Reviews

Fast Diagonal Album Review, December, 2017 (Andy Cowan, Mojo Magazine) 4/5 stars

Serially underrated Glasgow post-rock alchemists get physical after 10-year hiatus.

The nearly men of the Caledonian post-rock underground haven’t been entirely in absentia, with fleet-fingered guitarist RM Hubbert pushing the flamenco envelop in unexpected solo directions. His spidery playing is much more reined in with El Hombre Trajeado, all the better to augment the shifting time signatures of Stef Sinclair and brothers Stevie and Ben Jones. There’s a jazzy intuition to their jerky kinetic jams that recalls fIREHOSE, Slint and prime-time Minutemen, while a surprise second half adds vocal cameos from Chris Mack (James Orr Complex), Polish pop collagist Ela Orleans and sound artist Sue Tompkins. The latter’s Do It Puritan! impressively invokes Altered Images’ I could Be Happy and Sly & Robbie’s Boops simultaneously, underlining the sophisticated, nonlinear pleasures at the frenzied core of Fast Diagonal.

Live Review, Platform, Glasgow, July, 2014 (Nicola Meighan, Glasgow Herald)

Glasgow post-rock alchemists El Hombre Trajeado had a cardinal influence on our music landscape. The four-piece, who called time in 2006, were at the heart of the city’s 1990s DIY movement, and the band’s alumni include 2013’s Scottish Album of the Year Award-winner RM Hubbert, and Stevie Jones (Aidan Moffat, Sound of Yell).

They’ve long been praised for their shape-shifting creativity, but it’s not until you see El Hombre Trajeado live again – they reunited, for one night only, for Chemikal Underground’s East End Social – that you realise how physical their music was. The band’s set was exhausting, and exhilarating, to watch – as it was, evidently, to perform. “We’re not young any more,” panted RM Hubbert, giving himself, the band and the audience, time to catch their ragged breaths.

Bull and Gate, London, 1998. Photo by Stuart Reidman.
Bull and Gate, London, 1998. Photo by Stuart Reidman.

El Hombre formed in 1995, armed with a sonic manifesto that was big on drums and bass, and down on lead instruments or characters – and those principles held fast almost two decades hence, as they revisited their three excellent albums, plus welcome surprises like 1999’s Scrivener, and the B-side from their 1997 debut single, Moonunit Manual. Each member was virtuosic and transfixing, but never showy: Stevie Jones’ mercurial basslines, Hubbert’s vivid guitar patterns (and arcane mumbles), Ben Jones’ thrilling electronics and bionic drummer Stef Sinclair’s hair-raising rhythms were impeccable.

The instruments never outshone (or intruded upon) one another, as they morphed from math-rock through hardcore, jazz, funk, avant-pop – and back – and there was not a beat, nor a note, out of place. Despite the crowd’s demands, they didn’t play us an encore, but here’s hoping they play more. There’s still no-one like them.

Platform, Glasgow, 2014. Photo by Barry Jones.
Platform, Glasgow, 2014. Photo by Barry Jones.

Shlap Album Review, February, 2005 (Stuart McHugh, Is This Music?)

Precisely two seconds of freeform jazz guitar are swept aside by Kayak Building, which heralds the re-emergence of the Glasgow freeform post-rockers known as El Hombre Trajeado. It’s funny to think that they were once bundled into the ‘P’ movement with Mogwai – closer to Ganger, perhaps hence the link, they make a wonderfully syncopated disc-slipping form of instrumental unheard since Funkadelic left Ron Johnson Records on a point of principle. It’s dance music for the bewildered, designed to get all twenty-seven of the listener’s toes tapping. Occasionally a heavily accented voice – Drumchapel by way of Alpha Centauri – interjects some words of wisdom over the alien beats before a searing line of guitar somewhere between the Mary Chain and Wild Willy Barratt takes control of the beat once again. Uist Robot is a mesmerizing headnodder which sees the listener become entranced seconds before the chiropractor arrives on the dancefloor.

Shlap album launch gig poster. Mono, 2014.
Shlap album launch gig poster. Mono, 2005.

Saccade Album Review, November, 2000 (Mark Robertson, The List Magazine)

This, El Hombre’s second album, watches them explore the studio as well as showing their mastery of the live domain. Their sound is a mostly instrumental mix of burbling, buzzing electronic see saws thrown into an expressive post-rock sand pit, while they doff a feathered cap in the direction of America’s alt.rock pioneers, like Minutemen, firehose and Slint. All that packaged in convenient pop sing-sized chunks.

The music has a naïve beauty and lush cyclical quality about it but never strays into background music territory. Along with other thoughtful guitarorrists like Laeto, Mogwai and the late, lamented Ganger, they prove Robbie ‘evil’ Williams wrong in that you don’t have to be singing to be winning.

West 13th, Glasgow, 2002. Photo by Stuart Reidman.
West 13th, Glasgow, 2002. Photo by Stuart Reidman.

Skipafone Album Review, October, 1998 (NME)

Right. Let’s get this straight. Going on the basis that Les Rythmes Digitales isn’t French and Mojave 3 aren’t from the desert, it will come as somewhat less than a shock to discover that El Hombre Trajeado, far from being a bunch of desperadoes, are from Glasgow. Even less surprising, considering their home town, is the fact that they sound a little bit wonky.

El Hombre Trajeado are obviously men of sophisticated pleasures; with three Peel sessions beneath their collective belt and a clutch of sardonically inclined song titles (see ‘Bit Faster’) up their sleeve, one can gather that it isn’t all Slint-stroking snobbery which keeps ‘Skipafone’ ticking over so impeccably.

As ever in this post-universe rock world, fluidity is the key: deft of bassline and complex of guitar chord, El Hombres cleverly alleviate the potential left-field gloom with a myriad of fancy noises from various synths and glockenspiels found lying around the studio. That they dare to mutter the odd lyric or five merely adds to the sonic satisfaction.

The fact that closing track ‘Deep Sleep’ suddenly pretends to be Blue Nile in the midst of a nervous breakdown, however, suggests that El Hombres may just turn out to be slightly more desperate than even we suspected…

Vintage gig poster.
Vintage gig poster.

Live Review, Bull & Gate, London, August, 1998 (Sean Price, Melody Maker)

It’s steaming like the devil’s asshole in this pub backroom, so the cool lo-fi of El Hombre Trajeado is especially welcome. Their skittering take on white-bread funk suggests early Happy Mondays or the skewered sketches of a Caledonian Slint or Tortoise, especially on the mumbled beauty of their next seven-inch “Sleep Deep”. Half realized bursts of melody are squeezed out like juice from an orange, and on a night such as this they are twice as refreshing.

Bull and Gate, London, 1998. Photo by Stuart Reidman.
Bull and Gate, London, 1998. Photo by Stuart Reidman.

‘Logo’ / ‘Moonunit Manual’ Single Review, September, 1997 (Craig Reece, The List)

Lovingly crafted by Glaswegians Hubby, Stef and Stevie, this double A-side shimmers and glides where most would go ape. Like a downbeat Fugazi remixed by Mo Wax. Lovely accented vocals that put the criminally overrated Arab Strap to shame. Buy.

Vintage gig poster.
Vintage gig flier.