El Guincho

Pop Negro

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If Pablo Diaz-Riexa’s second album under the name El Guincho doesn’t garner the same attention as the first (Alegranza) did when it arrived out of the blue two years previously, you can hardly blame him. Pop Negro is just as impressive as the debut was. It’s just that the indie landscape has shifted so much over that time span that someone blending all sorts of African, Latin, dance, and pop elements and influences into a whirling, glittery disco ball of sound isn’t exactly enough to stop the presses. In fact, since Diaz-Riexa doesn’t really break any new ground here, some may even dismiss the album as a retread. That would be a big mistake. While it’s true that the basic sonic template of Pop Negro is much the same as Alegranza, this time the songs are more focused and the overall feel is much punchier and direct. The songs seem less likely to spiral off in unpredictable directions; Diaz-Riexa keeps a steady hand on the wheel at all times. There are fewer voices and samples, less cluttered arrangements, and more straightforward rhythms on Pop Negro, making the songs easier to dance to but a little less likely to get lost in. This is much less an album for starry-eyed dreamers and more of a party record. Almost any song would be perfect for a forward-thinking dance party; the pounding drums, heavy bass, interlocking synth lines, and Diaz-Riexa’s yearning vocals combine in ways that would sound very good over a loud sound system in a club -- or on headphones, as these are still intricately designed and executed songs despite the stripped-back approach. Though El Guincho may no longer take anyone by surprise, songs like "FM Tan Sexy" with its oddball R&B crossover appeal (a Timbaland remix seems natural) and the sunburst-bright "Bombay" prove that Diaz-Riexa is a master mixer of sounds and styles and Pop Negro is another stunning success for El Guincho.

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