NubeNegra (www.nubenegra.com)

Agüita is faithful to the promise of Cadiz-based EA!'s 1998 debut recording, Oripandó. The powerful vocal of Pilar "La Monica," simultaneously warbling and piercing, remains the center of attraction, ably supported by traditional Spanish and North African acoustic instrumentation. On Agüita, however, EA! chooses to emphasize its jazzy side, led by the flute of Nacho Vallejo and Iván Vallejo's often bowed double bass, pervasive hand percussion and Juan Madrera's guitar providing a flamenco foundation. The upshot is a happy, carefree sound.

"Chévere," a quick, light shuffle in praise of Venezuela, features Pilar's vocal interplay with chorus, and is energized by alternating flute and guitar solos. In "Corraleras," Pilar's vocal carries what sounds like a cumulating list, accompanied only by brisk percussion and commenting voices. This is followed by "El Patio," sort of bubble-gum rock, its silliness overcome by enthusiasm, dancing on the patio to a nice harmonica solo. The main verse of "Nadavolandando" is nearly a 12-bar blues structure, but debouches into a jazzy bridge and guitar solo, an interesting study in stylistic contrast.

One of the recording's high points is "Sáhara," fine dense percussion, bouzouki, and bowed bass creating a Moorish atmosphere, Pilar's insistent melodic figures unwinding slowly with choral backing and keening. "Tango de la Isla" conjures a more haunting atmosphere, more explicitly flamenco guitar and clapping percussion, Pilar pushing her vocal limits, interplay between bass and flute adding a playful note.

Agüita enchants with flamenco style, and trails a playful, jazzy contentment. - Jim Foley

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