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Guarco | Fiebre

Album review by John Powell

Guarco | Fiebre

New York via Uruguay musician Guarco’s album, Fiebre, may first come off as a reggae-infused indie rock approach to Latino/American cultural integration. Take the counter rhythm guitar of the opening track, “Rey de la Selva (King of the Forest)”, and the fat, punctuated bass beneath it, but that rules out the grunge lead guitar work and Guarco’s somewhat fuzzy vocals over pop-y drumming.

So what is this we’re looking at? Well, upon further listening, Fiebre comes off as a Latino brother to Beck, complete with a good voice, but nothing operatic. The bi-lingual, mutli-genre Guarco writes lyrics about universal problems and sings them with an almost monotone air, creating strange juxtaposition with the mix of instrumentation, a definite experimental musician.

“Monster” features layered percussion and samba rhythms, full of texture and propelled not by his voice, but rather by the usage of instrumentation. Conversely, “Nobody’s Girl” is sparse. Synth drums (not a fan), slow bass, and light, organic guitar ride below lyrics like, “Her angles are different/they play just the same”. The chorus introduces horns in a very Beck fashion. A swinging sax solo keeps the song from spiraling off like it could into weird bleeps and bops. Guarco never goes that far. It’s that restraint, that love of groove, that keeps Fiebre sounding unique. All NYC arrows point towards Indie weirdness, but Guarco likes reggae too much. The song ends in a slightly dubby veneration of drum n’ bass with synth whirls.

Many Latin rhythms lend themselves to reggae rhythms. The two coexist easily and beautifully. Guarco sometimes utilizes this, like on “Se Termino el Carnival (The Carnival Has Ended)", which of course, feeds off slightly carnivalistic guitar strumming and handclaps, (something a palm reading Gypsy might dig), and complete with singalong refrains that sound like the whole band is drunk, but still playing pretty decently… Then the breakdown gets highly Latin funky. Guarco strings all of this together with ease.

He’s not always tied to these sounds, however. On “Never Stray Away From Home” he sounds like Pavement’s opening act. The bass fuzzes with punk glory and the guitar pounds with feedback while he rhymes “Nueva Jersey” with “Nueva Citay”. It’s a quick, two-minute look at Guarco’s wide influences.

A key track is “Que Paso”, also with synth drums, which turns an otherwise rootsy groove into a skewed pop tune, but the guitars and bass hum richly while he half-raps with a bit of ‘tude. The synth line is catchy as heck and the breakdown features audio samples. If nothing else, Guarco utilizes dub technology like he was born with turntables in his hands.

“Fiebre Latino (Latin Fever)” sounds a bit too much like it was recorded in his bedroom, but overall the album is super-chill. It feels like a hot, humid day. Everything is mixed well, bass heavy and highly produced without sounding overproduced. There’s just a strong love of post-production here.

Bottom line: Fiebre is a prime example of contemporary music, bi-lingual, influenced by a hundred genres, computerized, and yet socially conscious without any pretension.


 

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