MEXICO: Four Corners of the World - Esquivel!
Updated: Jan 20
This quirky Mexican musician creates a soundscape with his album, a delightful mix of genres from around the globe
“Space Age Bachelor Pad Music.” That is how this album, by the Mexican musician Juan García Esquivel (better known simply as Esquivel!, complete with fun exclamation mark and all) is often described. Danny was the one who told me this little nugget of information, and the meaningless buzzwords used in that amusing descriptor quickly became corrupted into “Milhouse’s Dad Music in Space”. But alas, it’s nothing like that at all. It simply refers to the fact that this music was released during the Space Age (the 1950s and ‘60s), and is a form of bachelor pad music, in turn better known as lounge music. Lounge music was a form of music aimed at setting a mood, and it’s the sort of thing you could imagine Don Draper sitting back and relaxing to, and it was derived from jazz, mambo, big band and easy listening music. As a genre, it is kind of cool, very of its time, relaxed and chilled. Esquivel’s version of this genre was slightly more interesting and innovative, as he blends the tradition lounge style with elements of music from around the globe, namely Latin music and classical music. The resulting mixture is perfectly exemplified in this short but jam-packed album.
“Whatever else can be said for this, one cannot deny that Esquivel has put his mark on pop music with the level of odd invention on this album."
The album contains riffs on both Latin music and European classical music. The jazzy song Oye Negra is perhaps the most identifiably Latin the album gets, and songs like Blue Danube and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 are a slightly wacky synthesis of the two genres, but I’d be lying if I said it did not work well. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in particular starts off with a nice soft piano, and then Esquivel brings in the Latin rhythms and suddenly he has revitalised the piece. Whatever else can be said for this, one cannot deny that Esquivel has put his mark on pop music with the level of odd invention on this album. I say ‘odd’ because it’s a genre that on paper shouldn’t work. It seems like a mess, but Esquivel is enjoyably inventive and curious enough as a musician that forcing these genres together doesn’t seem like an awful fusion, but rather complimentary, as the beautiful beats of Latin American music are combined with the wonderful melodies of European classical music.
He also ventures further than just Europe. In A Persian Market takes cues from Middle-Eastern music, but overall keeps its Latin feel. I think that’s a good way to describe the album musically – whatever inflections Esquivel lays on top, whether it’s Middle-Eastern, Italian or German, it’s laid upon an infectious Latin beat, which means the album has a style and a particular, well-crafted, musically dense sound that’s unique to Esquivel. Many of these songs are reworked versions of older songs, but one cannot deny that he makes them all his own. On the whole, these songs also nicely evoke a time and a place. Inevitably it evokes a 1960’s party, the sort of one Fellini might have depicted in one of his films, and a sophisticated one at that.
Overall, Four Corners of the World is an enjoyable, fun, musically interesting and short album that will overall leave you engaged and entertained. It is also an album that can be left on in the background – it doesn’t necessarily require your full attention to be enjoyed, but nonetheless it works on both levels. I can’t say it is the most meaningful, most beautiful, most awe-inspiring album out there, but if you’re looking for a light, easy, mood-setting album with plenty of musical innovation (a niche market, I know, but a good one) you can’t go too wrong with dipping into some Esquivel.