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Let me introduce you to a band you may not know much about but I guarantee many of you who stumble upon them today will listen to them and be taken aback by their brilliance. This is Rodrigo y Gabriella with their latest album, "11:11"
They are a Mexican duo who play purely instrumental music in a fast, rhythmic style with their basic acoustic guitars. Rodrigo Sánchez takes the lead guitar role, and Gabriela Quintero is on rhythm guitar. The pair started off in a thrash metal band to begin with - which may be hard to believe on listening to their music - but after little success in their homeland they moved to Europe, or more specifically, Ireland.
After playing numerous gigs in popular areas of Dublin such as Temple Bar, Damien Rice invited the pair to support him at Oxegen festival in 2005, and from then on they started touring around the UK and further afield...the rest as they say, is history.
Now, it may be I've bitten off more than I can chew here, as how on earth do you review an instrumental album? I'm not a musical buff, so can't break it down in terms of structure unless it's in Lehmann's terms...so here goes...
Released in September last year, 11:11 is the pair's third studio album and was released on independent record label Rubyworks. It made big strides in America, which was promoted the band's image across the pond as their fan base grows bigger and bigger.
The pair's classical guitar music is always fast-paced which will get your feet tapping and head nodding. They take the skill and finesse required to play classical music - years of studying and practice and dedication - and then combine it with an element of popular music - obvious chord changes, verses to choruses and back again, and they openly admit their influences, and even thank them throughout the album 11:11 - each song is dedicated to an artist or band that have inspired the pair. For example, the opening song, "Hanuman" is dedicated to Carlos Santana, and the second song "Buster Voodoo" is for Jimi Hendrix. Both these legendary guitarists, if Hendrix was still alive of course, would surely support their brilliance.
The music will often tend to build up with fast yet clear strumming from Gabriella along with a masic drum beat being tapped on her guitar - anyone who plays guitar, try doing both at the same time, it's nigh on impossible! In the meantime, Rodrigo will play a solo guitar riff that builds up more and more until the 'chorus' kicks in. It brings to your senses the Spanish/Mexican dancing which would traditionally accompany this music and yet it sounds contemporary enough to be appreciated by the 'younger' generation.
Highlights on the album include the two tracks I mentioned previously - Hanuman and Buster Voodoo - their melodies and beats are sublime, along with "Savitri" (dedicated to John McLaughlin) and "Logos" (dedicated to Al Di Meola) - both those dedications are for excellent jazz fusion guitarists, and these influences appear throughout the music as well - there's the solo element of metal music which you'd familiarise with the likes of Metallica, and classic guitar solos of Santana and Hendrix, and the slightly less popular in this country jazz fusion which combines easy listening with the obvious Latin influence.All combine to make this album simply superb.
They have very popular covers of Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, Orion and One by Metallica and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd - all without the vocals but instantly recogniseable which you may fancy a listen to in order to 'ease' you into them if you think instrumental Spanish guitar music isn't for you. But once you've listened to them you'll realise their brilliance and become hooked. It's easy listening and music to get excited to all at the same time...something that's hard to find anywhere in the music world, but when you do, it's brilliant.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Buster Voodoo
5 Santo Domingo
6 Master Maqui (Featuring Strunz & Farah)
8 Hora Zero
9 Chac Mool
10 Atman (Featuring Alex Skolnick)