The debut album from Spanish quartet Aguo is instantly endearing on every level. Marisa Hudlin’s cover art is colorful and energetic, a perfect match for the music. The release is available on a limited edition USB stick, embedded in a small ceramic sculpture by Iván Jiménez (the making of which can be seen below), making each physical object unique and lovable. Most importantly, the band brings the tunes: sprightly, distinctive and consistently upbeat.
We’ve categorized the album as electronic, but the music bursts with numerous organic elements as well, most appealingly the Spanish guitar. On opening track “Hada”, field recordings also play a role, as the patter of rain launches the piece and puts it to bed. Electronic whistles, reminiscent of Lullatone, create a happy-go-lucky vibe. Drums and keys respond to one other like children inviting the other to play in puddles. The piece stops midway, then re-starts with bass tones and plinks. A minute later, it halts again; when the lights come back, a guitar has appeared! The song is so catchy that one already likes the band, no matter what they will do next; it’s a pleasant surprise to find that the album continues in this vein.
Vocals occasionally occur, but in small spurts: repeated lines in Spanish and English. “Sometimes” carries a chorus, but no verses: sometimes my heart is pumping, sometimes my heart is jumping around … While listening, one wants to jump as well. The swift-tempoed bassline provides a clear invitation. Oh go on, jump! The sharp military drums and electronic kazoos of “Pávy” produce the same effect, while the gently ambling “Land” makes one want to put an arm around a comrade while lifting a mug and toasting to a lost love. As the only lyric-centric piece, it’s a perfect closer.
When an album is this happy from start to finish, it’s impossible to resist. The multiple timbres, from flutes to hammers to thumb piano to waves, offer more variety than is normally embedded in such an album. Realized Distortion is something special, a boisterous work that looks and sounds like what it is: a joyous handheld object, an hour-long party embedded in a ceramic stick. (Richard Allen)