Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Xenophanes
A disarmingly beautiful solo album from The Mars Volta's ever-freaky frontman
Word of yet another new solo album by the super-prolific Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (lead guitarist and producer for The Mars Volta) is not necessarily a novelty; what is notable about Xenophanes is his choice of collaborator: his wife, musician and actress Ximena Sarinana. This album, named after the Greek philosopher of the same name, finds Rodriguez-Lopez tackling lead vocals for the first time, with lyrics entirely in Spanish.
Most of the tracks feature the pair singing together, one voice laid over the other to create a sweeping, breathy sound that serves as a kind of unifier. That's good, since this is Rodriguez-Lopez's first solo attempt at a prog-rock staple: the concept album. Xenophanes tells the story of a man and a woman who are reborn over and over again throughout time. The woman remains unaware of the specifics of their relationship until their eleventh and final iteraton, when she discovers that the man, her companion through time, is both her lover and her father. The album is sonically beautiful in any language, though listeners who don't have either a working understanding of Spanish or a bilingual dictionary on hand might miss the album's various vocal leitmotifs.
Xenophanes certainly sounds like Omar Rodriguez Lopez's handiwork, boasting Hendrix-like guitar work and a funky aura. Shorter songs with an urgent pace and thick, thrumming basslines mark this album as bearing the same fantastic pedigrees as 2008's The Bedlam in Goliath and Cryptomnesia, Rodriguez-Lopez's previous solo album. Featuring a new voice and singular production quality, this is yet another must-have in a punky, progressive canon.