Radio Tarifa does not, as the band’s début album five years ago made clear, exist – or at least not in any tangible way. And yet Tarifa more than make up for this absence by filling it with some of the most inventive and haunting music to date.
Their name suggests the fiction of a radio station based at the southernmost tip of the Iberian peninsula, the point where Spain is closest to North Africa, and it’s this imaginative space that Fain S Dueñas, Benjamin Escoriza and Vincent Molino explore. From the first seconds of ‘Osu’, with its mesmerizing oboe-like cromornos sound, it’s obvious that Cruzando el Río is going to be good. Moorish melodies and fierce flamenco rhythms challenge one another throughout this album, as do the strangely compelling mix of medieval instruments and up-to-the minute studio techniques.
Yet, under Dueñas’ direction, the argument – that both traditions are inextricable – is compelling. If they stretch the concept somewhat – as on a version of a traditional Japanese song or even a tune from Renaissance Flanders – it only reinforces just how well their inspirations from regional Spanish songs and Arabic modalities sit together. And to be taken from the soft, almost courtly tenor of ‘Rama Verde’, its bagpipes and guitars in a formal raiment, to the extended percussion and foot-stomping breaks (provided by flamenco star Joaquín Ruiz) of ‘Patas Negras’ is a clear indication that Cruzando el Río proposes an unmissable journey.Louise Gray