Released earlier this year in Europe, Alegranza is the debut from El Guincho (Spaniard Pablo Diaz-Reixa). The nine song, forty-minute release mixes afro-beat, calypso, world music, tropicalia, and freak folk into a delirious blast of music that sounds something like Manu Chao crossed up with Animal Collective. It's very loop-based, with repetitive song-structures that rely on clever transitions and some great vocals.
Being an uneducated fellow who can only speak two languages (and one of those not very well), I don't understand a word of what Diaz-Reixa is singing, but it doesn't really matter a whole lot. After all, if you can say you understand most of what the aforementioned Animal Collective has been singing for a good portion of their career, you're probably pretty fluent in gibberish anyway. It's more about the delivery and melodies, and those are the keys here. "Palmitos Park" leads off the album and after a short sample kicks into a glorious mixture of doo-wop chorus, drum fills and crowd noise while the vocals from Diaz-Reixa work up a lather with some insanely hooky melodies.
"Antillas" follows with tightly-packed short loops that zoom around the stereo head space and push it into a trance-like progression along with babbling, but emphatic vocals. Really, that's the operating procedure for the release, as song after song finds a tiny hook and then lets it rip for awhile as vocals spiral and wind their way over the top. "Kalise" pushes into the read with a six-strike bang of metal drums, some thick bass, and crashing cymbal fills. "Cuando Maavilla Fui" shakes things up a little bit more, breaking up the relentless shorter loops with some overlapping samples and the requisite vocals, giving it a village-singalong feel for awhile that pulls away to reveal something entirely different by the end.
It's the sort of release that will drive some listeners completely nuts simply because of the construction techniques, but it also powers forward with such a giddy energy that it's hard not to get wrapped up in it. By the time it lopes into the closer of "Polca Mazurca," it's easy to want it to just stick with something a little longer and develop an idea further than repeated five-second loops, but it's the layering and slight shifts (and honestly, the sheer roughness of the release) that give Alegranza a lot of its charm. I can't wait to see what El Guincho does after this invigorating debut.