Review Summary: Omar revisits his older tendencies and fuses it with some new influences.
Ever since Omar began collaborating with Mexican Adult-Contemporary artist and girlfriend, Ximena Sariñana, his compositions have developed a much more restrained sound. The music has become much more experimental, and by experimental, I mean traditional. His music has always had a dense layer of sounds, with a multitude of instruments vigorously playing all at once, giving out an anarchical feel to the music. But in, shall we call them, "post-Ximena" albums, the music has a much more traditional structure. There is a significant absence of moments of energetic improvisation that once dominated the overall sound of Omar's albums. But now, the music is orchestrated with restrain and this was because Omar's guitar was no longer the center of attention, it was Ximena's singing. The purpose of the music was now to decorate whatever emotion that was being projected by Ximena's vocals- And this is something that Ximena has taught Omar because this is a concept he has never encountered. Omar's solo releases hardly ever contained any vocals, that was often a rare treat.
But now let us refer to the music of The Mars Volta. No one instrument holds the center of attention there, it's a democracy. Each instrument takes it's turn in the spotlight, or they work together to display the emotion of the desired effect. Also one will notice that the music of The Mars Volta doesn't work to decorate the vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala, in fact the very opposite is true and Cedric has confessed this in a multitude of interviews. The music is written first, and then Cedric will write the lyrics to translate the emotion of the music into words. But now, Omar has begun experimenting with this new concept of the vocals taking the spotlight and it can be seen in his latest releases, The Mars Volta's latest album, Octahedron, and it has been seen again in the latest performances of their new album, Noctourniquet. It's funny how often things turn out in a manner one could have never expected. I thought Omar was going to have an influence on Ximena's music, as he introduced her into his world of deranged Psychedelia. But instead, it was Omar who stumbled into her world of much more traditional pop music.
And even in this new album, the first to not feature Ximena in this newfound direction, her influence is still present. Un Escorpión Perfumado is actually an amalgamation of everything we have ever heard from Omar, but at the same time, it's one of Omar's most shocking releases. The album introduces some new influences, or at least some we haven't quite seen in a long time and others that haven't been fully explored. Specifically, it draws a strong influence from Omar's days with the Dub-Reggae act, De Facto. The synthesizers and rhythmic instruments, like the drums and bass, play a much larger role in this album, even surpassing Omar's guitar. This album also features Omar providing lead vocals in all of the songs on the album, and because of that, the music is much more calm. There are no lengthy Jazz-influenced improvisations here, the songs have a much more Pop-influenced traditional structure. The songs also feature shorter lengths, or at least for Omar's standards, though slightly longer than the albums featuring Ximena.
Un Escorpión Perfumado features Omar trying to fuse that improvisational atmosphere with a pop-musical structure. I suppose it's his way of combining the best of both worlds so as to satisfy his fans, regardless of what era in Omar's music they're fond of. One thing that is lacking in the album is that "spark". It's that lively atmosphere that is felt in most of Omar's previous releases. Whether that was Omar manic wailing on his guitar, or Ximena's soulful vocals, but that isn't quite felt here. As surprising as it is to hear Omar sing on this album, he isn't well-developed as a vocalist and that's because he has not had much practice. To make-up for this, he uses an immense amount of vocal-effects to make them a bit more interesting, which works in some moments. This album may in fact be Omar's stepping stone into developing his singing abilities. But even still, Un Escorpión Perfumado has a hypnotic quality to it instrumentally in all of it's tamed Psychedelia and Omar's vocals do hit some high notes at times. This album is one of his more interesting releases and the listener may find it a rewarding listen in the end.