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The inaugural recording from Omar Rodriguez Lopez's low-profile compound in Zapopan, Mexico, Xenophanes is the first album which finds him at the helm vocally and lyrically, as well as musically. Sung entirely in Spanish, Xenophanes showcases a side of The Mars Volta guitarists rarely seen before, allowing for a much more gestural experience of the man rather than simply the musician, and truly distinguishing this album from its myriad predecessors.Equal parts Volta bombast, El Grupo Nuevo... technicality, and a textural richness unequaled on prior solo releases, Xenophanes is a triumph of imagination and an inspired, concise statement.
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Mixed by Rich Costey, Thomas Pridgin on drums, Ximena Sarinena (up and coming Mexican pop singer with a unique, pleasant voice; also ORML's lady if I'm not mistaken), art design by Sonny Kay.
In the context of Bedlam of Goliath, Pridgin's fusion chops could be taken as miscellaneous prog shredding of the worst kind --a shame. On Xenophanes OMRL has music that more than meets his drummer's style and strengths half-way, and the result is a great deal more satisfying.
Ximena Sariñana singing ORML's lyrics is the real highlight and pleasure of the LP --Omar's surely auto-tune corrected vocals are unexpectedly tolerable, though Ximena takes center stage and keeps it for the most part (Especially Track 6). Her being listed as an accompanist is yet another ironic, humorous conceit on the part of the uber-producer-arranger-yaddayaddayadda OMRL.
This reviewer's judgement: if not the strongest material since Frances the Mute, then Xenophanes is certainly the most compelling, focused and uniquely stylized release in-itself since Tremulant, this coming from an early admirer of TMV/OMRL's work. The lyrics are especially compelling, being completely in the Spanish tongue; the textures, lush; the percussion and rhythm sections tight and focused. Nothing negative to add other than possibly the mix: loud, loud, loud!
However, his solo work has been all over the place. Calibration is hardly song oriented and combines mostly noise elements and processed vocals that were briefly introduced on Frances the Mute (but were not the focus of that album). It is heavy music and hard to get into. Apocalypse is a great album, but it at times feels like it goes on for too long.
And now onto Xenophanes. This is truly a gem, and I was surprised not to see more reviews here. It is much more song-oriented than the rest of Omar's solo work. The riffs are very catchy while still sounding fresh and experimental, and Omar's vocals in Spanish are quite good and go well with this music. I won't go into a song-by-song review here - they all flow very well together.
Overall, Omar has created an excellent and moody record, but without making it difficult to listen to. Highly recommended!
the record itself is bright pink and the whole thing is a work of art.