Virginia-based singer-songwriter Angélica Garcia thrives in unearthly self-reflection on a cappella EP Echo Eléctrico, filtering elements of her heritage through unexpected vocal arrangements to take you where you might not want to go, but should.
Her last album, 2020’s Cha Cha Palace is a good example of this approach, an occasionally thorny but rewarding pop exploration of Garcia’s American, Mexican, and Salvadoran cultural identities. Made up of five covers of old Latin American songs, Echo Eléctrico similarly rejoices in culture and thorns. But in all of the songs that make up the EP, Garcia’s voice is dark and punching—dun-s, cha-s, and da-s abound—like the past is paper that needs to be punished.
Forget what you know about a cappella albums, by the way: Echo Eléctrico is more insolent than Todd Rundgren’s peaceable a cappella or Imogen Heap’s rainbow breathlessness. Garcia’s voice is a restless cat, walking in smudgy circles around itself on Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malagueña,” the echoing Garcias more like a nightmare than a woman. “Llorona,” the Mexican folk song about a suffocating romance, stomps on with mystic provocation (dum, dum, dum, Garcia pronounces; a death rattle you might hear while crossing a black river at nighttime), and on her cover of Tomás Mendez’s “Paloma Negra,” Garcia turns Mendez’s mournful love into fracturing obsession, imitating heavy piano plunks with a voice like glass.
In the end, Garcia lets the ghosts settle, her voice trailing off to reverential quiet, but not before providing a lesson in angst, excess, and the kiss of deviance. Once again, she succeeds in flexing the skeleton-grip of history.