Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rodrigo y Gabriela | "Rodrigo y Gabriela"

Forget every other acoustic guitar duo you've ever heard. Mexico's Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero up the ante with an album that owes as much to Metallica as it does to Paco De Lucia and Al Di Meola. It's a hard-driving, high decibel, rutting and strutting cathartic melange of metal, jazz, Mexican, Spanish and Gypsy musics. It's also gloriously melodic, and it makes you feel mighty chipper.

Sanchez and Quintero are survivors of Mexico City's early-1990s metal scene, where they combined studies at the music conservatoire with playing in bands inspired by Megadeath and Metallica. Together with the fuck-you attitude to rules and regimes which shines through Rodrigo y Gabriela, this got them thrown out of the college, and towards the end of the decade they decided to take time out on the European busking circuit.

They're still based in Europe (in Dublin, Ireland), but have exchanged dodgy subway pitches for upcoming gigs at New York's Bowery Ballroom and London's Shepherd's Bush Empire--their cover of Led Zeppelin's “Stairway To Heaven,” from this album, recently released in the US, was a massive hit in Europe last summer.

Neither metal nor busking are known for their subtlety, but successful practitioners of both genres know how to get to the point fast--and keep the temperature rising. Sanchez and Quintero are stone ninjas at this, as is the album's only guest musician, the Hungarian Gypsy violinist, Roby Lakatos, who solos on “Ixtapa” and magnificently lives up to his soubriquet, “the devil's fiddler.”

Superficially, Sanchez and Quintero's music resembles flamenco, although in the sleeve notes, the duo deny any connection. But while their music lacks flamenco's rhythmic complexity--its beats are instead drawn from rock and salsa--Sanchez and Quintero employ two key flamenco techniques: furiously strummed power-chords and dagger sharp nail-gun beats (drummed on the bodies of the guitars rather then stamped on the floor).

”Stairway To Heaven” is excellent, but it's bettered by the other cover here, a seven-and-a-half minute version of Metallica's “Orion,” a masterpiece of majestic, posturing swagger. The originals are packed with riffs and ostinatos too, alternating with intricate, single-note, counterpoint passages--but hard-rock dynamics rule pretty much throughout. Produced by John Leckie (Baaba Maal but also The Verve, Stone Roses, Muse and Radiohead), the disc has the raw, unmediated feel of a live set.

The spirit of Rodrigo y Gabriela is summed up by the title of the closing track: “PPA.” The initials stand for Pinche Personal Assistant (pinche is a Mexican term meaning ”fucking”). The track is dedicated to all the puffed-up little step 'n' fetchits in the music business who Sanchez and Quintero have run up against. Yeah, this is music with attitude.

By Chris May - allaboutjazz.com

Find more Gabriela y Rodrigo music at amazon.com
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