Ely Guerra

Hombre Invisible

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Ely Guerra's fifth studio album, Hombre Invisible, was created in rather different circumstances from her previous work. For starters, Guerra decided to quit EMI and launch her own record and distribution company. Musically, however, Guerra was far from being on her own, as she chose to work with a plethora of illustrious collaborators: Los Tres' Alvaro Henríquez, Enrique Bunbury, Kinky's Gilberto Cerezo, Gustavo Santaolalla, Juanes, Pablo Gigliotti, Café Tacuba's Emmanuel "Meme" del Real, and Horacio Franco. Contrary to appearances, Hombre Invisible is anything but an album of duets, as all of the above limited their input to sending sequenced tracks and ideas to Guerra, for the singer to add lyrics and flesh out the songs with her band, the Ely Guerras. The results are fairly impressive, but also quite puzzling, as it is impossible to tell the influence of any of the co-writers, raising the question as to why she would go to all the trouble of asking for their help in the first place. Indeed, if there is a fundamental characteristic to Hombre Invisible, that characteristic is its overwhelming uniformity of tone and style. Working in a vein similar to that of Spain's Christina Rosenvinge (think Hope Sandoval for international audiences), Guerra's hushed voice rises timidly over a sea of electronic lull and droning guitars for a seductive collection of mood pieces. Admittedly, Hombre Invisible flirts with the danger of crossing the thin line between sonic caress and sonic blur. Whispered lyrics are often unintelligible to the point that sometimes it is even hard to tell whether Guerra is singing in Spanish or English (she drifts between the two), let alone tell songs apart. This is a pity, as close listening to the best moments, such as "Colmena" and "Stranger," offer plenty of rewards. Hombre Invisible can be a very appealing work, but it also continuously risks morphing into background music -- even if very fine at that -- which is a disservice to Guerra's songwriting. In this sense, one cannot help but feel that if all of the aforementioned collaborators had also sung on this record, the final result would have been stronger, a sort of Spanish version of the Isobel Campbell-Mark Lanegan albums. Hombre Invisible was awarded the 2010 Latin Grammy in the Best Alternative Music Album category.