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Esperanza: Esperanza II

Carlos Villalobos uses his astounding nylon-string guitarwork, among other skills, on Esperanza II (Higher Octave HOMCD 10387; 43:57), a musical sequel to his popular 1998 release combining traditional flamenco stylings with modern electronica. Some artists have attempted such hybrids with disastrous, Scotch-taped-together sounding results, but Villalobos’ vision is one of true integration, bringing elements of mood and color together in a unified whole. A great example of this is “Esta Noche,” wherein dizzying revolutions of techno-electronic drones and plucky metallic sounds set off the guitarist’s stuttering, romantic play for a truly intoxicating effect. “Mi Tierra” builds its full, driving sound on equal parts brisk percussion, whirling keyboard effects and full-out Spanish strum, while a lumbering, heavy-edged rhythm track chugs beneath the simple, lithe melody line of “Mysterioso.” Another highlight, “Azul Tropical,” brings Afro-Cuban percussive patterns and handclaps in an elliptical motion around a sweet, sweeping melody, performed with a Caribbean ardor on guitar by the accomplished Villalobos. The result of all this careful crafting is a sound that is earthy and elemental, yet beautifully polished.

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