bhangra (Indian folk) to any brand of tropicalia that flies well above the head of our good friend Jimmy Buffett.

All of this crazy backstory, and El Guincho still can’t seem to shake comparisons to Panda Bear—the “Spanish Panda Bear,” he’s been called. The Person Pitch parallels, despite the fact that there remains little coverage in English on El Guincho, have been mentioned so thoroughly by now that it’s practically mandated by law that every review gives a nod to the idea, an idea which to its inventor probably seemed pretty clever. But really, outside of the compositional technique and a layered load of repetition, there really isn’t too much tying these two machine-musicians together. El Guincho is an artist all his own, and discussing his music only in the context of someone else is a disservice, especially when one realizes that Alegranza is one of the most unique and fascinating albums to come out in a long time.

El Guincho2So if this isn’t really like Panda Bear (or Os Mutantes, or Beirut, or any of the other ridiculous comparisons people are throwing out there in an effort to quantify the album), what is it like? Well, there’s certainly an element of the circus here, an unabashed fun and playfulness that’s hard to find on most sample-based electronic releases. And that’s probably the most striking aspect of El Guincho—much like his funny-to-say band name, the music here is decidedly light-hearted. This means that all the dour indie fans whose pockets are full of angst and agony will probably check this disc at the door. But it also offers a much-needed dose of positivity and play that too often is absent from the oft-schizophrenic art-music scene.

Ultimately, songs like “Fata Morgana,” which starts softly and eventually rampages into a colorful steel drum salute, “Antillas,” a meditative study in repetitive excess, and “Buenos Matrimonios Ahi Fuera” which cruises along effortlessly with child vocals, are proof that computer-crafted music doesn’t have to be lifeless. Because although surely El Guincho crafts his loops and distorts his samples in a solitary world of meticulous detail and independent thought, his tunes are made for the streets, the clubs, the plazas, the alleyways. And this fact seems perfect: after all, that empty island he named the album after? Alegranza, derived from the Spanish, means “joy.”

[El Guincho’s MySpace]
[Download Site (album is sold out in Europe, and unreleased in America)]
[His blog (which is in Spanish, and is pretty crazy if you use an online translator)]

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