Two years ago El Guincho, or Pablo Diaz-Riexa to his mother, mailman and accountant, proved he had the ingredients for a seriously bitchin’ beach party soundtrack. Debut Alegranza sounded like a dilated dream of sampled tropicalia and calypso, fed by freak folk flourishes that gave an overall impression of a wild, cosmic carnival. New album Pop Negro dials back significantly on the samples, reduces lyrical repetition, and adds new turns and juxtapositions to create more traditional song structures. The nods to bands like Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective, and Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes are less obvious.
What is pleasantly apparent is that Diaz-Riexa, or El Guincho to you has created a forward thinking Latin dance music record; one that will easily appeal to anyone who enjoyed his earlier work, while introducing newcomers to his own developing, hybridized genre of Afropop, Spanish dub and traditional rock and roll. Pop Negro’s production is buffed to a brilliant sheen. Nearly every song uses similar instrumentation, giving Pop Negro an upbeat, uniform sound that’s both more mellow and measured than his previous material.
“Soca Del Eclipse” is the album’s first song to work a serviceable groove, propelled by crisp handclaps and the welcome addition of trumpet. “Muerte Midi” similarly benefits from the inclusion of brass, featuring a snarling saxophone solo that gives the album welcome counterpoint to its slick dance beats. Diaz-Riexa’s strong, enthusiastic vocals carry the record, delivering call-and-response lyrics in rapid-fire Spanish. “Lycra Mistral” and “FM Tan Sexy” best exemplify El Guincho’s direction, as Caribbean beats stop and start over the omnipresent steel drums, finger snaps and serpentine synth patterns.
Pop Negro is just off-kilter enough to prevent it from being ideal club music, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to contort to its uniquely sunny sound. The party may have moved from the beach to the relative calm of the cabana, but the Spaniard’s still at the helm, manning the decks of his Roland SP-404, and singing his sparkling melodies to prolong summer’s passing lease.
MP3: “FM Tan Sexy”