With world music-influenced artists like Vampire Weekend, Ruby Suns and Panda Bear growing increasingly popular, eyes were bound to turn to the original sources sometime. The first stop on this possible widespread acceptance of music outside the western world is Spain, where Pablo Díaz-Reixa, also known as El Guincho, has crafted a fully formed fusion of South American percussion, Tropicalia and Afrobeat that isn't exactly a traditional world music album, but nonetheless reveals those artists to have only hinted at cultural exploration.
I wouldn't call it traditional because of the electronic elements that sneak their way into the mix. Samples abound, even if they're used for organic purposes. On "Palmitos Park", I assume the contained audience cheers and droning harmonies aren't real, but they give the song a real sense of unadulterated festivity. The dizzying circus sounds of "Antillas" and "Kalise" get the hips moving and marimbas shaking, but the base of their beats are creaking sound effects and looping vocal clips that mesmerize like modern club music. "Fata Morgana" is submerged in a distant shimmering haze reminiscent of Animal Collective's "Cuckoo Cuckoo" and "Buenos Matrimonios Ahi Fuera" is his very own "Bros" - a shifting soundscape of swirling psychedelic textures.
But El Guincho's intentions are so much more direct than Panda Bear's. He is in no way "artsy", even if the tools he uses suggests so, and unlike Person Pitch, this isn't a headphones album. His aesthetic is more akin to Dan Deacon. Feel the playfulness of the percussion, hear the honest tone of Pablo's cheerful chants and know that his aim is humanistic, making music for festivals and gatherings where people have an open enough mind to lose themselves in the sweat and excitement of his exciting blasts of bliss. Although the album gets exhaustive and repetitive near the end, you can't help but come back to Alegranza time and time again, to thrust yourself into El Guincho's miraculous world of revelry.
What I don't understand is why any culture would shun these wonderful worldly sounds to the outskirts of society. If we all more willingly accepted the embrace of community and joyful celebration that bleeds unashamedly out of much world music, rather than the mindless self-centered attitude and materialism of MTV, we might be more prone to avoid conflicts that encourage the subtle tension pervading our western-world. Yet as much I've tried to get friends to listen to Alegranza, even those who have shown to appreciate Americanized ethnicity have responded to El Guincho with blank stares. Is the language barrier really so hard to get through? If the stigma against world music and universal acceptance of its inferiority isn't completely destroyed by the end of the year, then I'm packing my bags and moving to Spain or Cuba or something. But until then, I'll be trying to convince everyone I come into contact with to embrace this album like no other. (Aron Fischer)
For fans of: Animal Collective, Panda Bear, The Ruby Suns, The Avalanches, Os Mutantes, Vampire Weekend