Since hearing Tacoma rapper Guayaba’s Black Trash, White House, I’ve awaited the follow up. That 2016 EP deftly blended Latin music and trap rap into something that felt new. On it, whether they're rapping or singing, Guayaba (aka Olivia Hatfield) flaunts such nimble flows and classical vocals that you’re startled that it was a debut album.
In some ways, it wasn’t. Guayaba previously worked as Aeon Fux, dispatching tiny, exquisite vocal tracks—clips of surrealist soul that rarely lasted a minute each. Later they briefly fronted a metal band. Yet none of that quite prepares you for the exuberant range in Guayaba’s new album, Fantasmagoría, which is up now on Bandcamp. They’ll perform most of it tonight at Barboza as part of birthday celebration for Dark Smith singer Danny Denial.
Fantasmagoría not only draws on a wild array of influences—in a phone interview, they mentioned vocal icons like Edith Piaf and Celia Cruz, alongside metal and rap groups like Three 6 Mafia and Gravediggaz—it also fuses them into something lush, discomfiting, and beautiful. As if Earl Sweatshirt stepped out of his recent Feet of Clay to collaborated with Flying Lotus and Yma Sumac on the soundtrack for a séance.
A fantasmagoría is both an 18th century form of horror theater, in which skeletons and demons were projected via a magic lantern, and a weird, constantly shifting, dream-like scene. Guayaba inhabits both of these meanings. They call the record, produced with Eric Padget, an experimental “opera of the bizarre,” a concept album about the convergence of dream and nightmare. “I think a lot of the times,” they say. “I can’t really have a normal dream without there being nightmarish elements to it.” That duality works into the aesthetics, too. Guayaba slides between English and Spanish, between deep-voiced raps name-checking Kafka and nearly operatic soul singing. Orchestral instruments (cornet, guitar, cello, French horn) and choral accents get folded into brooding beats.
What’s striking, though, is that this range registers less as a magpie instinct than as a statement: These influences all belong to Guayaba's world. Nearing the album's end, the song “And Thus, I Remain Crepuscular…” descends into a hellscape—a horror movie soundtrack of screaming and dissonant strings. Then Guayaba sings Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday” (here “Triste Domingo”), their voice so clear and textured that it both inhabits the darkness that came before and sheds light.
Danny Denial’s BDAY BSH with Guayaba, Dirty Dirty, and Rachel’s Children
Nov 21, Barboza, $8
Terror/Cactus with The Ghost Ease, Guayaba, and Juracán
Dec 8, Chop Suey, $8