If being on the forefront of musical trends paid currency, El Guincho (nom de dance of Pablo Diaz-Reixa) would be Scrooge McDuck right now. Traveling in nostalgic, watery, effervescent, less-than-hi-fi grooves, El Guincho’s Alegranza! pre-dated chillwave artists like Toro y Moi and Washed Out by a full two years, hitting upon an emerging trend before anyone even knew what to call it. What’s more remarkable is that El Guincho matched the wistfulness of chillwave in a Spanish dialect spoken only on the Canary Islands, where Diaz-Reixa is from.
Now that dance music just like his is filling up RSS feeds across blogland, El Guincho is back for a victory lap of sorts with Pop Negro, his splendid sophomore album that has a (slightly) more traditional dance-pop bend than his first. Plus he’s made one minor concession: He’s singing in plain old Spanish this time out.
Pop Negro opens with “Bombay,” a track that has been part of the El Guincho live set for a few years, a climbing, steel drum-heavy floater with factory leveling backbeats. Letting loose with the oldest track first, the rest of Pop Negro is an evolution of sorts. El Guincho slowly moves away from the tropicalia of early tracks like “Novias” to more conventional synthy tracks like “FM Tan Sexy” and “Danza Invinto.” The strongest tracks are at the midway point. “Lycra Mistral” would work as a hip-hop beat, and “Soca Del Eclipse” is maybe the best El Guincho track to date. It never loses its sense of motion as it see-saws between soccer chants and a more somber verse.
And it cannot be overlooked that El Guincho is still one of the more exciting European dance musicians out there. His synthesis of dance, island music, ‘80s synth pop, and Spanish forms while courting an indie-rock audience make him one of the few internationally capable artists in indie right now. He’ll probably still be relegated to afternoon festival slots and in hard to find reaches of your local record store, but Pop Negro is another delightful record that pushes the boundaries between music and countries.