LMNK74LPC = Clear Transparent Vinyl
With his new album, Gecko Turner confirms that he is a standout artist in the global groove scene, a must for the outernational sounds aficionados.
Somebody From Badajoz is the fifth studio album in his much lauded discography and his first in seven years, eagerly anticipated by both his fans and himself: "this business of dedicating yourself to music and making songs… it's a long game."
With the release of his first two, remarkable, albums, Guapapasea! (2003) and Chandalismo Ilustrado (2006), Gecko started cultivating what one astute journalist defined as Afro-maduran soul—the "maduran" bit referencing Extremadura, a region in central-western Spain.
Badajoz, Gecko's birthplace, is the biggest city in the area, on the border with Portugal, by the Guadiana River. It is a place that oozes history, where there is constant movement at the border, and people's character is friendly and open-minded with foreign habits.
Gecko's Afro-maduran soul isbuilt on Afro-American music and drenched in Brazilian, African, Latin American and Jamaican sounds. There are also echoes of a youth marked in equal parts by our man's admiration for the Beatles and the flamenco that could be heard everywhere in Badajoz in the seventies. It makes for a singular sound and a musical language of its own—spicy, succulent, full of nuances, but with a very personal flavour.
The album opens with the Nigerian talking drums of Twenty-twenty Vision, (neo) soul in a magical falsetto, carried by a sumptuous orchestral arrangement with a cinematic flavour: "I'd been thinking about doing something called 'Twenty-twenty Vision' for some time, making a play on words with the vision we have of the world after the year 2020 and the medical expression, which, in ophthalmological terms, means 'normal or complete vision.' Beyond that particular song, I think that's the mood of the album: a look at society in the twenties of the 21st century and the feelings and demons it produces."
It's followed by De Balde, a very special song born from a posthumously discovered lyric by the great writer Carlos Lencero, a regular collaborator of Camarón, Pata Negra, and Remedios Amaya, and also from Badajoz. While conceived as a fandango, Gecko has moulded it into his sound in such a seamless way it now seems as if the words could only have been written to be embraced by the percussion, brass, and backing vocals heard on the album. It's the only lyric on Somebody From Badajoz not written by Turner, still it sits rather comfortably with the rest, sharing the same emotivity and sensitivity, as well as the trademark humour and irony.
Other tracks see more protagonism for the rhythm.The beat-driven Ain't No Fun Preachin' to the Choir features Gecko's vocals walking the thin line between singing and talking over a phenomenal afro-disco-funk-infused trailblazer. In Am I Sad? it's impossible to not bob your head to the queen of Papatosina's mongrel rhythm, as close to the banks of the Guadiana river as it is to the shores of the Mississippi. Qué Siesta Tan Buena, He Babeao Y To! is an ode to the snooze in true Afro-Maduran fashion. And in Come And Try, the Caribbean influence is evident—lovers' rock that invites you to dance in good company.
In these songs, and throughout the album, for that matter, the musicians accompanying Gecko, who himself plays many of the instruments as well, shine brightly. All hailing from Extremadura, Javi Mojave (percussion), Álvaro Fdez 'Dr. Robelto' (bass), and Rafa Prieto (guitar) have been carrying him with delicate forcefulness since he started out as a solo artist. At the same time, the wonderful and essential voices of Deborah Ayo, Astrid Jones, Fani Ela Nsue, and Miriam Solís give the album a sunny variety of colours. And there are many more—a sensational group of musicians contributes dazzling harmonic bursts to many of the songs. The palette of sounds is very diverse and rich in textures and nuances, including, for example, the ngoni, bells, and various repurposed kitchen utensils.
The groove is always around, moving between the magical border sound of Everybody Knows Somebody From Badajoz and Little Dose, the silky soul of The Sibariteo Appreciation Society, and the exultant celebration of End Of The World (which surprisingly sees Gecko turning to the occasional use of autotune), a piece that could be used for the final credits of a Monty Python film and, in fact, closes the album.
Gecko Turner has done it again with Somebody From Badajoz, looking to the future without losing sight of the roots. In times of upheaval all over the globe, when people are looking for purity, he delivers a formidable piece of work: risky, optimistic in spite of everything, and with a decidedly bastard sound. Let's rejoice.