Release Date: Apr 29, 2014
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Folk, Latin, Pop/Rock, Latin Rock, International, Instrumental Rock, Guitar Virtuoso, Western European Traditions, Finger-Picked Guitar, Contemporary Flamenco
The press release for this fine album does it few favours: “Rodrigo y Gabriela playing face to face, guitar versus guitar …” In fact, here and on the best of their earlier recordings, the Mexican duo demonstrate an impressive range of moods and relationships: confrontational, conversational, quizzical, exploratory (inter alia). Indeed, part of the success of 9 Dead Alive arises out of the variety of styles of dialogue. As in great chamber music, communication through tone, nuance and suggestion somehow goes beyond the notes and chords.
Rodrigo y Gabriela's 9 Dead Alive is their first album of new material in five years. Written, arranged, and co-produced by the pair, they deliberately attempt to forgo the Latin influence in their music in favor of an all-rock (albeit still acoustic) approach -- which marks a return to their pre-recording roots in heavy metal. (That they don't entirely succeed is part of what makes 9 Dead Alive so compelling.) Each tune was composed for a different inspiration: authors, philosophers, activists, scientists, and a queen.
On their fifth studio effort, the Mexican duo return to their roots with the dueling salsa-meets-flamenco guitars that caught on with fans in the first place. Each song is dedicated to an artist they respect, and thus, the guitarists pay tribute in a way that’s flashy and adventurous, yet sees them intricate and technically proficient. Sometimes going back to what works can be a crutch and creatively stifling, but for Rodrigo y Gabriela, it’s a welcome return.
Famed for their dextrous digits and finger-tut finicky fret freneticisms, Mexican twosome Rodrigo y Gabriela are two of the world’s most impressive guitarists. Performing ‘fusions’ as opposed to any pigeonhole-y style, their music flits between jazz, flamenco, Latin pop, heavy metal and rock. The latter two are what make up the majority of the ideas behind 9 Dead Alive, their fourth studio LP.
On 9 Dead Alive, Rodrigo y Gabriela waste precious little time before letting the listener know they’ve returned to the formula that made them stars. The first physics-defying guitar flourish bursts into view less than 15 seconds into opening track “The Soundmaker”. Over a stomping, swaggering rock beat, the dexterous guitarists emphasize a melodic turn by melding rhythm and lead into a furious riff that manages to be both manic and skillful.
After their successful collaboration with a Cuban orchestra, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quinetro return to basics with their first set of new material in five years. The opening riffs on The Soundmaker are a reminder that the virtuoso acoustic guitarists started out playing heavy metal back in Mexico City before moving to Ireland as buskers, and the album is more direct than some of their earlier work, with the guitars driven on by insistent percussion. The tracks are mostly dedicated to historical figures, and the choices are often more unexpected than the music.
Crafted on a shifting foundation of duelling acoustic guitars, Rodrigo Y Gabriela perform face to face, sans instrumental support, with remarkable tenacity and technique. The duo’s first album in five years, 9 Dead Alive showcases their skills from a no frills perspective, and yet the varied tempos and obvious acumen that highlight songs such as “The Soundmaker,” “Sunday Neurosis” and “Misty Roses” infuses these instrumentals with the drama they deserve. Played in traditional bolero style, those songs suggest a sound that billows from sidewalk cafes or a late night Latin supper club filled with upper crust clientele.