Music

Rodrigo y Gabriela: Rodrigo y Gabriela

The album is a slap in the face for every rock star who has ever decided to arrange acoustic versions of their songs and forgotten that "acoustic" doesn't necessarily mean "slow and boring".


Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Label: ATO Records
US Release Date: 2006-10-03
UK Release Date: 2006-03-13
Amazon
iTunes

Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have been influenced by a variety of music. "Jazz and rock and Latin music and all that", Rodrigo says, "but, definitely, we play like we feel". Gabriela agrees, more forcefully. "I hate to think 'what kind of music I play'... all that to me is shit, to be honest. You play what you can express and people gonna put a label in it."

Their MySpace page lists other bands as "not influences but good links", and a note at the back of Rodrigo y Gabriela's liner booklet reads, "A lot of people, when describing our sound, say we play flamenco. We don't." That's after "Foc", from their Live Manchester and Dublin CD, was included earlier this year on World Music Network's Rough Guide to Flamenco Nuevo. If World Music Network's compiler is reading that, then he must be wincing.

The bottom line is that they don't like to be pinned down. "If people want to say we play dance music or disco music, I don't care," Gabriela says defiantly, "it doesn't change what I play." Yet it's evident that they do care. Listening to all of this, my first thought was, "Oh great, and now I've got to write eight hundred words on two people who hate you if you describe them. Fabulous," but afterwards I realised that to describe something is to take a kind of ownership of it, and if I had dozens of critics writing about me and adding me erroneously to flamenco compilations, and if there was a publicity machine gearing up to break me in the States -- all of these people putting names to something that I wanted to believe was internal, imperishable, and unique -- would I feel pressured; would I want to warn people to get off my back? I think I would. Who wouldn't?

Their careers began in Mexico City. Gabriela acquired a guitar by way of her older sister's "cheesy" boyfriend and jammed with several girl groups during her teens before joining an otherwise all-male metal band of which Rodrigo was a member. Video footage shows them headbanging. There's so much long, dark hair flying around that it's difficult to tell which one is her. The group worked toward a record deal, and then, once they had it, fell apart. "We got what we wanted but it's not really what we wanted," Rodrigo explains.

The pair moved to a small town on the Pacific coast. One of the tunes on Rodrigo y Gabriela is named after that town: "Ixtapa". It's the only track on the album to introduce a third musician, the Hungarian violin player Roby Lakatos, who makes a few improvised contributions. It sounds as if the tune had already been worked out well before he got to it, which makes "Ixtapa" less like a collaboration and more like a well-built house with a ghostly voice drifting in from next door. Their stay in Ixtapa also gave them a title for the first tune, "Tamacun", which is named after a thin, determined man who cares for the region's endangered crocodiles.

After that, they went to Ireland. A Mexican woman had told them that they could stay in her Dublin home, but when they reached her front door they discovered that the offer had been rescinded. They had to busk to support themselves. "It was fuckin great, we made good money and we met loads of people and it was fantastic." It was in Ireland that they began to make a name for themselves as acoustic guitarists; in Ireland they began to put out albums as a duo.

In concert they still look as if they're busking. They dress casually and sit on two plain chairs on a plain stage, whacking and plucking their guitars while the crowd in front of them punches the air as if it's watching a rock band. At first glance this spectacle seems incongruous. Shouldn't two kids with wooden instruments be at the back of a café somewhere, playing to an audience of perhaps ten polite people engrossed in their mocha latte and plates of cake? Shouldn't they be in some downtown dive only known to the cogniscenti? Shouldn't they be, well, smaller? More modest? Folkier? With less of the screaming and the whistling and the hey-hey from the audience? But then you listen and you realise: wait, they're still playing metal, they're still playing rock, and the current of Latin-Spanish folk rhythm that runs through everything they do only serves to make them sound brisker and more exciting.

Once you've heard this album you'll know why Metallica is prominent on their "Not influences but good links" list. (In the liner notes they list the group explicitly as an influence; they cover one of Metallica's songs, "Orion", as well as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".) In "Ixtapa" they play a soft passage which you might mistake for gentle scenery-setting, as in an ambient piece, until the music begins to build and you realise that there is an undercurrent of heavy metal threat running through it. They do the Metallica chug -- that is, they have the guitar bite hard on a note, like a bulldog, and then chomp its way forward, grinding down until it lets go. They play with the same energy that Gabriela puts into her interview: the rapid, rebellious cry of someone who doesn't want to be told what she is.

Their speed, along with the Spanish inflections in their tunes, explains their presence on the Flamenco Nuevo compilation. They play with the fiery snap that people associate, rightly or wrongly, with flamenco. Roughly halfway through "Diablo Rojo", the percussion begins to rap and tap like the "typewriter," the flamenco dancer whose heels are flying. There is a lot of percussion on Rodrigo y Gabriela and all of it comes from the musicians' hands smacking the bodies and necks of their guitars, or from their stamping feet. The guitar is harmony, melody, and accompaniment. The album is a slap in the face for every rock star who has ever decided to arrange acoustic versions of their songs and forgotten that "acoustic" doesn't necessarily mean "slow and boring." Rodrigo and Gabriela went in the opposite direction, from electric to acoustic, and listen to the way they spit out that rock!

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image