Hiperasia – El Guincho
Released: February 19, 2016
Formats: Digital, LP, CD
Pablo Diaz-Reixa jettisons technicolor tropicalia for a more abrasive electronic sound, making Hiperasia his purest musical vision yet.
There’s a line from “Momma,” on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, that goes, “I know what I know and I know it well not to ever forget / Until I realized I didn’t know shit / The day I came home.” I wonder whether Pablo Diaz-Reixa had a similar revelation during the five years he’s been absent. As El Guincho, he released the albums Alegranza! and Pop Negro in 2008 and 2010, which won critical acclaim for its floor-filling African-Latin beats and colorful Caribbean samples. In the five years he’s been away, he’s been caring for his ailing mother (who unfortunately passed away) and relocated to Madrid to find new inspiration. From that long hiatus comes Hiperasia, which sees El Guincho embracing sparser electronic production and jettisoning the tropicalia aesthetics that attracted the blogosphere’s adoration back in the late 2000’s.
Nothing prepared me for the first time I heard lead single “Comix” on the radio one morning; Diaz-Reixa’s vocal timbre and sing-song cadence are inimitable, but the tropical steel drums and marimbas that made him a darling of the blogosphere have been traded for a skipping mechanical drumbeat and tinny, buzzing synths. El Guincho finds inspiration this time from a Chinese mega discount store chain in Madrid, and Hiperasia’s production certainly conveys an air of artificiality (and the funky bassline on “Pizza” evokes the pop muzak you’d hear over the PA at the local 99 Cent Store), but the aesthetic changes don’t completely escape the nostalgic feeling of his earlier albums. While Alegranza drew from the psychedelia of 1960s Brazilian tropicalia and Pop Negro went for 1980s Spanish pop music, Hiperasia gets its kicks from hip-hop and British electronic producers. Despite the more contemporary influences, Hiperasia’s first side sounds like the soundtrack of an old, lost video game, such as the chopped, shuffled rhythms of “Sega” or Diaz-Reixa’s melodic autotuned singing on “De Bugas.” El Guincho’s music hits a nostalgic nerve and Hiperasia fits in his oeuvre, evoking the sounds of a 90s childhood fed on a steady diet of NES and Genesis games.
Move to side two, and the songs start wheeling and spinning out, with chords, melodies, beats and found samples chiming and crashing all over the place. Sure “Stena Drillmax” (yes, named after an offshore drilling platform) and “Abdi” start off with low-end loops in the style of SBTRKT, but the schizoid sonics really blow up on the title track. The sparse instrumentation, the clashing of fuzzed-up electronics, and the chopped rhythms evoke the garishly colored merchandise, the harsh lighting, and the packed shelves. Even the distracting feeling of looking at all of the products gets conveyed through the track arrangements. “Mis Hits” presents one of the more accessible tracks, with Diaz-Reixa’s vocoded lyrics taking center stage, then immediately followed by “Zona Wi-Fi”‘s crazy audio collision. Chords beep with the cadence of an alarm, the beat bounces like a superball, El Guincho raps with a childlike cadence, and a frenetic sampled drum solo all crash and jumble together.
Look deeper into the lyrics amidst the aural insanity and you’ll find an artist reflecting on his career, regaining his bearings. The long five years between records, with the passing of his mother, the end of his contract with XL Records, and a breakup with his girlfriend, brings a more introspective side to Hiperasia’s breakneck fluorescence. Amidst the glitchy rhythms and blaring synths, the album’s sparse instrumentation and quieter moments invite us into Diaz-Reixa’s reflections on his artistic process: “Pizza” recalls long nights in the studio hammering out new ideas fueled by pizza: “Or give me the pizza and leave me alone” (“O devuélveme la pizza y déjame en paz”). “Parte Virtual” looks back on his career with his old record label, and wanting more room to experiment since day one: “Mitad un plan pensado para desaparecer tal cual / Desde el día uno / No te dejes nadie por probar no te dejes ninguno / Desde el día uno”. Yet he dives even further into chilling self-criticism with the refrain “Son muy pocos los que no me fallan,” when all goes quiet. (PS: Thanks for the lyric transcriptions, Genius.com!!!)
Hiperasia’s not the easiest listening out in 2016; the electronics will alienate even longtime fans and tastemakers who’ve been drawn to his use of tropical sounds. However, his shift to stripped-back production and synthesized arrangements shakes off the endless Panda Bear comparisons to make Hiperasia the purest expression of his unique musical style so far. With introspective lyrics and vocal treatments that turn his voice into another instrument, Hiperasia also stands as his most reflective, personal statement yet. Keep your ears on the ground–El Guincho is back.