Sixty miles across the coast of Africa lie the Canary Islands, collectively an autonomous community of Spain built by the commerce flowing through it onward to the New World. Its influence on the music of Pablo Díaz-Reixa (better known as El Guincho) is palpable, leading to some of the most unique, daring pop music of recent years.
El Guincho, a resident of Las Palmas (the largest city of the island Gran Canaria), describes his music as “space-age exotica,” and whatever that means, it makes a lot of sense. Starting with Alegranza! and Pop Negro in 2010, he has released music centered on a diverse set of samples and off-kilter rhythms. The highlights of the two albums are loud, brash and eclectic, showcasing El Guincho’s wide knowledge of the world’s music combined with an intuitive sense for good pop.
El Guincho’s samples range from Brazil to Ghana, and like the masters of the art in the hip-hop and electronic realm, he is extremely skilled at making his chops and loops organic and lively. He does certainly have a penchant for specific types of samples, be it West African high life or Brazilian Tropicalia, but it lends a cohesive atmosphere to all of his work.
Arguably his most popular song, “Bombay” is the best example of his pop sensibilities mixed with his experimental streak. A hypnotic steel drum pattern anchors the track, with El Guincho’s thin vocals (Spanish is particularly perfect for this kind of music) barely registering in the mix and blending in with the constant, busy instrumentation. The track’s memorable music video (disclaimer: It is rather explicit) is a wonderful companion to the track and is a perfect translation of El Guincho’s musical style into video.
Most of his tracks put rhythm at the forefront, as the main source of activity and variation rather than the melodies. Steel drums are a common feature, as well as percussion used commonly in South American and African folk.
El Guincho’s tendency to clutter and layer to the extreme aren’t always successful, and he can get slightly too carried away, detracting from the groove he gets into himself over the course of the first half of a track. Nonetheless, the hits that accompany the misses more than make up for them. His work borrows from Panda Bear and The Avalanches but is more forceful and buoyant, rather than the often hazy, dreamlike quality of the former.
El Guincho’s music is restless and colorful in a manner which pop music rarely operates in. While making music electronically, he infuses a sense of messiness and vibrancy that enhances the diverse set of sources he works with, resulting in music with a childlike sense of wonder.