Omar Rodriguez-López: Xenophanes

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Album Information:

Released September 28, 2009 by Rodriguez Lopez Productions/Sargent House

Produced by Omar Rodriguez López

Mixed by Lars Stalfors

Mastered by Howie Weinberg

Cover by Sonny Kay

Recorded December 2008 on the E-Clat Morgue Portable Disaster Unit in Zapopan, Mexico and at Electric Lady Studios in New York.

Personnel:

Omar Rodriguez-López – Vocals, Guitars, Ximena Sariñana – Vocals, Juen Alderete – Bass, Thomas Pridgen – Drums, Marcel Rodriguez-López – Synths, Piano Percussion, Mark Aanderud – Additional Keyboards

Format: LP, Pink Vinyl


Review:

Recorded shortly after the release of The Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath, this album is just as full of densely-layered, psychedelic guitar riffs and intense, mathy grooves as can be expected from the Thomas Pridgen-era of Omar’s work. In addition to Omar on guitar and Pridgen on drums, this album features Omar’s then-girlfriend and Mexican pop star Ximena Sariñana on background vocals, along with  Mars Volta regulars Juan Alderete and Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez on bass and keys/piano/percussion, respectively.

While this is a little more direct in its song structures than most Volta releases, what really makes this release stand out from The Mars Volta is the fact that Omar takes on lead vocal duties. His vocals, exclusively sung in spanish, are actually quite strong throughout the album, somehow cutting through the often crowded instrumentals. However it is Ximena’s vocals that are obviously stronger, as can be heard when she takes more of a lead role, such as on “Desarraigo or during the romantic duet on “Ojo al Cristo de Plata”.

While enjoyable in short bursts, the maximalist production (full of layers and layers of guitars drenched in delays and choruses and ring mods and every other effect under the sun) and frenetic drumming can grow a little tiring after awhile. Pridgen’s drumming, while often impressive and creative, is overpowering and often suffocates Juan’s great bass playing. In interviews, Juan has acknowledged this and said he had to use extremely metallic strings when he played with Pridgen; Yet he STILL struggles to cut through the mix on a lot of these songs. Due to this, the most enjoyable parts of the album tend to be the slower and/or groovier songs.

One such track is the aforementioned “Oja al Cristo de Plata”, which comes in with a slow, sexy groove, panning atmospheric guitars and a beautifully sparse piano melody. The spacious verses build to energetic choruses only to settle back down into a verse again. Eventually the song climaxes into a heavy, groovy outro with processed vocals and dense layers of guitars, only this time the density feels earned due to the dynamic variety of the song.

Another standout, slower track is the two-minute instrumental, “Sangrando Detrás de los Ojos”, which begins with an absolutely beautiful fretless bass solo over spacious drums and minimal guitars. The drums build and build until Omar comes in with his most emotional and expressive guitar solo on the album, all while the melodic fretless bass continues underneath.

Of the more manic songs, “Asco que Conmueve los Puntos Erógenos”, stands out with a powerful 11/4 riff. When the guitars drop out, bass and drums settle into a more restrained version of the groove, giving the pianist space to unleash a cathartic, jazzy solo…truly one of the best moments on the entire album.

Finally, the album ends with an epic three-song suite that flows and builds seemlessly from ambient psychedelia to a slow stop/start 6/4 groove to an intense climax and then back down again, ending with eerie ambient sounds that recall some of the interludes scattered throughout the album.

Overall, this album is full of energetic, psych-prog maximalism that occasionally settles down into (relatively) slowed down, spacious grooves. The main weakness is that Pridgen never stops flexing his chops, even during some of the calmer sections that might have benefitted from a lighter touch.


I recommend this to fans of The Mars Volta or anyone looking for a manic blend of psych, prog, punk and latin influences. If you found this a little too crazy I highly suggest Omar’s next album Solar Gambling, which is somewhat of a sister album to this one, the primary differences being that Deantoni Parks takes over the drums and Ximena takes over lead vocals.


Tracklist:

Side One

1. Mundo De Ciegos

2. Ojo Al Cristo De Plata

3. Amanita Virosa

4. Sangrando Detrás De Los Ojos

5. Desarraigo

Side Two

1, Asco Que Conmueve Los Puntos Erógenos

2. Oremos

3. Perder El Arte De La Razón Sin Mover Un Sólo Dedo

4. Flores De Cizaña

5. Maria Celeste

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