It’s really a shame that Alegranza‘s U.S. release didn’t come until this month. The rest of the world was able to groove to these bright, Tropicália tunes in the summer months, like they were meant to. El Guincho’s sampler-heavy, Panda Bear-esque (had to mention it) style is full of sunshine and all your best friends hanging out in the park. At the same time, it’s almost as if the album creates some sort of space-Spain, or at least one set a hundred years in the future.
It’s really hard to imagine Pablo DÃaz-Reixa sitting hunched over a Roland SP-404 while listening to Alegranza. Much like Panda’s Person Pitch, El Guincho manages to throw together chants and rhythmic loops into a dazzling wall of dancey sound. It’s hard to pick out exactly how many layers, let alone what went into them, compose each song. Opener “Palmitos Park” opens with a crowd cheering, follows with a chorus of oohs and aahs, all over a beat it’s hard to not imagine a large crowd dancing to.
DÃaz-Reixa’s voice chops around the whole album, both literally and thematically the most organic sound. There’s something of David Byrne’s old quote that “the better the singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying” rings true for El Guincho. That’s not to say that his vocals are obnoxious, or bad. He does, however, stick with chants and semi-shouted vocals. This lends a neo-tribal aspect to the music, connecting the listener and the performer through a primal, collective unconscious unity. Oh, and also it’s fun to dance to.
It’s really easy to sing along to something like “Antillas,” even if you don’t know Spanish. The repetition encourages it, sure, but the constant upbeat nature of the background doesn’t hurt. It’s “Fata Morgana” that really solidifies this as something post-Person Pitch, though. Airy synth chords mingle over a scratchy recording of a man describing a “delightfully simple melody,” all while DÃaz-Reixa intones wordlessly through thick reverb.
“Kalise” follows next, with interlocking vocal loops that push into a trancy, rhythmic chug, full of bass and multi-layered metal drums. “Cuando Maravilla Fui” shakes things up a little, still relying on the rhythmic, community chant vocals, but this time underscored by very little non-drum sound. At its core, its clear that Alegranza depends on the primacy of rhythm, and our natural connection to it.
While other acts like Vampire Weekend or High Places rely on so-called “world music” references, it’s refreshing to see a “world music” musician actually come from somewhere outside of the U.S. There’s an added intimacy, authenticity knowing that DÃaz-Reixa is working with rhythmic tools that people from the Canary Islands have been using for years, but through tools that have only been around for a few. Alegranza takes modern, high-tech music-making methods, but keeps them rooted in traditional, human sounds and music. He has more connection to the group of children singing in “Buenos Matrimonios Ahi Fuera” than an American musician would, but he takes the sample and spins it in three different directions at the same time.
That’s where the idea of space-Spain came from, probably. It finds a way to take the realities of the past (subconscious connections to rhythm), the present (DÃaz-Reixa’s strong vocals) and the future (spacey production values), and melds them all into one smooth, glimmering structure.