The first installment of the soundtrack to guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's as yet unreleased film, A Manual Dexterity. On this record, Omar continues his descent into the dark depths of progressive rock, with many nods to prog pioneers King Crimson throughout the album. As a first solo album, one can truly appreciate the musical talent of the man behind the music of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Omar employs the talents of several of his friends and bandmates, including The Mars Volta's keyboardist Ikey Owens and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, as well as The Red Hot Chilis' renowned guitarist John Frusciante
One of the most noticeable things about this album is the way the recording sounds. On several tracks, the sound is reminiscent of an old vinyl record, with a recognisable background hiss. Omar also uses an array of keyboards and synths to create an atmosphere that is dense and oppressive at times, and strangely uplifting at others. The album is mostly instrumental save for "Deus Ex Machina" and "The Palpitations Form A Limit". Below is a tracklist of the album, along with a short description of each track.
1. Around Knuckle White Tile- As the opening track of the album, this one starts off almost silently, with alien-sounding synths slowly creeping in. This track reminds me a little of "Son et Lumiere", the first track of The Mars Volta's album. Soon after the synths start up, a robotic sounding bass loop is played, sounding very oppressive. Next, the drums come in, building from a soft whisper to a violent tumult, as Omar's recognisable guitar brings the track together over an acoustic guitar loop.
2. Dyna Sark Arches- Another quiet opening, this time interrupted by the soft strains of a melodica. Soon the track moves into an extremely funky guitar line, with some splendid percussion and hand claps to punctuate it. Layers of guitar are built on top of this, until the track eventually collapses under its own weight. Very cool.
3. Here The Tame Go By- This track opens with the sound of an old record being played, with acoustic guitars being softly plucked. This is violently interrupted by a sound like an electric guitar being plugged in, and the record stops to be replaced by Omar's heavenly guitar meanderings. The song then changes again, and the guitar sounds bizarrely as though it is being played underwater. An electronic beat kicks in soon after and brings the track to its conclusion.
4. Deus Ex Machina- The only song on the album not written by Omar, but rather by his dad, Angel Marcel Rodriguez. Here Omar has taken a traditional salsa song and spliced it with his own guitar ingenuity, along with a healthy dash of progressive rock. The result is a wonderful mess of reversed percussion, delay pedals and echoing trumpets which is still danceable. A great tune.
5. Dramatic Theme- This track sounds like "Starless and Bible Black"-era King Crimson if it were recorded in space. Concert-hall drums and eccentric guitars play alongside a sorrowful piano, along with the usual synthesizers and heavy distortion. A very difficult track, but well worth persevering with.
6. A Dressing Failure- A noticeable absence of synthesizers here, just Omar, his guitar and his....typewriter. This track seems to be designed for Omar to show off his considerable skill on the guitar, and those who have seen the Volta live will no doubt recognise his extensive improvisation. I can only assume the typewriter tapping away has some significance within the film.
7. Sensory Decay Part II- Immediately this track drowns you in a cold, oppressive wave of synthesizers, and the feeling you get from this is like being thrown into the sea with a pair of concrete boots. Ambient noises pepper the synthetic coldness, but do little to alleviate the atmosphere of sheer terror. A very scary track indeed, to be listened to with the lights off perhaps.
8. Of Blood Blue Blisters- Opening with a piano softly playing, this track is violently interrupted throughout by flailing drums reminiscient of Tool's "Faaip de Oiad", and belligerent trumpeting from what sounds like a herd of rather alarmed elephants, but is in fact album mixer Andrew Sheps. After a bit the track completely loses the plot and breaks into a punky guitar riff, over which the trumpeting continues unabated.
9. Dream Sequence- The title of this track goes a long way in describing its content. Dream Sequence is exactly that, a trippy 6 minute guitar and saxophone outing with swampy synths and samples. Perhaps best enjoyed (or understood) while under the influence, but a great track nevertheless.
10. The Palpitations Form A Limit- The song that's got all The Mars Volta's fans salivating, due of course to the fact that it features its vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Probably the most down-to-earth track on the album, this one harks back to Omar's punk rock roots, with At The Drive-In. An awesome fuzz-bass line brings the album to an appropriate and shuddering halt.
Interested parties can order the album from www.goldstandardlabs.com, and it comes highly recommended by me. Buy it!