Album Review: Rodrigo Y Gabriela – ‘9 Dead Alive’

9-dead-aliveRodrigo y Gabriela are now on their fifth album. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero’s instrumental Mexican guitar duo have built up a promising following ever since the release of debut re-Foc in 2002, gaining a cult following after playing on the streets of Dublin, resulting in second album Rodrigo y Gabriela reaching number 1 in Ireland’s album chart while it only reached 53 here in the UK. The pair consider ‘9 Dead Alive’ to be a more rock rather than Latin-focused album, and according to their Twitter, is quite a conceptual piece, each track dedicated to ‘individuals who have passed on, but through their deeds and words still resonate in the 21st century’.

Virtuosic yet melodic lead single ‘The Soundmaker’ opens the album, dedicated to 19th Andalucian guitarist Antonio Torres Juando, designer of the first modern classical guitars. The arpeggiated guitar and simple percussion provide an effective partnership on ‘Torito’, the only track not dedicated to a person, but to sounds and nature. ‘Sunday Neurosis’, based on Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Emil Frankl, sees a similarly percussive first half before a calmer second half, showing the dynamicism of the group, before ‘Misty Moses’, about American Civil War-era African-American  abolitionist Harriet Tubman, shows the full range of guitars exploited. ‘Somnium’ relates to Spanish Baroque writer Juana Inés de la Cruz, which makes use of effective guitar harmonies. The upbeat ‘Fram’ (Norweigan explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen) has tempo changes to maintain momentum, while the haunting and unpredictable ‘Megalopolis’ (Chilean poet-diplomat, first female Nobel Prize literature winner) sees the album reach its creative highpoint. ‘The Russian Messenger’ (Russian human psychology novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky) proves to be as versatile as anything on the album so far and ‘La Salle Des Pas Perdus’ (1100’s French queen Eleanor of Aquitaine) which provides a gentler finish to the album.

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s fifth album is one that may work well as background music, but at the same time has had a lot of thought put into it and has a lot to be taken from it, testament to the Mexican duo’s song writing and performing abilities.

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