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Steel Drums carry the melody of “Bombay” while Spanish musician El Guincho (a.k.a. Pablo Díaz-Reixa) delivers vocals in his native tongue. Stomping percussion anchors the track, so that the ornate melodic embellishment never loses its tether. Female background singers, whom I imagine must be exotic but angelic creatures, drape “Bombay” in a beautiful “Oo oo oo” chorus. Despite its many bells and whistles, “Bombay” never sounds overwrought. It takes great skill to handle so many elements without allowing them to become too busy.
Another aspect of El Guincho’s appeal is that his work is so difficult to categorize. “Bombay” is fluid. Only the syncopation seems reminiscent of the subcontinent that gives the song its name. The steel drums offer a Caribbean flavor, while the percussion feels more African. The English language is so full of terms that imply mixing is bad: miscegenation, mishmash, mutt, jumble. In botany, when a flower mutates, it’s called a “sport.” We need more words for the magic that comes from the type of mixing that gives us new orchids and new genres of music.
Though Díaz-Reixa’s work, both solo and with his band Coconots, is often compared to Animal Collective, “Bombay” displays a much tighter sense of melody and rhythm than anything on Sung Tongs. Young Turks will release Pop Negro, El Guincho’s follow-up to his debut Alegranza!, this Tuesday, September 14th, 2010.