Laura Lopez Castro & Don Philippe - Optativo - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Laura Lopez Castro & Don Philippe - Optativo

by Priscilla Eyles Rating:9 Release Date:2010-12-18

This third release from German-Spanish singer-songwriter Laura López Castro and French-German guitarist Don Phillippe (alias Phillipe Kayser) (known in Germany for co-founding one of Germany's most successful and critically acclaimed hip-hop groups, Freundeskries), is beguiling and atmospheric. It weaves a mood of romanticism; starlit evenings spent in Spanish bars or cafes. It brings together a myriad of influences including South American and Spanish folk music, bossa nova (Antonio Carlos Jobim is cited as big influence in the press notes, and you can also detect the influence of Astrud Gilberto) and jazz to bring a sense of urban modernity as well as classic timelessness.

The opening track 'Prólogo' is evocative, contemplative and laid-back. A mini statement of intent showcasing the simple and subtle beauty of Phillipe's acoustic guitar and percussion work, which is complemented by Paul Kleber's rich double-bass, and of course Castro's vocals, which on this track are breathy and seductive. The next track, 'Noche Eterna', is the most up-tempo; it's a song full of yearning and desire (sample lyric: "Eternal night, nothing but wanting to touch you once again"). The jaunty guitar riff instantly takes you in, while the shimmering, tinkling percussion and mandolin, and ghostly piano in the background, played by sound researcher Hauschka, adds to its magical atmosphere, making it my personal favourite of the album.

'Has De Saber' is another highlight and is one of the most mournful songs on the album and comes very close to sounding like fado music, with its minor key and martial style percussion. It is simple and affecting, telling a tale of unrequited love, and Castro sings with earnestness and moving emotion. Other highlights include 'Sin Miedo' a whimsical, dreamy sounding number with jazzy brushed drums (belying its paranoid lyrics about fearing everything from the dust that gets in your eye to being alone). It features an Arabic spoken part by Sudanese singer Nahid, and is the most retro sounding track, sounding a bit like a 60s film soundtrack, with hints of St. Etienne and early Cardigans.

A folky ukulele-lead cover of 'Ki Chororo' by legendary Uruguayan singer-songwriter Aníbal Sampayo, has a soothing gentle rhythm and gives you the feeling of being on a South American beach on a sunny day. Following song Mi Cansado Corazón Despierto is another delight, with its unusual prepared piano (again by Hauschka) and typewriter sounds.

This is an album that grows on you (as many of the very best albums do), but what is apparent from the very first listen is that the talented Castro and Phillippe deserve greater recognition outside Germany. And if Castro's voice and Philippe's sensitive guitar playing doesn't move you in some way, then there is definitely something wrong with you.

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