“Xenophanes” – ‘Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez’ [Joint Review]
My partner seems to be getting a little bit tangled-up in all these Joint Review albums we’ve decided to tackle, and although there’s no doubt he’ll get around to them sometime or another, you’re just going to have to handle my opinionated-b.s. for today, peoples. I know, I know, this kind of music is a little out of my comfort zone, but earlier this year, if you can remember, regular-readers of Highly Evolved might recall a review of an album my partner tackled by ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’ prior to “Xenophanes”. So, for further ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’ details on his earlier album “Cryptomnesia”, check it out:
Prior also to “Xenophanes”, we were in awe of “Octahedron” by ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’s’ main-affiliate band ‘The Mars Volta’. By the way, thanks to ‘Lee Doucette’, commenter on the blog: I was able to find out that this is actually ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’s’ vocal-debut, so, much obliged for that info. And again, if I keep having to add info to this post, it’s not going to be me writing it, it’ll be you – so! To quote, our friend again:
“One other tid-bit of info if you’re interested is that the female back-up vocals are done by Ximena Sarinana, which is Omar’s girlfriend. She is also the one singing on Los Suenos de un Higado.”
I was personally blown away by the sheer quality of the piece, so, fans of the ‘… Volta’ might notice some heavy similarities between both. The driving-force behind both the ‘… Volta’ and ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’ are the Hendrix-happy riffs that spiral in and out of control, blurring the lines between reality and delirium. I swear this guy is 1/8th Hendrix himself…
So, let’s move on to:
To be honest, my first introduction to ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’ was back with another album called “Los Sueños De Un Higado“, [believe it or not, that was a month ago and I'm still in a time-warp!] and this neat little five-piece album was riddled with inconceivable-riffs and to-die-for vocals. It’s not everyday I get to hear lyrics other than the stereotyped, cliche-ridden English – not to say a majority of them are bad [it's just, well?] – and although I believe they could be Spanish*, please don’t abuse me if they aren’t. I’m partial to Icelandic, after some favourable listenings to the all-time legends ‘Sigur Ros’, but “Xenophanes’ on a whole surrounds you in this inescapable pink-and-purple mist called ‘psychedelica’, in contrast. Some have hailed ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’s’ work as ‘progressive rock’, with hints of experimental, jazz and at times, instrumental.
And I can see why – this man is a pioneer unto himself. ‘Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez’ is the composer, lead-guitarist and producer for ‘The Mars Volta’, as I was mentioning earlier [but in less detail], and this is the first real ‘side-project’, I suppose, that I can fully appreciate and absorb. Music is refined to such an extensive quality within ‘Xenophanes’, that it’s hard to believe ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’ is juggling this and his other full-time commitment ‘The Mars Volta‘. We’ve all seen it before when my partner happened to stumble on ‘Paul Banks” album “Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper”, and what a miserable review of an album that was – I love ‘Interpol’, don’t get me wrong, I just love my ‘Paul Banks’ in a particular way…
“… Shaken, not stirred.”
As for the whole ‘side-project’ scenario, “Xenophanes” is turning heads, and it’s made me think twice on my usual pre-judgemental disposition. People, if you love being taken to the plateau of ‘psychedelic’ ecstasy, then bring a spare oxygen-tank or three, because “Xenophanes” has its picnics in the Himalayas. As for progressive rock as a genre, there’s little, if any other way, to describe “Xenophanes” then by measuring them next to ‘The Mars Volta’. They’re not entirely the same, but they share those unique riffs, twisted vocals, and sublime layering because of ‘… Rodriguez-Lopez’ and his influential compositional-genius. For those of you who like consistent music – that is, simplistic riffs, acoustic or otherwise, steer clear. As for you other normal people who like a little change, “Xenophanes” creates its own miniature universe which encompasses a myriad of musical exploitation, together with mind-torturing riffs and eye-popping vocals. Am I paraphrasing, yes I am – just to hammer my opinions home, this album is fantastic.
We’ll start from the top, it’s the most logically-conceived place to begin, and that’s with: “Azoemia”. It’s less-so a track unto itself, and more-so like the preface or introduction to a book. Purely instrumental, it lacks the quality of the following riffs. It opens with the oriental march of bells, rusty and old – in the background, some unintelligible radio/television broadcast reminiscent of the 50’s, which quickly dies down for some helicopter-synth and the steady, distant snoring of some mechanical beast and its raspy, metal breathing. This repeats for some while, forming the basis for the final track, and occurs at different intervals within “Xenophanes” on a whole. Interestingly placed at the beginning, it ties in wonderfully with the final-track “Maria Celeste” to form this neverending-spiral of music. It’s as if the album never really finishes.
A quick explosion of percussion, and electric guitar, we’re in “Mundo De Ciegos” town, and this is the first real taste of the psychedelic nature that is “Xenophanes”. Sadly, I can’t quote any of the wonderfully-clean lyrics because I don’t speak the language, but the chorus is quite distinctive, and after a few listens, you’ll pick up on the key words which sound its entrance. Together with this, the infamous solo of an electric guitar which is utterly mind-blowing. ‘Dragonforce’ eat your heart out!
So, watch out for the solo at 1:14, this lick is awesome. Also, keep those ears peeled for the jazz-heavy piano, it follows like a flitting bee, in and out of solos and the chorus not only in this, but elsewhere. Wonderfully magnificent.
The following track, ‘Oja Al Cristo De Plata” is one of my favourites, and it begins softer and slower than ‘Mundo De Ciegos”, a mixture of soft-and-solemn piano, laid-back psychedelic electric guitar, with a mixture of male/female vocals, and a layered chorus. It’s really difficult to accentuate these tracks by simplifying their basic elements and principles because their heart and soul is mired in this same over-simplification. It’s a really:
“… Go out there and listen for yourself!”
… Scenario. I’m going to jump all the way to my utmost favourite track, “Desarraigo”, and unlike the previous tracks, it begins with this repetitive riff, which flits between the left and right channels. Brilliantly playing with the stereo-channels born and bred for amplifier/speaker situations, “Xenophanes” is highly refined for an amplifier/speaker environment because of its multi-layering encouraged in various directions. It’s a rare track because it builds in power, and unlike “Oja Al Cristo De Plata”, solo-riffs are less emphatic, and are more harmonic with the overall beat. Solos themselves are quite mundane, but its awkward off-key nature really does play tricks on the mind. Just great.
Summarising, it’ll be a first for any side-project reviews written by myself, because I feel obliged to give it a five. My partner might disagree with me, he’s had a lot more time to accept ‘Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez’, but I feel this album has nearly everything. It is beyond epic, in some circumstances, I almost feel it’s on the boundaries of legendary status. It’s worth a buy, and I think that “Xenophanes” will make a comfortable addition to your CD collection. It’s a friendly accomplice to one’s own trusty amplifier/speaker set-up. I’ll finish by saying:
“THE LOUDER THE BETTER!!!”
Stand-out Tracks: “Mundo De Ciegos”, “Oja Al Cristo De Plata”, “Desarraigo”
The Enantiomorphic God