GUTS / ESTRELLAS / HEAVENLY SWEETNESS – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

Recorded over 17 days in Dakar, with a cast of thirty-four singers and players, producer / DJ Guts has masterminded this sprawling 17-track love letter to Afro-Cuban music. The end result is a wide-eyed masterpiece of global soul – all-encompassing, all live, all coated in magnificent musicianship. It’s one hell of an accomplishment. Everywhere the needle drops there’s a future classic: the delicate pianistic impressionism of Ultima Llamada overlaid with horns, flutes and words from Kumar Sublevao-Beat – nine minutes of bubbling goodness. Calm and assured, it’s the perfect introduction to the project.

The dancefloor gets revved up on San Lazaro: the Cuban riffs supercharged, piano again to the fore. Horns urgent, percussion pounding, as vocalist Akemis runs it down. You can hear the love radiating from the grooves. This is Cuba pumped and pimped for 2022 – the magic inherent in every burst of musical brilliance. Awesome.

The percussion throughout the album is particularly fine: a lattice-work of intricate beats and pieces, wielded by expert practitioners – it defies you not to start shaking your money-maker. There’s a film of the project coming too (shades of Ry Cooder – not a bad template to be following!) – for that full-on multi-sensorial experience.

Oda drops into a yearning, brass-fuelled lope: tender, sweet, the sound of long nights and feverish days – Gabriel Garcia Marquez territory, perhaps – as Havana gets hymned before the track takes off halfway through, flying through the night. Ay caramba!

Nunca Pierdo wraps spindly guitar lines around Assane Mboup‘s virtuoso vocal performance: a low-slung Dakar dance for night owls and barflies alike. This is Cuba looking back at Africa and smiling: the source revealed, the curtain pulled back, the marvel and mystery entwined. Mellow, meaningful, moody: magnificent. There’s so much to dig into, to come back to, to wallow contentedly in: it’s an album that spreads its wings and soars effortlessly. This is what musicians can do, it says, this is what the communal worship of rhythm sounds like. Forget the MPC, forget the laptop: embrace the real.

A rolling disco bass-line powers up Dansons Cadences and you’re back on the floor: cha-cha’ing like you’ve never cha-cha’d before. There’s a joy here, a never say die response to pandemics, war and hatred. This is the sound of humans at play, and damn fine it is too. Stick this album on the national health service as a cure for depression. It works better than big pharma, for sure. Healing, soul-stealing. Just a wonderful listen.

GUTS` new album, Estrellas is out now, on Heavenly Sweetness. 

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