Area 52 - Rodrigo Y Gabriela

ATO

We all suspect something otherworldly went down at Area 51. Can you imagine the revelations revealed inside Area 52? Well, hit play on Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s third studio album and make sure you’re strapped in. The opening itch on nylon strings of Santo Domingo sparks a rocket ride that will take your breath away. It’s a twisted journey that brings these two acoustic shredders to this point. Tired of the constraints of playing heavy metal in Mexico City, the pair took up roots as buskers in Dublin. The fish out of water were, in Gabriela’s words, “totally exotic, like some sort of cockatoos.” Their ethnic oddness coupled with their explosive performances earned them the spotlight across Great Britain on stages with everyone from Kanye West to the Chemical Brothers. The original idea of Area 52 was another duo album, which morphed into the concept of recording with an orchestra, which brought them to Havana for sessions with the 13 piece C.U.B.A (Collective Universal Band Association). Add to that fire power the monster talents of some friends and acquaintances they’ve made over the years like Anoushka Shankar on sitar, Carles Benavent (Paco de Lucia’s bass player), John Tempesta (the beat maker behind White Zombie), Le Trio Joubran from Palestine and drummer Samuel Formell Alfonso from the legendary Los Van Van. There is so much remarkable energy and musicianship at play on these nine tracks it’s humbling. The concerted power of the orchestra’s horns and percussion are so impactful, they leave you wondering how those two acoustic six strings can still leave an indelible mark. Gabriela again, explains simply. “We developed the sound because we are still a rock band in our heads, in our mind there is still the drum kit. There was a need to fill the gaps from the band, the bass lines and the voice. Rod’s melodies are pretty much the voice.” Nipping at the heels of the opener comes Hanuman, a tribute to Carlos Santana in which Rodrigo Sanchez plugs in for some choice electric tones completely reverent to the tune’s benefactor. 11:11 is Cuban Floydian, a slow burn cosmic groove with Latin propulsion dissolving into Yoruban chant. Later, we’re treated to Carles Benavent’s astonishingly quick flamenco bass licks on Juan Loco. After the obligatory repeated listens, you may want to take a break and slide in the bonus DVD documentary on the making of Area 52. Ultimately, it’s one of those singular musical moments you don’t want to miss out on. This disc is a point in time that doesn’t point to the future. Currently, Rodrigo is back listening to metal and Gabriela is immersing herself in Indian music. Album number four is likely to be another complete change up. As Rodrigo clarifies in the liner notes, “Playing with all these musicians doesn’t mean this is our new direction. But in fairness we never had one and never will.”