photo manipulation by nacrowe
to me their music is a celebration of life. and it hit me at the right moment when i was receptive to that message.
the lush, highly orchestrated, bass-heavy, FUNK-inflected sound of the FRIENDLY FIRES was an intoxicating heady mix that i discovered shortly after moving to the ADRIATIC hugging, coastal town of VLORË during my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA. i had been living beforehand a monochrome existence in the isolated, claustrophobic, historically conservative northern mountain town of KUKËS near the KOSOVO border where all my movements were noticed and judged by the local population, who were still as paranoid of outsiders as they had been under communism. in comparison VLORË was a vibrant port town that looked towards engagement with the broader world, with bikini-strewn beaches with clear pristine water, shit they even had a bowling alley (one of two in the entire country). not a typical ALBANIAN experience in any respect, as here i could speak to people in public without having to worry about repercussions. in KUKËS speaking to female college students of mine in public meant i was sleeping with them, furthering my isolation.
VLORË was fresh air. it was like being able to breathe again.
for me discovering FRIENDLY FIRES at that time only showcased the technicolor aspect of that recent radical geographical shift. their sound is a vibrantly propulsive and kinetic mix of keyboards, african-esque drumming and single note guitar work with orchestral and sound design elements; they are basically what later-day COLDPLAY would sound like if they didn't suck.
i love how music can serve as a soundtrack to your life, but whenever i come across their dance-able sound i am taken directly back to long warm summer nights sleeping with my window open in my ADRIATIC SEA-facing apartment after months of being left alone, socially isolated up in the mountains. its still holds its power to me years later.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
there was an interesting period during the end of my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA when i knew it was only a matter of months before my move to VENEZUELA as a secondary english teacher. what an interesting era that was.
for 2-3 months i basically read everything i could about SOUTH AMERICAN history as well as LATIN culture writ large. this led me to things like reading OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA (MONTHLY REVIEW PRESS, 1997) by Uruguayan historian EDUARDO GALEANO as well as several HUGO CHAVEZ biographies and musical artists such as ANA TIJOUX (CHILE/FRANCE), LA VIDA BOHEME (VENEZUELA) and probably my favorite discovery, EL GUINCHO (SPAIN).
what makes music the music of this CANARY ISLANDS multi-instramentalist/producer stand out is his ability to contextualize disparate genres and textures into a cohesive sonic expression. the nearest analogues i can think of were artists like BECK and BJORK who both seem to revel in using multiple production techniques in the same track. i think the difference here is that for EL GUINCHO is playing with a different set of reference points (tropicália, afrobeat, old school hip hop) as BECK is known for genre-exercises as he was a child of the post-modern FLUXUS movement and BJORK is firmly a bridge between the pop and avant-garde world music scene.
for me the music of EL GUINCHO is very exciting on a sonic level and his album POP NEGRO (YOUNG TURKS, 2010) is something i have been listening to on constant rotation since it came out almost 10 years ago.
well worth checking this guy out. could not recommend his music any stronger.