If the last few years have been notable for the increasingly inward-looking nature of contemporary politics, and an upswing in what one might politely – or euphemistically – refer to as ‘nationalism’, GIZMO VARILLAS’s story can be interpreted an antidote, albeit an unpremeditated one. His music, however, unquestionably offers a powerful remedy for the distressing headlines piling up these days, and this time that’s deliberate. DREAMING OF BETTER DAYS acknowledges mankind’s darker sides, and seeks to find light therein. It’s a quality that might be considered as rare as it is indispensable. “I’m a hopeless romantic,” VARILLAS concedes happily, “an optimist, for sure. We hear so much negative stuff about the world, but I always try to focus on the better side of humanity. If I only listened to the news, I'd only have a distorted version of reality. I know, though, that there’s a world out there full of good people.” Though the dominant mood of VARILLAS’ music could be described as ‘feel-good’, this belies the depth of sentiments contained within, and those stirred without. It’s true he leans heavily on an encyclopaedic knowledge of colourful rhythms drawn from across the globe: his homeland’s rumbas and flamenco; Latin American Salsas, Tangos and Bossa Novas; African Highlife and Mali Blues; Calypso and Soca. But these joyful tempos are often undercut by wistful melodies or recognitions of life’s grimmer elements. His methodology has clearly worked so far. El Dorado was, for example, ranked one of 2017’s Top Ten Albums by the UK’s Classic Pop magazine. It’s troubling to think that an album embracing universal values – of all kinds – might seem at odds with the word at large, but that’s yet another reason why DREAMING OF BETTER DAYS deserves an audience. It’s troubling to think that an album embracing universal values – of all kinds – might seem at odds with the word at large, but that’s yet another reason why DREAMING OF BETTER DAYS deserves an audience. Born of travels beyond borders – national, cultural, musical – it’s an uplifting but worldly response to what VARILLAS sees around us.