For those not initiated with the geography of the Canary Islands (for the record it’s named after dogs, not birds), Alegranza is an uninhabited island in the chain, off the African and Spanish coasts. The great debut from Canary Islands resident Pablo Diaz-Reixa (a.k.a. El Guincho) is named after Alegranza, but it’s the most unlikely namesake — the album’s pan-global vibe is informed by multiple musical traditions (psych-rock, tropicalia, dance hall, religious chants) and plays like a worldwide dance party.
The cultural melting pot present in the Canary Islands — which has a culture informed equally by African and Spanish occupiers — bears its imprint on Alegranza!, which has no musical ties to any forefathers other than itself. The only album that Alegranza! remotely resembles is Panda Bear’s Person Pitch in that both releases adhere to loose, tropical and pop-pastiche structures, but Alegranza! is more concerned with genre smashing as a call to dance as opposed to a call to mellow out.
“Palmitos Park,” a two-minute romp that sounds like a resort commercial, opens the album in mellow fashion before segueing into “Antillas,” a pulsating dance-hall meander down a beach. Alegranza! uses the touchstones of most of 1990s and early 2000s dance music — repeated melodic figures, near-religious trancelike vocals — but augments them with a grab bag of instruments, samples and musical genres. “Fata Morgana” grows organically from a steel-drum figure, wind chimes and a chant into a bouncing and shimmery track fit for a Mario Kart soundtrack. “Cuando Maavilla Fui” uses a sample taken from what sounds like a work line of women and folds it within the scattering percussion and Middle Eastern melody that takes over the latter half of the track. Closer and album highlight “Polca Mazurca” trades the genial good vibes of the album’s first eight tracks for morning-after somberness, leaving the album not in the tropical headspace it created but in a world when the good times have dissipated.
Of all the Europeans dominating dance music (most of whom are just tweaking the formula of the old Ed Banger/Daft Punk set — ahem, Justice), El Guincho is the most vital and daring, willing to go out on a limb to create a new brand of dance music. When his contemporaries seem content to make self-absorbed, synth-washed expositions, El Guincho brings the world to the dance floor and the dance floor to the world. And Alegranza! is his mission statement.