A news story in my inbox the other day reminded me that I still hadn’t blogged on the El Guincho record, the one I’ve been alluding to on playlist blogs for a while now. I say “a while”, though in truth I was heinously late hitching up to this particular bandwagon, since most go-getting bloggers were onto “Alegranza” sometime last year, when it was first released in Spain.
Anyway, better late than never. That news story, by the way, announced that El Guincho – or Pablo Diaz-Reixa, as he’s known at home in the Canary Islands – will be supporting Vampire Weekend on their sold-out UK tour. It’s a mighty apposite coupling, since Diaz-Reixa also makes great pop music which is informed – but not, critically, predicated upon – world music.
Given El Guincho’s hipster ubiquity these past few months, and his occasional habit of chucking Spanish folk music into the exuberant, danceable melée, it’s tempting to label this stuff as Hoxton Macarena, particularly on the fantastic shunt’n’loop of the opening “Palmito Park”. But as most critics have noted ad nauseam, the closest analog to “Alegranza” can be found in the various work of Animal Collective, particularly Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch”.
The similarity comes not from source material – there’s no overt Brian Wilson fetish here – but from a cumulative, ghostly, ecstatic repetition, as Diaz-Reixa loops his variegated samples to oblivion, creates chants and delirious rituals out of layer after layer of loops. He works with a planetload of raw sounds, but like the Gang Gang Dance album I wrote about a few weeks ago, there’s a clear intention to point out a kind of overarching, hypnotic groove that unites disparate sounds and cultures.
Unlike Gang Gang Dance, however, El Guincho doesn’t seem overly-anxious to hammer home this as a quasi-mystical imperative. Rather, he seems more intent in providing a rampant carnival soundtrack for any occasion. This is music programmed for abandon, that takes in a very Brazilian sense of massed percussive oomph (see “Kalise”, for example), stinging Hi-Life guitars (“Antillas”), rattling Afrofunk breaks (“Costa Paraiso”), steel drums (“Fata Morgana”), brutally edited opera singers, possibly (“Polca Mazurca”) and chant after chant of uncertain provenance.
For all his eclectic sources, though, it’s Diaz-Reixa’s doggedly targeted vision, his unforgiving habit of locking each idea into a churning cyclical pattern until the music becomes disorienting, that’s most impressive about “Alegranza”. Like, again, those Animal Collective records, there’s something pleasantly destabilising about this music; a swishing, light-headed kind of joy that verges on seasickness. I know that doesn’t sound terribly appealing, but have a listen to the whole album at his Myspace: hopefully you’ll see what I mean.