Gaby Hernandez ‘Spirit Reflection’ LP/CD/DIG (Mr. Bongo) 4/5

Chilean-American vocalist and musician, Gaby Hernandez, has been a respected member of the alternative LA music scene for a while and has previously been featured on releases by Dwight Trible, Teebs and Dexter Story in addition to being a member of Build An Ark. Here, Gaby’s third solo release which was originally available on tiny LA indie label Analog Burners in 2016, now sees a larger release via London’s Mr. Bongo, and is a 10-track affair that utilises an abundance of musical influences that range from Latin jazz, electronica and Afro-Cuban styles.

The diversity of influences has materialised from the disparate but somehow connected collaborators and producers used within the project. The jazzy neo soul of ‘I Will Keep You’ features Kamasi Washington on sax, while the atmospheric ‘Messy Love’ includes string parts written and played by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. The more uptempo ‘Super Nova Lovers’ possesses a dreamy quality with its light percussive elements and warm synth chords played throughout. ‘Lo Mas Dulce’ could be described as an electronically flavoured modern berimbau track – or something like that. Other collaborators on the album include Stuart Howard, who is more known by his producer tag of Lapalux, Carlos Niño (Build An Ark, The Life Force Trio) and Dexter Story, who produced half the album.

Lyrically, Gaby takes inspiration from the universal themes of love, nature and spirituality, fused with strong but not overly simple melodies and rhythmic cadences delivered in both English and Spanish, and thus, rather than being quite an underground album ‘Spirit Reflection’ could become quite a popular record amongst music lovers. Even with all its various styles, sounds and influences, it isn’t a difficult album to appreciate, and sonically it’s very strong, original and refreshing with its mixture of synthesised sounds blended with more traditional organic timbres.

But being negative, it probably does not have a ‘stand out’ track, for example, something that DJs would identify with as being overly accessible or crowd friendly, but this is due to ‘Spirit Reflection’ being quite a fully rounded set. Therefore, this is not a very harsh criticism, but DJs, journalists and writers tend to focus on finding songs that can entice the public into gravitating towards an album. But here, the record is aimed more towards an entire listening experience rather than the modern playlist approach. And I’m after a copy of the original double vinyl test pressing which includes the instrumentals – if anyone has a spare!

Damian Wilkes