El Guincho El GuinchoPop Negro
Let’s accept it right from the beginning, “Alegranza” is at a level that is very difficult to surpass. Beyond the publicity that the album got here and beyond the seas, independently of the effect it had on the lives of each of us, El Guincho’s previous album meant a breath of extreme freshness and originality forged in the humility granted by being an unknown and the generalised lack of resources with which the immense majority of young people residing in Barcelona live. Pablo Díaz-Reixa played at sampledelia with his laptop and his own particular musical baggage from some bar in the city. The result showed signs of this austerity of resources among the infinite sparkles of joy. Poor but dignified, screwed, but happy anyway, is what the Canary Islander seemed to say with his second album. And inevitably this discourse spread to the rest of us, lifting our spirits. Then came the unusual success, the glory, the press, an exhausting tour. And this is the first difference of this “Pop Negro”; Pablo Díaz-Reixa will never again be that young inhabitant of the city of Barcelona, with a precarious life, killing time playing at making music while he’s trying to get to the end of the month with a couple of euros in his bank account. Now Pablo is El Guincho, a guy who has already left a mark on the country’s music by receiving so much attention outside of its borders.
“Pop Negro” was created with a method diametrically opposed to that of “Alegranza”, circumstances being what they were. A studio in Berlin, recordings here and there, musicians, instruments, performances at the moment, pre-recordings manipulated according to whim: if you can afford the resources, why not experiment with the production? This time El Guincho has constructed the melodies as he pleased, the reigning presence of the four-by-four pattern of the loops and the overlaying of layers has disappeared. As the album’s name indicates, things have gotten more pop. And also blacker, in the sense that in this album there is none of the overflowing outpouring of happiness of the previous album. Don’t misunderstand me, “Pop Negro” is an album with a good vibe, but it doesn’t make you feel like dancing a conga down the street, like with “Antillas”, “ Kalise” or “Fata Morgana”. Nevertheless, the Canary Islander has gotten the hang of Caribbean percussions and rhythms, the overlaying of congas, steel drums, marimbas, and other habitual elements of what we end up calling “tropicalism” to make things easier. Sometimes he is more faithful to his previous work, like in “Guetto Fácil,”a dreamy derivative of “Fata Morgana”, so epic you end up loving those choruses. At other times, he is further removed from the exotic label, such as in “FM Tan Sexy”, with an 80’s aftertaste and that funky groove “something” that takes it outside of El Guincho’s habitual repertoire. We do have to say, though, that at times he loses his way, and his syncopation gets out of hand, disorganising the rhythm and complicating the pattern, as in “Muerte Midi” or “(Chica Oh) Drims”.
The quota of pop is also extended in the vocal section. Díaz-Reixa’s voice is more noticeable and generally better, passing from the background to play a co-starring role. And this side as a vocalist will almost certainly be what will have the greatest repercussions for “Pop Negro”. It’s not new for him to sing, but it is new for El Guincho to make you sing when you are listening to his music. Rhymes that are assonant, or simply nonexistent, and throw you off; the discourse, somewhere between ambiguous and unintelligible, also throws you off at first. But after listening to the album several times, this discourse starts to make sense, and the assonance takes on rhythm and harmony. The proof is that you end up paraphrasing, singing along, humming, and whistling a lot. And many times you do it purely out of imitation and identification with those intermittent stories that speak of long-distance relationships, couples splitting up, paths that separate because of the incompatibility of characters or a lack of similar opinions. In “Bombay”, which opens the album and promises to remain in my iPod until the end of the year, it is as hard to find a rhyme as it is to avoid smiling and having your eyes sparkle when you recall a moment of love. Yes, it sounds sappy and silly-pop, but appealing to feelings is what works in discourses. Add a sense of rhythm to it, and you have a timeless hit for all audiences. This is the real jewel about the evolution in the musician’s sound: it still sounds fresh, but it doesn’t have the surprise factor that the previous album did. It still sounds diverse, in spite of the peculiarity of its style. And whether you like it or not, Pablo makes music that is as unusual as it is attractive, as loveable as it is hateable. The fact that it is exceptional makes it a product for all audiences. Mónica Franco
El Guincho - FM Tan Sexy El Guincho - Bombay