Buika CD

La Noche Mas Larga

(Warners)

Buika La Noche resBuika’s voice is so smoky you seem to hear it through a haze. Even on this superbly-produced album she seems somehow at one remove, while the piano sparks in the foreground, and the bass and percussion thrum and buzz. Then she reaches out with that voice, and suddenly it leaps from the haziness in a blaze of urgency, and the effect is as violent and surprising as a chiropractor cracking your neck.

A Florida-based Spanish singer of African parentage, Buika follows the Diego El Cigala path in appropriating the flamenco idiom and splicing it with strands of Cuban, jazz and other music.

A brilliant example is her take on Jacques Brel’s Ne me quitte pas. I know: you’ve heard it a hundred times. But not like this. The triplet-based groove fuses Cuban flamenco and r’n’b elements, while she wails the desolation of that lyric over the top. Generally this song is best kept as stark as possible, yet this version, bustling with instrumentation and backing singers, succeeds more than it has a right to do.

On La nave del ovido she works herself into a tempest that almost becomes too much to be contained by a living room. Then she eases into a striking flamenco reinvention of Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain, and has Pat Metheny contributing a sweet guitar solo to No lo se.