Esperanza II

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Listening to Carlos Villalobos' intense flamenco guitarisms and the way he mixes them with overwhelmingly rhythmic dance grooves, one might expect his background to include both living the life of a gypsy and being a Euro club DJ. Yet, actually, his background is more mainstream -- with Michael Jackson, Everette Harp, the Smashing Pumpkins, and the theme music to Baywatch on his resume. The flamenco hip-hop concept here is a wild mix of the organically exotic and totally techno -- urban America meets European techno thumps and the ardor of the Iberian peninsula. "Mi Tierra" begins with simple flamenco strains and gentle percussion before inviting the throbbing grooves and a soaring Native American voice into the mix. As the groove grows deeper and more forceful, Villalobos' playing becomes more aggressive; think of Ottmar Liebert getting the dance remix of his life and you get the idea. "Esta Noche" is a little more laid-back, his plucky acoustic guitar swaying seductively over a hip-hop pitter-patter. The opening segment of "Brande Nicole" puts quieter acoustic musings over a trance trip-hop foundation; "Marina" is also a bit more slow dance-ready than in your face -- romantic cantina music with an electronic beat. "Recuerdas" pairs a nifty guitar improvisation with spacy synth sounds and a crunch shuffle. The creativity in blending these two seemingly disparate styles seems endless in the hands of this amazing guitarist and producer. One of the best worldbeat releases of the year.

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