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Guadalupe Plata – Guadalupe Plata


Guadalupe PlataDesert rockabilly trio Guadalupe Plata have been ploughing their Spanish language furrow since 2010 and with this, their fifth full-length record (four of them self-titled), the band find themselves leaping straight into the fray with a salute to the famed Chilean songwriter and activist Violeta Parra.

This opening track, sounding not unlike some wild, drifting cousin to “Ghost Riders In The Sky” sets out their stall early. The taut and thoughtful rhythm section takes off at a medium gallop, the light horsetail of Carlos Jimena‘s drums lifting in the breeze, leaving space for the warm, distant tones of Pedro De Dios and the saw blade vibrato of his electric guitar as it cuts a swathe through the golden Andalucian light. It is a real scene setter and you can imagine they would be the perfect choice for the house band if there were ever some crazy collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and David Lynch. There is enough of the surrealism that would be required for Lynch, but is offset with a kind of visceral strength and simmering Mediterranean tension that would suit Rodriguez.

They can really strut their stuff though when they want. The Stray Cats-like “Miedo” has that insistent stepping rockabilly rhythm that really gives a bassist a workout, and the playful and slightly nervous vocals share the limelight with some gorgeous little drum fills. The rhythm section is happy to make some room for the odd but brief guitar solos, and the whole thing moves along at a rapid pace, causing hips and hair to shake loose. The beautiful walking bass-led instrumental “Navajazo” follows a similar rhythm, but is allowed a lot more space and gives the listener a greater opportunity to really appreciate the deftness and subtlety of the rhythm section; the drums are feather-light and the whole thing is extremely danceable.

In comparison, the slow and sparse “Tan Solo” is almost dubby in its extreme use of spacious echo. The De Dios’s insistent repetition of the phrase “se fue”, which I think means “she left”, allied to the incredible echoing drums sounding like footsteps down a darkened corridor lend real drama to the proceedings. If you catch sight of the guys, you can understand the dramatic feel. They wouldn’t look out of place onstage with The Tiger Lillies, wearing that debauched steampunk look with great style, dashing suits and crazy facial hair. You also have the feeling every now and again that there is a touch of Calexico or Friends of Dean Martin about some of the arrangements. That is only to be expected, I suppose, as both the aforementioned and Guadalupe Plata have that high, lonesome desert sound in their DNA. Rather than Mexico, Guadalupe Plata have the dusty Spanish plain as their inspiration, with “Preso” being the perfect example, even down to the shuffling shackles thrown in as part of the rhythm half way through.

There is a touch of the blues in “Perro De Vieja”, and I wonder if Alan Vega has a passing influence over some of the vocal delivery. Although this blues number really swings, there is an air of tension in the background, the hovering sound of a shimmering guitar circles and circles as the song plays out like some nameless predatory bird. The album draws to a close with the eerie but rather sultry “Almeria”, the title and the sound describing the band perfectly. One interesting snippet which really goes against the grain, but perhaps explains some of their more unusual influences, is the one and a half minutes of “Borracho”. It literally sounds like Stump recording a jam while Mark E Smith is walking past the studio, grumbling through the door, all awkward rhythms and straining, bucking guitars. Most intriguing.

This album is a delicious and colourful, esoteric and evocative snapshot of desert life;the open plains, the sweaty cantinas, the mystery and blazing drama. Thoroughly recommended.

-Mr Olivetti-

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