El Guincho, 'Alegranza' (XL/Young Turks)

Critical Mass
Label: XL/Young Turks

by Spencer Kornhaber

Drums. Pure, awesome drums. They swarm this album, spiky and syncopated Latin-style, rockin' and krautin' and Bollywoodin', smacking the inside of your speakers, urging you to sway hips and thwack steering wheels. The funny thing is that El Guincho, a Spaniard named Pablo Díaz-Reixa, doesn't play these drums -- he samples them -- and they're only one of many things you notice about the rhythms on his debut album. First come the hazy, looped surf guitars of "Antillas," or the "oh" and "eh" at the end of each vocal line on "Kalise," or the monastic chanting on "Cuando Maraville Fue."

It's a wonderful trick, encrusting beats with ever-sneakier beats. Díaz-Reixa cuts up the melodic elements of antique Tropicalia tracks to serve as timekeepers in compositions that blossom onto unfathomably higher and higher plateaus.

There's an immediate rush to the album -- the kind that comes from jittery Spanish choruses, chipper kids clapping, and, yeah, drums. And there's the pleasure of realizing how painstakingly constructed Alegranza is. Díaz-Reixa rides his clattering grooves like a techno DJ, sometimes letting a particularly luscious portion spin unaltered for an almost uncomfortable number of measures before moving on. The joyous problem: All the repetition, all the sunshine, all the sound can get tiring. But the same goes for anything that releases endorphins this ecstatically.



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