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4.6 out of 5 stars
Ronroco
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Gustavo Santaollala is famous for his rock exploits in 1970s Argentina, his work as a producer of the rock en espanol genre, and for his scores to three Hollywood films. However, he is also a keen performer of a wide array of traditional Latin American stringed instruments, and in the instrumental album RONROCO he explores the possibilities of these simple instruments, accompanied only by the occasional vibraphone or whistle. Gustavo's work here might be best compared to that of guitarists like Robin Guthrie (see his album IMPERIAL), in which the guitarist creates through numerous overdubs an enveloping soundworld. However, Santaolalla shows a great interest in polyrhythmic experiments on many of these tracks, and a consciousness of a folk tradition not found among many modern guitar players.

Like many listeners, I was attracted to this album by hearing the song "Iguazu" in the movie THE INSIDER. "Iguazu" is one of the most moving songs on the album, but it is fairly limited and Santaollala shows a greater range of ideas in other songs here. In the opening "Way Up" he eschews melody for a shower of arpeggios in differerent rhythms. "Coyita" takes a traditional waltz form and applies unusual instrumentation. In "De Ushuaia a la Quiaca", possibly the greatest piece here, his approach seems at first minimalistic but then proves to serve as a backdrop for piercing and vaguely Andean woodwind tones.

Some songs, however, aren't very gripping at all, such as "Gaucho", which seems overly simplistic, and "Zenda", which lacks direction. However, in the end the album may be a worthy purchase for those who like instrumental music and are curious to see how a former rock star responds to Latin American traditions. Try listening to "Iguazu" first, and if it grips you, check out RONROCO.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Interesting how the producer of such heavy acts of "Rock en Espannol", such as Molotov, Bersuit Bergarabat, Arbol and Cafe Tacuba (this last one, being the "softest" act of the group,) and 70's Argentinan rocker, can come up with such a SOOTHING recording.
He plays along with a couple of other musicians all sorts of string instruments from accross South America, and comes up with a VERY diverse recording, with a distinctive signature: you can almost SEE THE PLACES, you can travel with him.
Highly recommended:
-Track One, "Way Up" - a progressive and beautiful string arrangement that takes you to new altitudes.
-Track Four, "Coyita" - a beautiful track that leads you through a pastoral trip.
-Track Eight, "Lela" - was just like being back home... (I'm originally from Venezuela.)
-Track Nine, "Iguazu," which I actually first heard in the soundtrack of "The Insider".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2002
Format: Audio CD
The music of Gustavo Santaolalla as played on the ronroco, a five dougle-stringed instrument of his Argentinian homeland is the most haunting, romantically sensuous creation I have listened to since I heard the soundtrack whilst viewing the movie "Phaedra" the music of which was composed by Mika Theodokorapolis (sp) and played by the lovely couple Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya. If you have a special someone in your life and wish to enjoy music during a quiet time together, this CD is a must. I bought eight of them to give to others.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
A pesar de su trabajo como productor de bandas más ligadas al pop y al rock, como Café Tacuba, en este disco Gustavo Santaolalla nos muestra su visión personal de la música latinoamericana, y, en particular, de la música andina argentina. Para esto, ocupa instrumentos tradicionales como el charango, el ronroco (un charango más grande), la guitarra y el guitarrón, pero, si bien los ocupa respetando sus características intrínsecas y sus técnicas específicas (como los redobles y arpegios del charango), los toma para crear obras distintas a las que usualmente escuchamos. Por otra parte, añade instrumentos de otras tradiciones, como el whistle, la armónica, el vibráfono y la melódica, que entregan colores completamente distintos, pero muy enriquecedores (bien ensamblados y empastados, además, gracias a una muy buena grabación). En cuanto a los motivos musicales, las armonías y los ritmos, todos ellos están tomados de la tradición folklórica antes mencionada, pero con alteraciones: los giros y los cambios de acordes son más osados, y se permite más espacio para el desarrollo de los temas. Esto último ocurrre en más de un par de obras, que prácticamente no tienen melodías, y están constituidas por amplios paisajes sonoros de arpegios y/o redobles, que provocan un efecto completamente ambiental y envolvente, con apenas ligeras variaciones a lo largo de su duración. En definitiva, este disco es una excelente muestra de cómo, a partir de elementos conocidos y tradicionales, y gracias a una recombinación, cuestionamiento y adición de elementos, es posible conseguir obras muy novedosas y originales.
P.D.: dentro de la misma línea, recomiendo el disco "Lejanía" de Inti Illimani, en el que este grupo chileno aborda el repertorio andino con composiciones propias y ajenas, y con arreglos igualmente interesantes.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This is one of my favorite CDs of the 2000 or so in my collection. It regularly finds its way into my current play mix, and, in an odd way, has become a Christmas-time standard in the household (i.e. good time for *real* music). This acoustic masterpiece bears no resemblance to his earlier "Gas" (which is fine, I suppose, if you like driving electric guitar (but that's what my Hendrix collection is for)). This beautiful CD has an emotional quality such that you will find yourself just listening, not doing anything else, quietly taking it in.
His other album, "Santaolalla", does not appear to be available in the US.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I was not aware of what a ronroco was until I heard Argentinean composer Gustavo Santaolalla play one quite masterfully on the soundtrack of 2004's The Motorcycle Diaries. Among the film's many noteworthy qualities is the singularly resonant sound of the ronroco, a mandolin-like instrument, used to fill in the aural background for the adventurous road trip of the two young medical students out to experience the world outside Buenos Aires. Six years prior to the film in 1998, Santaolalla released this mesmerizing recording highlighting the versatility of his instrument in an evocative twelve-song cycle. Depending on the atmosphere he is trying to achieve with each composition, he plays a combination of eight different instruments, including guitar, pipes, tin whistle, and charango, a smaller cousin to the ronroco. Keyboard accompaniment is provided expertly by Anibal Kerpel, who plays both vibraphone and melodica, on several of the tracks.

As a whole, the album works seamlessly as a mood piece. Nonetheless, a few tracks are worth highlighting. The opening track, "Way Up", showcases the quiet fury of Santaolalla's uninterrupted strumming, while "Gaucho" , with its gentle beat, sounds like a street dance between two weary tango dancers. "Atacama" evokes mirages on a vast desert with the intricate fretwork seeming to escalate to a crescendo but never quite does. "Zena" and "Lela" are quietly seductive tracks. A certain geographical sensibility is evident on "Pampa", which springs to mind the image of a lonely cowboy sitting astride a loping horse over the grassy pampas, and "Iguazu", which sounds exactly like the torrential waterfall of its namesake. "Iguazu" was used again in the Mexican border deportation scene in Babel. The most familiar track is "De Ushuaia la Quiaca", which he also used again to great cinematic effect in The Motorcycle Diaries. "La Vuelta" is an appropriate closer as it is defined purely by Santaolalla's bravura playing.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Gustavo Santaolalla evokes the plains and mountians of South America with his cascading melodies, as in Atacama. The simple "Coyita" waltz carries a heartbreakingly beautiful grace. This CD is at once a true indigenous recording and a very modern, minimalist work full of emotion and tonal textures. It has been beautifully recorded - resonant as a courtyard, as immediate as a live performance.
Whenever I hear these simple and haunting songs, I remember each drive in my car when I listened to them. This is music of the senses and the soul - timeless and true.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I picked up this record on a whim and it is now one of me and my wife's favorites. The tunes are deceptively simple - great melodies you swear you heard before - yet they hold up to repeated listening. It is both contemporary sounding and timeless. The musical textures created here are unique. If anyone know more about this wonderful artist, please e-mail me. I know virtually nothing about him and would be anxious to know if he has any other recordings available, etc...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Like several reviewers, I first heard of Gustavo Santaolalla via Michael Mann's film 'The Outsider' which made expressive use of the track `Iguazu'. This album (from which 'Iguazu' is taken) is an work of stunning beauty. All the tracks are slow, haunting guitar-driven mood pieces composed almost totally in minor keys. I was expecting `Iguazu' to be the highlight but there are many tracks that are equally exquisite. I recommend this album unreservedly to anyone with an ear for a beautiful melody and a romantic soul - believe me, you will not stop playing this. Quite outstanding.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Heard excerpts from this CD on NPR and had to have it. There's an ethereal, Andean feel to the music, but with LA effects. Quiet but intense and varied. The music is rich enough to just listen, but can also work as background for talking or working. Try it, you'll keep on playing it.
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