Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez is a man of many projects and talents, and thus the wearer of many hats. Guitarist, producer, composer, and video director are but a small fraction of the titles which he bears in groups such as The Mars Volta
. Therefore, it did not surprise me in the least when I found out that Omar had released a solo album, A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume One
. What was a surprising fact, however, was that this album is actually the soundtrack to a film of the same name that has yet to be released, but prospects look good for a distribution in the future.
A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume One
, although created by the same man who brought us such albums as Frances the Mute
and Relationship of Command
, sounds strikingly dissimilar to any other material Rodriguez-Lopez has ever released. An exception remains, however, as elements of the opening track 'Around Knuckle White Tile' sound very much like the song 'Vermicide' from the upcoming Mars Volta album Amputechture
. Even the ambience, a heavily-used aspect of Omar's music, seems to take a different, more dark and evocative route on this record.
Best known for his work on the electric guitar, Omar's soloing on this album is quite enjoyable. His signature, in-your-face tone and delivery shine through on nearly every track. A very cool lead portion is featured on the song 'Dyna Sark Arches,' during which the lead line is unrelenting and unrepentant for the entirety of the song. However, this aspect of the album isn't always pleasant. The track 'A Dressing Failure' has perhaps the most annoying lead line that I've ever heard. With that one notable (and almost painful) exception, the solo passages feature on this album are top-notch.
An element not too often seen with his other projects, Omar sneaks in some acoustic-driven songs onto this album, and these are the some of the best tracks on the album. 'Here the Tame Goes By' starts off quietly with some sweetly melancholic finger-picking interspersed with random ambience, before completely dissolving into an entirely electronic endeavor. The track 'Of Blue Blood Blisters' sounds very county/western, with a whistle and some soft chords on both the guitar and piano. This is a very laid back so-HOLY HELL!!!!
That is the reaction you'll have, even if you prepare yourself for what sounds like a trumpet being assaulted by a snare drum. The closest thing I can equate to this is watching the most gruesome horror movie scene imaginable spliced into a children's cartoon. This is not a very fun sound, and luckily is only heard sparingly on the track.
As stated above, there is a fair amount of ambience on this album, and this is none so prevalent than on the song 'Sensory Decay, Pt. II.' This track is comprised entirely of ambient noise, for not a conventional instrument can be heard among the din of electronic fuzz and chirps. It feels as if you are experiencing what is being described in the track title, and it is so hauntingly beautiful it bears repeated listens.
A welcome reprieve from other solo albums, this one actually features two songs with vocals. The first, 'Dues Ex Machina', features Omar's father singing soulfully in Spanish as his son unleashes a wail of wah-wah that one can't help but love. This song is a true Latin jam, complete with congas, horns, and some very nice bass. The listener is treated to some nice lead acoustic guitar, and finally a return to the first section of the song, which you cannot help but dance to. This is a personal favorite track of mine.
As well, the final track, 'The Palpitations Form A Limit' features our good friends Cedric Bixler-Zavala on vocals and John Frusciante on guitar. I'm going to say that this is the best song that Omar and Cedric have ever created. It just gives off an air of cool, with a swagger unmatched, some excellent tandem leads, and one of the best-sung choruses I've heard. It is short, sweet, and undeniably enjoyable. The best song on the entire album.
A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume One
is a very fun, haunting, moving, and strangely danceable album. Fans of Omar's previous projects will undoubtedly find something they love about this, as will fans of solo albums who enjoy a nice lead track. Here's hoping that one day, we'll see this movie, so that the track titles, although pretty crafty, will makes some sort of sense.
'Here the Tame Goes By', 'The Palpitations Form A Limit', 'Sensory Decay Pt. II'
The leads on this album are fantastic.
A majority of the ambience here is effective and pleasing.
'A Dressing Failure'
The ambience on 'Of Blue Blood Blisters.'
Those who don't like Omar's tone or style won't like most of this album