There are times when you listen to something that totally takes you by surprise. ‘Originalitos’ by Frankie Reyes, AKA Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker, is one of these such albums.
The first striking thing about it, is its length. Reyes-Whittaker manages to do more in 22-minutes than the majority of musicians can do in double that length. The second striking thing about ‘Originalitos’ is how mesmerising it is. To create the album Reyes-Whittaker only used a Oberheim synth, a MIDI sequencer, and an effects unit. It plays into his classical music background as well as his Puerto Rican heritage. All the song titles are reference points to his family or Puerto Rico’s history.
The final thing that set’s ‘Originalitos’ apart from other recent electronic albums is how damn catchy it is. Imagine the Electronic Tonalities making some neo-classical music on an Oberheim synth and you’re on the right tracks.
‘Mis Abuelos’ has a cheeky-end-of-the-pier vibe to it. But a pier where the waltzers play this, instead of ‘Come on Eileen’. ‘Tiempos Pasados’ feels like something from the genius Gameboy game ’The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’. There is a rich narrative to the song that keeps pushing it forward. As with dreamlike Kazumi Totaka’s score it washes over you with a sense of familiarity, despite it being the first time you’ve heard the album.
The eight songs are minimal Oberheim synth workouts. The majority feel like fully formed things, but one of two feels like vague sketches. This vagueness actually works in the album’s favour as the songs are short and breezy.
The downside with ‘Originalitos’ is its length. At 22-minutes it feels far too short and at its conclusion we are left wanting more. Now, depending on your viewpoint this could also be one of its virtues. How many times have you heard an album and either felt done by it or unimpressed? Quite a few I’d wager. Then think about the albums you have played that have left you feeling satisfied. Finally, we have the album that you want more from. Which of these three has the larger number of marks against it? Thought so. The problem with the length of ‘Originalitos’ is that by the time it’s finishes we’ve just started to get to know and understand it.
At its heart ‘Originalitos’ is a love letter to Reyes-Whittaker’s Puerto Rican heritage. The music bristles with Latin motifs, thought sometimes hidden behind a façade of wonky synths. It is a wonderfully engaging album full of clever ideas and captivating melodies. There is a simplicity to that takes a few listens to get over. Once you have done this the album opens up to you and you are pulled into its soothingly skewed world.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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