An album that’s among the year’s best but will take years to unravel.
Kev Kharas 2010
Alegranza, the last album Barcelona’s Pablo Díaz-Reixa made as El Guincho, owed much of its magic to its timing. The first tracks to surface from the record – hypnotic workouts like Antillas and Kalise – started working their way onto MP3 blogs in 2008, while their editors were still basking in the dank, familiar glow of Panda Bear’s game-changing Person Pitch full-length. Alegranza felt like a sharpening of that record’s focus, taking the loops Noah Lennox rode his way out of personal nostalgia fugs on and returning them, in the form of deliriously repetitive, circular samples, to the heat of the party moment.
Since Alegranza’s release too many new acts have followed in Díaz-Reixa and Lennox’s sun-blanched wake: Washed Out, Best Coast and Delorean just three of those who seem to be frolicking perpetually on indie’s overcrowded beaches. But Díaz-Reixa’s bursting into other ears always seemed more coincidence than careerist ploy, the arrayed textures, rhythms and melodic flights of Alegranza suggesting an artist with a richer knowledge of Tropicalia, dub and Afrobeat than of hipster trending patterns. If much of that record’s charm came from the feeling that it’d exist whether anyone else noticed it did or not, Pop Negro is a happy continuation of that: Díaz-Reixa’s voice surrounded by a quietly ecstatic clamour that is sounding more and more his own.
Opener Bombay sets the tone, the relentless, run-this-sample-into-the-ground mania of old replaced by a more careful and varied route through shimmering steel pans and 808 claps. El Guincho still makes feel-good music, but the verses, bridges and choruses of Soca Del Eclipse and FM Tan Sexy, as well as their innumerable layers of sound, seem to move it on from Alegranza’s weekend midnights into following-afternoon contemplation. If that record seemed to drop everything else in the devout pursuit of fun, Pop Negro is bustling with other narratives: tight tangles of disco guitar, cascading Latin rhythms, twilight holiday horns and joyous pop chorals that seem to hint at euphoria to come rather than drop you directly into the moment.
It’s when the ceaseless forward momentum of old hijacks Pop Negro’s new structural nous that the most rewarding moments arrive here, the aforementioned Soca Del Eclipse, Ghetto Facil and Muerte Midi highlights of an album that’s among the year’s best, and that, while immediately enchanting, will take years to unravel.
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