El Guincho


It seems odd to offer an opinion on Pablo Diaz-Reixa’s Alegranza when it’s been available in various forms for more than a year now. I first heard the record when an email came way last autumn from Felix Ruiz III, a man completely unsullied by the dirt of the music industry who’d heard his friend’s record and ploughed his life savings into starting a label just to put it out. It’s the sort of album on which gambles like that are worth making, especially now that Alegranza has made the jump from Felix’s Discoteca Oceana to Beggars sapling Young Turks.

On Diaz-Reixa’s native Canary Islands an ‘El Guincho’ is a rare bird and, handily for anyone tiresome enough to sit down to try to explain Alegranza away in words, whoever put this album together seems to have done so with a bird’s eye view of the recorded history of island music; the scope of the nine tracks here so vast you begin to imagine the whole of Latin America throbbing as one hot mass from space, a carnival archipelago beaming its ecstatic transmission out into the cosmos.

The most immediate impression Alegranza makes is with its mobility – at its most strident the determination of the thing is irresistible, ‘Antillas’ and ‘Kalise’ particularly fluid as each keep their one loop running for more than five minutes, that one knocking into the next to hurl the thing forwards – or backwards, perhaps – through several decades of sun-kissed jams. Overlaid with sounds found lurking and looming around El Guincho’s Barcelona base (motorway zips, children’s quarrels, seagull chatter) Pablo’s voice, which brings Caetano Veloso’s easy, joyful poise to the urgent repetition of Angolan Kuduro, surfs amid this debris, leading ears and mind’s eye through the sonic graffiti of beach city living.

After a subdued opening ‘Fata Morgaa’ bristles with the kind of murmur that accompanies live recordings of Mighty Sparrow and Lord Melody face offs from the ’50s, as cacophonous steel pans reach upwards into the black with chaste clarity. Alegranza is more than the sum of the past, though – it takes skill to pack all of these influences up and head off in search of the dark din waiting tremulous in the underground lairs of western European clubland. Traces of techno are obvious both in this record and the new configuration of an El Guincho live set, which fuses Kompakt’s starch with the enthusiasm of all that’s been explained before.

Perhaps the best way to explain Alegranza is in terms of what it doesn’t do – it’s there but not there, in the same way that Eddie Palmieri’s twilit jazz piano lurked in the shadows cast by more eager, sun-seeking contemporaries, though obviously Diaz-Reixa is bound tighter by the intrinsic rigour of loops and all that they imply. Here, those loops are as much a sign of novel, explosive aplomb as they are the echoes of a humid past, Diaz-Reixa truly has the crate digger’s eye (over 30 samples had to be cleared before Alegranza had a UK release; more were recreated). In that there’s a kind of beauty – the idea of wandering into one of your cities independent vinyl stockists and jostling with some scruffy slatherer for the same piece of wax, only to find out he’s having more fun than the whole of your mile radius put together. Let him have it – Alegranza is a digger’s paradise; a genius of motion, El Guincho revels in the light cast from recovered moments, Alegranza is a victory from the jaws of defeat, a synaesthetic tonic for all that mundane life has to hurl at us.

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