Spiel

El Hombre Trajeado first met at Angel Lights Skatepark on the outskirts of Glasgow. After various members’ previous groups (Me, Hubby & Tom, Glue, The Fortune Cookies) disbanded, El Hombre emerged with a mutual love of the SST sound that defined many skate videos of the time. From word go, there was an emphasis on collective composition, lead instruments eschewed in favor of a group sound, and downplayed vocals.

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

The band contributed to many scenes. London label Guided Missile released their first album (1998’s Skipafone) and early shows saw El Hombre play with label mates such as Lung Leg, Yummy Fur, Karelia (always The Blisters to Hombre), and Gilded Lil. They played around Glasgow’s vibrant art scene (with Life Without Buildings, Hasslehound and Park Attack) and with groups like Ganger and Eska who were similarly characterized by adventurous structures, detailed arrangements, and technical quirks. El Hombre worked with Shadazz recordings, most notably collaborating with Steve Sutcliffe on the film Shout Out, and played memorable shows at the hedonistic, era-defining Optimo nightclub, set up by J’ilkes & Twitch. Indeed, Twitch’s previous Edinburgh club, Pure, proved an important formative musical experience for members of the band.

El Hombre toured with Sebadoh and also with The Delgados, whose Chemikal Underground are releasing El Hombre’s fourth album, Fast Diagonal. They played concerts with a diverse range of other acts, including Nick Cave & The Dirty Three, Deerhoof, Tortoise, Kreidler, Felix Kubin, Jackie O Motherfucker, Holly Golightly, Mike Watt, and Mum. John Peel was always on board, playing the first 7” and giving the band several sessions.

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

A hunger for alliance and obsessive synergetic spirit was always key to El Hombre. Johnny Wilkes (Optimo) and James Seenan (Vaselines/Painkillers) guested on El Hombre’s 1999 EP, Shoplift, under their Autocade moniker. Chris Mack of James Orr Complex and Mick Cooke of Belle & Sebastian contributed to El Hombre’s 2001 album, Saccade. Janis Murray (The Parsonage/Rude Pravo) played cello with the band at many of their shows and El Hombre remixed Mum’s Asleep on a Train.

After 10 years, 3 albums, 2 EPs, and countless DIY/collaborative 7”s, splits and compilations, the band went on an extended hiatus. Stef and Ben forged academic careers, while Hubby and Stevie continued ploughing their own musical furrows.

As RM Hubbert, Hubby released many fine albums of solo nylon-stringed, flamenco-inspired guitar compositions. Two of these albums feature a host of coconspirators, Luke Sutherland, Karine Polwart, Kathryn Joseph and Stevie included among them. The Alex Kapranos-produced 13 Lost & Found won the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) award and Hubby toured Europe opening for the likes of Mogwai and GY!BE.

El Hombre Trajaedo, Mono, October 2016
El Hombre Trajaedo, Mono, October 2016

Stevie’s also been a voracious collaborator. He corralled an array of his favorite musicians into his expansive Sound of Yell project, whose Brocken Spectre came out on Chemikal Underground in early 2015. Stevie’s also played in a remarkable number of groups in the intervening years, including Arab Strap, Alasdair Roberts & Friends, The Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan Band, as well as his own Rude Pravo, Bravest Boat, and Sycamore with Friends projects, among many others.

An intended one-off performance of old material as part of Chemikal Underground’s East End Social in 2014 was such a blast that an offer to record a new album appealed all ‘round. This provided a glorious excuse for the band to build on their keen interactive spirit, getting some of the amazing people El Hombre were lucky to move among back in the day to contribute vocals to the new record.

Ela Orleans
Ela Orleans

So, for Fast Diagonal, Ela Orleans, who played in Hasslehound before relocating to New York, came on board for a couple of tunes. Sue Tompkins (who’s post Life Without Buildings solo poetry/sound art performances delight and challenge in equal measures) contributed her unique vocalisations to the track Do It Puritan! Chris Mack (of Eska and James Orr Complex, both of whom regularly played with El Hombre) also contributed vocals, at points in Brazilian Portuguese. Toby Paterson, another old friend from skating days and long-time supporter of the band, provided the artwork for the new album, his warm precision complementing El Hombre’s sound.

Chris Mack (James Orr Complex and Eska)
Chris Mack (James Orr Complex and Eska)

Fast Diagonal represents revisiting a process of symbiosis and collectivity within the band, while reaching out to rekindle and reconnect with those who remain dear from the band’s salad days.

El Hombre Trajeado, 2016. Photo by Brian Hartley.
El Hombre Trajeado, 2016. Photo by Brian Hartley.