By: Taylor Fulkerson ~Staff Writer~
It’s not easy to make it big in the Latin American music scene, and it’s quite another leap to make a name for oneself internationally. Mexican duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, not only accomplished this, but also did it in an unconventional fashion.
At the end of April, their 5th studio album “9 Dead Alive” will be released, reasserting their position as some of the most talented musicians to come from Latin America in the new millennium.
The two guitarists got their start on Mexico City’s heavy metal circuit as part of the band Tierra Acida (“Acid Land”) but eventually decided to try their hands on the street corners of Belfast with only a couple of acoustic guitars.
Over a decade later, that’s still how they perform. But now they do so on stage in front of thou¬sands of fans.
They have added various instrumentation and accompaniment to their music over the years, but this album returns to their original, stripped-down sound.
It is somewhat minimalist, but the duo is also unafraid to exert concentration on one theme for minutes at a time.
Their style is unmistakably influenced by the dexterity of fast-paced flamenco playing but is also undeniably a product of the modern rock milieu.
Rodrigo supplies rip-roaring melodies that utilize the entire range of the guitar, while Gabriela complements him with impressive percussion on her own guitar, using not only the strings themselves but also the body of the guitar.
Apart from their style, this album is unique because each track is dedicated to someone who is deceased but still alive in literature, music or academia.
The tracks are dedicated to diverse figures, from Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, and from 17th century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
Almost the entire album is instrumental, with only two exceptions: “Silky Neurosis” features various clips discussing the belief in God in the background and “La salle des pas perdus” features Rodrigo and Gabriela discussing in Spanish whether or not they like the track.
The album is relatively fast-paced, with only a few contemplative pieces.
“Megalopolis,” dedicated to the first Latin American woman to win a Nobel Prize, Gabriela Mistral, is slow-paced and thoughtful.
It attempts to capture the ethos of her poetry and brings the scenery of Mistral’s native Chile to life.
This album is a fantastic representation of the abilities of both a simple guitar and the guitarist.
Rodrigo y Gabriela are talent¬ed musicians, and while “9 Dead Alive” is a faithful return to their original idea for the ultimate dynamic guitar duo, the album can grow tiresome at points while at¬tempting to articulate a theme that is presumably beyond any single pass at the idea.
It is a dense album worth a close listen, but it may not be open to repeated listenings and most certainly will not be anyone’s declared favorite.