‘We Can’t Handle This’ – track one on this sapling Bay Area duo’s debut album – sounds like a Belle & Sebastian Dictaphone demo.
Its tape hiss is almost as loud as its parts and yet its sweet, forlorn melody couldn’t be drowned out by jet engines.
So yes, these San Fran-ers, who’ve been playing together for just 6 months, are packing a fair chunk of charm, and that’s before their 60’s-leaning
psyche begins to flirt heavily with The Byrds and Love.
Josh Alper and Glenn Donaldson coo in harmony and particularly on the
sub-2-minute ‘Paris Cafe’ Art Museums prove that the most beautiful of melodies are lo-fi in their very nature.
That static “hsssss” doesn’t take long to become extremely annoying though, and a two-dollar drum machine adds to the ‘Rough Frame’’s woes,
but if these songs were recorded properly this tiedyed pop would be faultless.
El Guincho’s club-friendly brand of exotica – steel drums, high-life
guitars, tropicalia rhythms is so sampledelic that attempting a Art Museums “live” incarnation could be either futile or very expensive.
Indeed, as tonight’s support act Chad Valley so ably proves, stabbing at a
keyboard while singing over a backing track does not a captivating live show make.
So it’s a pleasant surprise that El Guincho (Pablo Diaz-Reixa to his mum)
has extra musicians in tow and that his set, while continuously locked
into a computerised click,
maintains the flexibility and looseness of the Latin funk and afrobeat to which his records pay homage.
Despite the added bassist and guitarist, though, the band is as static as its music is frantic, which remains disconcerting even after Diaz-Reixa requests to have the stage lights extinguished
(“we need a Spanish dance party vibe!” he insists). His music is impressively
unique in calling to mind any number of genres and acts (not least tonight Animal Collective and Manu Chao),
while simultaneously sounding nothing like any of them. Unfortunately this illusion of alchemy is somewhat pricked by his total lack of stagecraft – but
watch an El Guincho show with eyes closed and the magic lives on.
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