'An artist who cannot be pigeonholed' is the way that Rough Trade has chosen to describe El Guincho. This amused me slightly as El Guincho, 'The Black-Headed Gull', used a parrot as cover art for his previous album, Alegranza, and is a native of the..............Canary Islands! (Just me then). Pablo Diaz-Reixa, to his Mum, is a would be soccer star come tennis pro that never quite fulfilled his early dreams and who now resides in Barcelona... ('Such a beautiful horizon.')
Pop Negro, or Black Octopus, is Pablo's 3rd album and was finished with money he earned whilst doing a stint as a Windsurfing Instructor. The Spanish recording artist, previously a member of the group Coconut, was well received last time around, mainly for his use of original, over layered, rhythms. This time the mood is slightly less 'Drum heavy' and whilst it still packs a punch it is not the 'Sheets of pounding rhythm' that described its predecessor.
The Afro-Beats still resound around the album but Pablo has managed to capture more of his lifestyle within the mix of tunes. His descriptions of daily activities, which he says used to involve playing sports, going to the beach, hanging out and going to music school do not point to a frantic pace and a hectic break neck speed existence, and nor does Pop Negro, although you may be forgiven for thinking so when reading of how he wrote Bombay, the album's opening track. It was written 'on a stopover at a Singapore hotel following an Australian tour and subsequently recorded in studios in Berlin, Madrid, Gran Canaria and Barcelona.'
Bombay, the July released single, serves as the introduction to Pop Negro. The high note steel drum and carnival atmosphere create a preposterously happy and festive feel that sets the tone for the remainder of the album. The repeated rhythms, dance derived mix and participatory hand claps all join together in a summer scented high. Novias draws you back to the beach bar with more seriously smooth, hip shaking lively Latin bongo accompanied beats. (By this stage you may be forgiven for dancing around in your Sombrero whilst supping on a San Miguel or mixing your own Sangria).
Soca Del Eclipse develops the 'Tropicalia' theme still further with a horn infused oh so catchy number. With its try as you might, you'll never be able to resist, infectious and sing-a-long chorus it ranks as a high spot on Pop Negro. The new single, FM Tan Sexy, shows more of a Balearic touch, is more disjointed and less radio friendly. Veering away from the holiday vibe Pablo showcases a more considered approach and nearly overly complicates the mix. (Chica-Oh) Drums recaptures the party mood as the sun sets and the beats soften slightly. Danza Invento closes off the album with a poor and patchy, almost wedding singer, crooner like tune that fits uneasily with the 8 previous tracks.
Pop Negro is at times a joyously ecstatic, happy, lively and enjoyable romp. It's capable of transporting you to a tropical paradise of beauty and warmth where cares are abandoned and life is always good. It can also feel like a holiday romance that's never quite real and is always destined to end badly. It leaves you with some fond memories but is not necessarily an experience you would want to repeat again anytime soon.
If you're having a Tapas party evening in the near future, Pop Negro by El Guincho might just be your perfect soundtrack. If you're looking to find an album that you'll love for life, then maybe not.