Thursday, February 7, 2008

who needs english? - el guincho

is it too early to start calling albums the person pitch of 2008? cuz if it ain't, alegranza is it, a whirling, joyful vortex of spiraled sounds and looped exuberance that doesn't quite nip at noah lennox's heels in terms of quality, but far surpasses him on the happiness front (for one thing, i'm pretty sure el guincho doesn't have lyric "i don't want us to take pills anymore," though the language barrier prevents me from asserting that). alegranza is the absolutely fantastic debut album from el guincho, a barcelona cum canary islands artist whose jungle rhythms and exotic, worldy sounds have been inspiring a mad dash of bloggerism worldwide. el guincho (his friends call him pablo díaz-reixa, or probably just pablo) has basically ridden a rocket to international fame, going from spanish-blog hype to english-blog HYPE in about three and half weeks (give or take). it's definitely been a good thing for him that alegranza was widely distributed (and promoted) across the internet for free/illegally, as alegranza has found a home in australia/new zealand on oh-my-god-so-cute mistletone records, and el guincho is about to play outside of spain for the first time at the end of march (though we americans still don't get either record-release or live-performance love). fortunately, everyone with an internet connection can, and should, enjoy alegranza, because it's just pretty much fantastic.

alegranza, recorded as a mixture of self-made beats and samples, is a light yet complex record, one that rewards repeated listens with a never-ending trove of sounds (i just heard the sounds of a block on album opener "palmitos park"), but also with an inherently global understanding. díaz-reixa, a canary islands native, is fiercely proud of his heritage, choosing both his performing name and album title from locations there (el guincho is a town on tenerife; alegranza is the northernmost canary island), and i'm willing to put dollars to donuts that his sound is also inspired by his home. all of el guincho's songs are exhilarating, animatedly drawing on african hand drums, budding bhangra, steel pans, schoolyard chanting, and the ever-popular assortment of beeps, boops, and whirrs. though it's probably just as computer-made as person pitch, alegranza's low fidelity and deliberate imperfection (díaz-reixa often sings startlingly off-key) gives it an authentic, organic feel - alegranza is a record better suited for soundtracking a beach party than hipster headphones.

so why doesn't el guincho need english? well, there's the obvious (he sings in spanish), the endemic (more and more non-english music is becoming mainstream), and the practical (thanks to the internet, alegranza can be heard anywhere), and those are some pretty fine reasons, if i do say so myself. if you need more reasons, you just need to sit down and listen to his album in all its colorful revelry - each element of alegranza is as vibrant as the hues in the photo to your left, its joy tangible. too-careful inspection of the album may leave you feeling a little cheated, especially on "antillas," a track that starts strong but ends tiredly, the same loop recycled for its 5 minute duration, but these lapses on díaz-reixa's part are rare. and, if el guincho does have a darker side (maybe he sings "i want us to keep taking pills"?), i don't speak a lick of spanish, so alegranza is just one big party for my ears.

"cuando maravilla fui" & "buenos matrimonios ahí afuera"

good luck finding alegranza on sale - rough trade had 25 copies, but who knows how many are left?

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