Review Summary: Though El Guincho is often described as "The Spanish Panda Bear," Alegranza! is a completely singular piece of music that sits somewhere between hypnotizing and maddening, while also being a seriously entertaining gem of a record.
Ever found yourself yearning for some excessively repetitive, Latin-tinged hipster music? Well, me neither, but after spending a couple hours with Alegranza!
, the latest album from Pablo Diaz-Reixa (aka El Guincho), I’ve discovered that the hunger I never knew existed for such music has been admirably satiated, and I’m passing the good word onto you. I mean, how could anyone resist nine tracks of obnoxiously bright tropical hooks repeated over and over again for five minutes? Impossible, right?
Okay, so Alegranza!
doesn’t work all that great on paper. Conceptually, it treads a fine line where the slightest over-indulgence could doom it for pretentious indie trash. Thankfully, El Guincho has enough savvy to stop Alegranza!
somewhere between hypnotizing and maddening, resulting in a seriously entertaining gem of a record.
Take album opener “Palmitos Park” for example. As an introduction to Alegranza!
, “Palmitos Park” foreshadows the best to come in the ensuing eight tunes. It meshes a spellbinding groove with enchanting backup harmonies to support Diaz-Reixa’s confidently carefree vocals, all vital elements to the success of Alegranza!
The element “Palmitos Park” plays to the most, however, is how undeniably fun this record is. Songs across the board run in celebratory euphoria, some preferring to build mesmerizing whirls of momentum that become nearly impossible to resist (“Kalise,” “Antillas”), others relaxing in sedated contentment (“Buenos matrimonious ahi afuera,” “Polca Mazurca”). Either way, El Guincho brings the ruckus throughout Alegranza!
, hosting an ecstatic party that no one really wants to leave.
El Guincho never truly deviates from this party atmosphere, but despite staying one note musically and conceptually, Alegranza!
rarely grows tired or predictable. El Guincho brings enough tricks to the table to keep his audience captivated. The unexpectedly sweet introduction to “Fata Morgana” and the wonderfully intricate layering of “Kalise” serve as fine examples of this, but the real demonstration of El Guincho’s showmanship comes at the album’s center. After four tracks of Latin-tinged tropicalia and dub, Diaz-Reixa unleashes the album’s clear standout, “Cuando maravilla fui,” a fierce tour de force that works with El Guincho’s Eastern influences as opposed to his Spanish. It’s a sharp left turn for the album, as Diaz-Reixa delivers his vocals far more passionately than on any song preceding or succeeding “Cuando.” If that wasn’t enough, the album’s most beautiful moment comes on the same track. After three minutes of sharp chants, El Guincho drops the beat out for a shockingly stunning refrain with a vocal sample that hadn’t been prevalent until the song’s very end. As the album’s turning point, “Cuando” gives Alegranza!
enough life to sustain its energy through a somewhat wandering second half, and also proves El Guincho’s deft skill in making a record that could have been predictable so much more than expected.
In terms of concept, the most obvious point of comparison for Alegranza!
is Person Pitch
, and while the albums are lumped together often, Alegranza!
stands alone as a singular piece of music. It achieves a remarkably strong blend between being something familiar and being something unlike anything before it. There are several moments on Alegranza!
that invoke a “Hey, that sounds kind of like (so and so),” but before the similarity becomes a knockoff, El Guincho takes off in a completely different direction, making the album both heavily influenced and completely unique at the same time. With Alegranza!
, El Guincho takes what could have been a disaster and forms one of the most peculiar, inimitable records of the year. Chow down.