Music Review: Omar Rodrigez-Lopez Old Money & Xenophanes

27 02 2010

Website, My Space

Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López (born September 1, 1975 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico) is a multi-instrumentalist, writer, performer, film director, songwriter, lead guitarist and producer for the group The Mars Volta, and the former guitarist for the post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In. He has also embarked upon a prolific and genre-defying solo career, frequently described as experimental, avant-garde and/or progressive.

Wikilink on Omar

Solo Discography

  • A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume One (2004) as Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Omar Rodriguez (2005) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet – LP
  • Se Dice Bisonte, No Bùfalo (2007) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • The Apocalypse Inside of an Orange (2007) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet – LP
  • Calibration (Is Pushing Luck and Key Too Far) (2007) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus (2008) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Minor Cuts and Scrapes in the Bushes Ahead (2008) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Old Money (2008) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Megaritual (2009) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Despair (2009) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Cryptomnesia (2009) as El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez – LP
  • Los Sueños de un Higado (2009) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group – Live LP
  • Xenophanes (2009) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Solar Gambling (2009) as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – LP
  • Ciencia de los Inútiles (2010) as El Trío de Omar Rodriguez Lopez

Omar Rodrigez-Lopez has released 13 solo projects in last 4 years alone. And I’m not including Mars Volta Albums that are released approx. every 18months. That is a lot of material for one person and a lot of albums to listen to if you want to follow his every step. Sometimes I wish someone would make my a mix tape from all previous Omars solo works and include on that mix tape all the songs I would like, if I would listen trough everyone of his solo releases.

The albums Old Money and Xenophanes are the first solo projects of Omar I’ve listened to. And the last Omars album in my Hi-fi system was The Mars Voltas the Bedlam in Goliath. I’ve expected him to  go even deeper into his experimentations on his solo works and I wasn’t wrong.

Sonny Kay, co-owner of the former “Gold Standard Labs” label with Omar, created the cover artwork for  albums.

It’s definitely not the music you’ll rest your brains on. His music forces you to participate 100% and focus on all the sounds. When I listen to anything with Omar (At the Drive In, Mars, Volta, solo projects,…), I firstly have to overcome the density and intensiveness of the music before I can start enjoying it. Sometimes there is too much music at once to embrace at the first time. The music of Omar is always a little paranoid, a psychedelic journey into the imaginary realm of Omar’s creations. His guitar experimentations are followed by claustrophobic tension created mainly by synthesized background sounds and second guitar squealing noises. Another specific characteristic of his music is a lot of tempo, dynamic and melodic changes. He reminds me of Frank Zappa on that account. Rhythm section (bass, drums, percussion) is great on both albums as always, since the beginning of the At the Drive In times.

I read once that Omar didn’t like the guitar as an instrument. He has seen the sound his guitar is producing as a battle between the musician and the instrument. The tool that helped him with his »battles« was the extensive use of effect and pedals (especially wah-wah and reverb) to alter the sound of guitar. And this battle is heard throughout his discography. Although he stated around the time of “Amputechture”, that he came more “to terms” with his guitar, the characteristics of his playing doesn’t change much.

There are many things I like and the small things I don’t like on both reviewed albums. That can also be implied into the discography of Mars Volta since De-Loused in the Comatorium (which is in my opinion still their best work). Nevertheless Omar and Mars Volta are so special and different from everything else there is out there, that it would be a shame to miss them. They are extraordinary musicians with uncompromised sound that makes them the leaders of modern psychedelic, jam rockers scene.

Old money


HQ on web

Album Artwork

Track listing

  1. “The Power of Myth” – 5:29
  2. “How to Bill the Bilderberg Group” – 3:27
  3. “Population Council’s Wet Dream” – 6:17
  4. “Private Fortunes” – 4:12
  5. “Trilateral Commission as Dinner Guests” – 4:51
  6. “1921” – 1:35
  7. “Family War Funding (Love Those Rothschilds)” – 3:55
  8. “Vipers in the Bosom” – 1:49
  9. “I Like the Rockefellers’ First Two Records, but After That…” – 4:31
  10. “Old Money” – 9:18

45:25

Album Lineup

  • Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – Guitars (except 2), Synths (except 6, 8), Bass (2, 4, 5), Keys (2, 4, 7, 10), Wurlitzer (2), Theremin (3), Effects & TV (6), Percussion (8)
  • Juan Alderete – Bass (1, 3, 7, 9, 10)
  • Adrian Terrazas-Gonzalez – Woodwinds (5), Percussion (7)
  • Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez – Percussion (1, 4, 7, 9, 10), Drums (5, 9), Synths (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10), Clavinet & Keys (10)
  • Deantoni Parks – Drums (1)
  • Cedric Bixler-Zavala – Drums (2)
  • Jon Philip Theodore – Drums (3, 7, 10)

Old Money is a record by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez released by Stones Throw Records that is “loosely based on themes of childhood dreams, nightmares and the concept of exploitative industrialists and, well, their old money.”

Old Money is the first album that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez released with Stones Throw Records. Stones Throw Record is independent mainly hip-hop record label based in LA California. Unlike previous underground Omars releases, Stone Throw Records has even put some efforts in promoting Old Money, trying to bring it closer to popular music scene.

The album is instrumental, but more approachable as some of the Omars previous solo works. So therefore is a good place to start exploring Omars music. Some articles state that Old Money was meant to be next Mars Volta album after the »Amputechture«, but Omar changed his mind, because of the change in his musical direction.

Album Peaks: “The Power of Myth”, »Private fortunes”, “Old Money”,…

Old Money is very similar to previous Mars Volta releases, but without Codrics vocals. It has great start with guitar exploding solo right from the beginning and superb drumming on “The Power of Myth”.  Also like the solo of “Private Fortunes” that gives me “the Hendrix feel”. The album is equipped with a lot of background sounds and voices that heightens the tension throughout the album. Furthermore the second part of the album is very solid. Guitar solo on Old money is one of the best Omars jams I had a pleasure to listen to.

Xenophanes


HQ on web

Album Artwork

Track listing

  1. “Azoemia”− 2:49
  2. “Mundo de Ciegos” − 4:01
  3. “Ojo al Cristo de Plata” − 7:06
  4. “Amanita Virosa” − 3:15
  5. “Sangrando Detrás de los Ojos” − 2:04
  6. “Desarraigo” − 5:54
  7. “Asco Que Conmueve los Puntos Erógenos” − 4:07
  8. “Oremos” − 4:49
  9. “Perder el Arte de la Razón Sin Mover un Sólo Dedo” − 3:31
  10. “a) Flores de Cizaña” − 3:45
  11. “b) María Celeste” − 3:31

44:47

Album Lineup

  • Omar Rodríguez-López – producer, guitars, lead vocals
  • Juan Alderete de la Peña – bass
  • Thomas Pridgen – drums
  • Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez – percussion, keyboards
  • Mark Aanderud – additional keyboards
  • Ximena Sariñana – supporting and lead vocals

The album is conceptual and given that I am not got with Spanish language as many of the readers won’t be, I decided to translate the album and song titles so I can follow the story of “Xenophanes”. The experience reminded me on listening to Opera in theatre, where you have the storyline so you can follow the ongoing play, but you do not burden yourself with every single word. You concentrate on the feeling of the performance. J

Translations:

Xenophanes – Greek philosopher, poet, and social and religious critic, active around 600 to 500 B.C. His elegiac and iambic poetry criticized and satirized a wide range of ideas, including Homer and Hesiod, the belief in the pantheon of anthropomorphic gods and the Greeks’ veneration of athleticism. Xenophanes rejected the idea that the gods resembled humans in form strenuously enough that the idea must have been widely current in the sixth century. He is the first to express a skepticism that became current during the fourth century. He cleverly satirized the polytheistic beliefs of earlier Greek poets and of his own contemporaries. Xenophanes maintained there was only one god – namely, the world. God is one incorporeal eternal being, and, like the universe, spherical in form; that he is of the same nature with the universe, comprehending all things within himself; is intelligent, and pervades all things, but bears no resemblance to human nature either in body or mind.

He taught that if there had ever been a time when nothing existed, nothing could ever have existed. Whatever is, always has been from eternity, without deriving its existence from any prior principles. Nature, he believed, is one and without limit; that what is one is similar in all its parts, else it would be many; that the one infinite, eternal, and homogeneous universe is immutable and incapable of change.

Xenophanes approached the question of science from the standpoint of the reformer rather than of the scientific investigator. Xenophanes also concluded from his examination of fossils that water once must have covered all of the Earth’s surface.

His epistemology, which is still influential today, held that there actually exists a truth of reality, but that humans as mortals are unable to know it. Therefore, it is possible to act only on the basis of working hypotheses – we may act as if we knew the truth, as long as we know that this is extremely unlikely. This aspect of Xenophanes was brought out again by Karl Popper and is a basis of Critical rationalism.

Azoemia – Medical condition characterized by abnormally high levels of nitrogen-containing compounds, such as urea, creatinine, various body waste compounds, and other nitrogen-rich compounds in the blood. It is largely related to insufficient filtering of blood by the kidneys.

Mundo de Ciegos – World of the blind

Ojo al Cristo de Plata – Eye to the Silver Christ

Amanita virosa Commonly known as the European destroying angel, is a poisonous basidiomycete fungus. The genus Amanita contains about 600 species of agarics including some of the most toxic known mushrooms found worldwide. This genus is responsible for approximately 95% of the fatalities resulting from mushroom poisoning, with the death cap accounting for about 50% on its own. The most potent toxin present in these mushrooms is α-amanitin.

Sangrando Detrás de los Ojos – Bleeding behind the eyes

Desarraigo – Uprooted: To pull up (a plant and its roots) from the ground; to destroy or remove completely-eradicate; to force to leave an accustomed or native location.

Asco Que Conmueve los Puntos Erógenos – Asco that touches the erogenous points. Maybe someone can help with that explanation. Didn’t find what Asco is. If you google it, it throws American Society of Clinical Oncology. :S

Oremos – Pray

Perder el Arte de la Razón Sin Mover un Sólo Dedo – Losing the Art of Reason Without lifting a finger

Flores de Cizaña – Weed flowers

María Celeste – Heavenly Mary

The Story

A conceptual journey through life, death, and re-birth, the album tells the story of a selfish and judgmental female caseworker who falls in love with a male client, only for him to die soon thereafter. Over the course of eleven subsequent lifetimes, the woman experiences life from every conceivable vantage point as her soul evolves, thereby allowing the maturity and eventual letting-go of her ego which in turn enables the realization that the man was, and always has been, her father spirit. Suggesting the fractal and holographic nature of both consciousness and physical reality, the concepts embraced on Xenophanes will appear at least vaguely familiar to anyone with experience in the psychedelic and/or shamanic realms; concepts which Xenophanes himself was likely the first to express within the confines of Western philosophy.

On Xenophanes Omar uses his vocal skills throughout the album. Unlike Cedric, Omar has more calmed voice, but the style of singing nevertheless reminds me on Mars Volta songs. The tension on this album is reduced by eased, cool sometimes even melancholic voice of Omar. Singing in Spanish gives album very natural, Latin feel.

Guitar playing in my opinion is more similar to the early Mars Volta albums. More of the impact guitar riffs and less of the guitar experimenting. The Guitar riff, solos and keyboards on “Asco Que Conmueve los Puntos Erógenos” is one of the highlights of the album in my opinion.

I also like the start of the album with keybords of Omars brother Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez and guitar solo on “Mundo de Ciegos”. Keybords in general are good refreshment on this album. They are beautifully mounted with the rest of the music and give this album wider sound specter. Would like to hear even more of them…

Album Peaks: “Mundo de Ciegos”, “Asco Que Conmueve los Puntos Erógenos”, “a) Flores de Cizaña,…

Familiar to: The Mars Volta, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix…

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