11:11 is Dublin-based Mexican guitar-playing duo Rodrigo y Gabriela‘s follow-up to their self-titled 2006 debut album. They’re the definition of a word of mouth success story; that debut kept them on the road for two and a half years whilst shifting over 600,000 copies worldwide and giving their live performances semi-legendary status. There was even the inevitable live album to boot.
Their success is hardly surprising as their entirely acoustic sound is a ravishingly broad blend of influences. The debt which Rodrigo and Gabriela seem to feel they owe them is the life force of this release. 11:11’s title track is a blend of 11 pieces paying tribute to 11 artists dedicated to Pink Floyd and mixed, along with the rest of the tracks, by Colin Richardson, best known for his work with Slipknot and Trivium.
Some of the songs are easy to place in terms of influence; Buster Voodoo is clearly and openly acknowledged as an homage to Jimi Hendrix, while Hanuman gives very clear nods to Carlos Santana, whom one would not have been surprised to hear pop up at some stage. Atman, with its electric guitar solo from Alex Skolnick of Testamant fame, goes out to the late Dimebag Darrell, of Pantera fame.
Eclecticism continues with an array of artistic influence that’s less familiar to a western European audience. Chac Mool, named for a style of Toltec statue, is dedicated to the late Jorge Reyes, famed for his trademark blend of Middle Eastern, Indian and pre-Hispanic melodies, whilst Santo Domingo goes to Latin jazz pianist Michel Camilo.
Trying to pick highlights is difficult, for this is an album that flows so well the tracks can seem to blur together with the frenetic finger-picking. Each is a blend of Rodrigo’s lead and Gabriela’s superb rhythm, both playing over a background of percussion, sporadic piano and a plethora of stringed instruments from all over the world.
All in all, it’s a pleasure to listen to. However, if guitar leads devoid of vocals is not your thing, then this is going to become background music very quickly. As good as they are, Rodrigo y Gabriela suffer on record from the overwhelming problem that they’re inevitably so much better in a live environment. The reviews of their gigs speak of an ambience and panache that, on this evidence, is simply not possible to recreate at home.