Album Reviews

El Guincho – Alegranza!

(Young Turks) UK release date: 13 October 2008

El Guincho - Alegranza! Apart from peeling skins and lobster complexions, just what have the Canary Islands ever done for us, eh? Each summer season we send them our young, our medium-waged, our just-retired, and what do we have to show in return?

Well, personally I have a lovely ceramic frieze hosting a Cesar Manrique print rescued from Lanzarote, but until El Guincho’s Alegranza! that was about it. Both have their claims on the posterity of my domestic life but for continuing rewards I think I’m gonna plump for Alegranza!

Though a few copies of those old CD things ended up at Rough Trade and the like earlier in 2008, Alegranza! now gets something of a re-plug now word spread of its treasures. And the word, my friends, is, for once, true.

El Guincho himself, one Pablo Diaz-Reixa, makes a number of claims for this sample-rich, global-rhythm-tour of a record, not the least of which is its space-age exotica as he likes to label it. Favouring some good old analogue warmth, the Guinch has spiritual alignment with other purveyors of pre-digital FX from everyone from Boards Of Canada, Alec Empire and Brazil’s Apollo Nove. And many more besides.

Indeed, old synths have become such an object of retro-fetishism that often an air of solemnity intrudes on proceedings. Not so with El Guincho’s sophomore album where around the cut-ups, sound-snatches and jerky juxtapositions, a silky skein of fun, adventure and discovery is tightly-wound.

Panda Bear‘s feted 2007 meisterwerk Person Pitch has already been heralded as Alegranza!’s singular reference point, but Alegranza! makes more sense as Panda Bear’s searching-for-kicks adolescent brother rather than the stoned elder-statesman of Person Pitch.

If that collection was a call for the space-gods to rescue us from our peyote purgatory, Alegranza! demands that they beam to earth with their party pants on and join us.

The reference points are dizzyingly revived and discarded. Set the GPS co-ordinates to the dubbed-out ballroom Bollywood that introduces Cuando Maravillla Fui and prepare to find yourself lounging in some Tropicalia idyll by the end of its three and a half minute whistle-stop.

Sure, all underground-favoured retro-genres are clear and present from India, South America, Africa and the Caribbean, but El Guincho is unafraid to gather this Babel’s Tower of disparate sounds and force something of a personal vision upon it. In doing so, El Guincho doesn’t leave the giveaway prints of the dilettante often found in this kind of project.

Laser-like synth-shoots and steel drums underpin Fata Morgana while the Jit-like rhumba of Antillas beats a path to the hispanic archipelago that gives it its name.

Opener Palmitos Park is even stranger. As pretty much all of Alegranzi! is chanted in his native espanola, Palmitos Park is how Dion DiMucci might have sounded if ’50s New Yoik doo-wop had happened in a Franco-free Espania.

Whatever El Guincho’s debt to Panda Bear, the decision to keep Alegranza! in the mama tongue lends it a genuine other-wordliness unlikely to be found in the well-traversed topography of American music.

Also, unlike the armchair-comfy distance found in the works of his heroes Martin Denny and Esquivel, Diaz-Reixa immerses himself in the globe-trotting narrative with his own obscure (to these ears) chants.

So the good news is…the welfare of future generations is safe. As airlines shift into bankruptcy, we have El Guincho to bring the world back home without extending those super-size carbon footprints ourselves. The beginning of the world is nigh.

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El Guincho – Alegranza!