Review Summary: Omar goes acoustic.
The music of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has had many different incarnations throughout the years. His discography contains experiments with such an immense variety of genres that has been unseen since the days of the late Frank Zappa. We have also seen Omar evolve in a way that we rarely see in musicians. From his days as a young up-and-coming Punk rocker with At The Drive-In, to his brief stint with the Dub Reggae act, De Facto, and eventually as the respected composer behind the Progressive music of The Mars Volta.
Omar has proven to be a dexterous musician, mastering every instrument that catches his interest all in the name of experimentation with albums that contain a variety of genres ranging from Electronica, Jazz, Musique concrète, to Rock. I suppose Omar's modus operandi, in other words, signature style, has been a frantic-paced progressive sound of musicianship. His music usually has a dense layer of sounds from instruments that create an atmosphere of ambient chaos all around, yet it's all coordinated exquisitely. Each note and each sound serves a purpose, no matter how random it may seem at times. It's as if they were the ingredients of a drug, and without all the necessary components, it could never reach the desired effect. It all serves to guide us into whatever world Omar is trying to invite us into. And it's always a very strange world we find ourselves in, we never know where we're going but the experiences are often sublime.
Listening to any album by Omar is a lot like an LSD trip. We know that it's going to be a bizarre experience, right at the beginning we prepare ourselves by premeditating that in our minds. We're frightened at what may happened, yet we're overwhelmed with excitement. But when we play this album and the first track begins, we're immediately thrown-off. The calming sounds of an acoustic guitar and soothing vocals fill our ears- but we tell ourselves that this is just a build up to something. We become paranoid, just waiting for that moment when that supernova of manic sounds completely takes over, like in the beginning of "Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus"
from Frances The Mute
. But that never happens here.
We go to the second track, then the third, then the fourth, and so on. We can't believe it, it's actually an acoustic album. This is nothing like Octahedron
were the soft ballads are accompanied with some of the same old spastic songs that we're much more familiar with. This is another album that features his girlfriend, Ximena Sariñana, and their collaborations feature a slightly more restrained sound in the music, but no one could have predicted something like this. Ciencia de los Inutiles
is perhaps the strangest of all of Omar's releases because it's so, well, normal. Simplicity replaces mania in the music, and emotion replaces lyrical ambiguity in this album. Of course, no album is safe from Omar's electrical psychedelic tendencies and even Ciencia de los Inutiles is no exception. For example, "Miercoles"
contains some synthesizers in it's mid-section and "Jueves"
also displays electrical guitar arrangements, but it all fits perfectly. It doesn't disturb the acoustic and delicate atmosphere of the album, but in fact surprisingly enough, adds to it.
This album serves a different purpose than it's predecessors. Instead of Omar's guitar playing being the center of attention, as it always is, this album focuses more on Ximena. Her style of singing is quite simple, it's nothing like Cedric Bixler-Zavala who loves to show off his talent. Yet Ximena's voice has this soothing and ethereal effect, it's a beautiful sound. This world that Ciencia De Los Inutiles takes us into isn't run by Omar, this is Ximena's world and it's a nostalgic place with her every word having us reminisce of both beautiful and heartbreaking experiences throughout our lives. I don't know how most of Omar's fans will respond to this album, but to anyone who feels the need for something different (even if that actually means something normal) may find this album to be among one of his best releases and a heart-warming listen.