Saturday, July 11, 2009

OJOS DE BRUJO - Aocaná (Diquela Records)

If you look at the vast array of contributors to Ojos de Brujo's fourth album, you might be forgiven for expecting another over-ambitious and slightly over-egged release in the mould of its predecessor Techari. Such fears prove unjustified. Aocaná finds the Catalan band back in fine form.

Holding a torch for the melting pot that is their home city Barcelona's artistic profile, Spain's finest world music export were guilty of losing their way with their third album, piling ingredient upon ingredient then having to batter their message home through the resultant musical melange. On Aocaná they refocus on the flamenco roots from which they build their sound, pulling back from the relentless rhythmic attack, hip-hop and scratching that marked their previous albums (they're still there, but applied sparingly) and drawing in son, salsa and jazz influences. The acoustic guitar, double-tracked vocals and raps are coloured by piano and trumpet tones and anchored by a far more fluid and restrained rhythmic base reliant more on the incisive pit-a-pat of cajon box drum than kit drum and bass guitar. In places there are still some nods to the Indian rhythmic influence that has crept in recently, but it's applied with a nuance that aids the refined musicality of the songs, never bland but also less forcibly in-yer-face. There's a lightness of melodic touch on the album, bringing out gradations we've never heard before from lead singer Marina La Canillas (has motherhood mellowed her approach? It certainly seems to have led to a less direct vocal attack).

There's a subtlety on this release that Ojos de Brujo will probably never get across live, and I guess many of their young fans wouldn't want it any other way. For those of us who prefer their music to display its roots and a melodic sensibility...well, we've got another Ojos album to soak up on the stereo.

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