Review Summary: Even if you have hated all of Omar's previous solo records, give Suenos a chance.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a music making machine. The man must not get much sleep, because nine records in one year is an incredible feat deserving of a Guinness World Record or something of the sort. Yes, thats right, nine records
in one year. Coming fresh of the 2 year side project with drummer extraordinaire Zach Hill Cryptomneisia
, Omar has quite the reputation to live up to. That statement could go two ways: Omar's solo in the past has been unfocused and has been generally below the standard expected of the praised guitarist/composer/producer, on the other hand, some fans believe Rodriguez-Lopez can do no wrong, finding something to love in every release. Critics from either camp can rest assured, Los Suenos De Un Higado
is Omar's best solo release since Old Money
Los Suenos De Un Higado
(The Dreams of the Liver in English) does many things different from Omar's previous releases. The most obvious to note is that it is a live studio recording of the band. Recorded for the BBC in March during the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group's European tour, the live setting gives the record a unique feel. The production is of course top notch, even for a live recording. Most effected by the live setting is singer Ximena Sarinana. The acoustics in the studio project her voice, making it sound almost operatic and larger than one might expect. Contrary to many rumors surrounding the album's release, Ximena is not Omar's wife. Instead, Sarinana is a highly acclaimed singer in the Latin music world, receiving a nomination for a Latin Grammy for her debut album. Her voice fits perfectly with the ethereal grooves the band produces. Filling out the band is Mars Volta members Juan Alderete on bass, Thomas Pridgen on drums and Mark Aanderud lending additional keys. Omar's brother Marcel handles main keys and percussion, becoming one of the highlights on Suenos
Besides the fact that the album is a live recording, the music itself undergoes a transformation. While Omar's earlier solo work tended to be loose and untamed, the compositions on Suenos
are tight and focused. Instead of Omar's guitar playing hording the foreground, Marcel's keys and Ximena's voice take the limelight. In many of the songs Omar will provide his signature angular playing while Marcel works either in conjunction with or against Omar's playing. The result of this duo gives the music a jazzy but rock feel, found only on this album. That isn't to say you won't find a 2 minute-plus guitar solo or an effects pedal drenched riff anywhere on this record; this is still Omar we're talking about. The first track is the closest to the progressive rock style Omar is known for. An all instrumental piece, the 9 minute opener sounds like a mix between King Crimson, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix (read: incredible). Juan rings out a simple bass arpeggio that lasts the entirety of the song as Omar unleashes his inner-guitar hero for almost 4 minutes straight (no Frusciante solo here folks). When Omar comes to a stop Marcel picks up where he left off with a huge key solo. After the opener comes to an epic close, the 'real' album begins. Ximena's beautiful soaring vocals come in almost immediately on the second track, breathing life into the slow jam the band has put forth. The album keeps a steady flow, going from a mid-tempo track, to a calm centerpiece, before gaining speed on 'Locomoccion Capilar' and ending on the crushing 'Victimas Del Cielo'. Each of these tracks may be the simplest constructed songs Omar has ever composed. Every track has an easy to follow structure that make the songs well rounded and easy to listen to. The songs may be simple in structure, but the substance is still on a grand scale. Other than the vocal and key work, Pridgen's drumming is delightful. Thomas stays away from the chaotic style of Bedlam in Goliath
and takes an approach similar to Octahedron
. The drumming is more than adequate for the album, but the vocals and keys will still be the main focus for the majority of the record. There isn't a weak track in the bunch, and at only 37 minutes, Suenos
is a very light and enjoyable listen.
Omar may have three more albums yet to be released in 2009, but Los Suenos De Un Higado
is already the highlight of his solo discography. On first listen it may not even be apparent that the album is a live recording, the band plays tighter than ever. While the live recording may be a negative for some bands, the setting gives the vocals and the band a special edge that would be lost in a studio recording. Even if you have hated all of Omar's previous solo records, give Suenos
a chance. Unlike anything he has ever done, but similar enough to have that Omar sound, Los Suenos De Un Higado
is not an album to overlook.