Instrumental artists aren’t usually the ‘coolest’ of the musical bunch, even when classical tries to go punk (ahem, Nigel Kennedy!) it usually still sounds, well, a bit square really. Enter Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican acoustic guitar duo who defy categorisation but manage to incorporate elements of Jazz, Heavy Metal, Flamenco, Folk, and Latin into their truly unique sound.
If nothing else, those who are oblivious to their enchanting charm and are still doubting the attraction of instrumental albums should be awoken sharply by the fact that with this self titled second official studio effort, the Mexican twosome are currently sitting atop the Irish album charts above both Johnny Cash and Arctic Monkeys. Have I got your attention now?
There may be no vocals, but it is far from cliched to say that each of the nine songs on this album tell a story. While they have been sure to still include some of the much loved cover versions which helped to first ‘break’ them as live artists, the self penned material stands up firm on its own too. Opener Tamacun is a fine example of this, written in tribute to the Mexican hobo version of crocodile conservationist Steve Irwin who also features in the accompanying DVD. The dual guitar lines intertwine and complement each other with razor like precision, never overpowering one another and building into a crescendo of a melody fuelled frenzy accompanied by some jaw dropping drumming atop the guitar body courtesy of Gabriela to close.
As the female counterpart of the outfit slaps her way across the fret board into Satori it is clear that this is an album packed full of melodic wizardry, trademark guitar rendered percussion, and, quite frankly, some damn good songs. Ixtapa is perhaps more of a Re-foc moment, a delightful combination of sliding jazz chords and walking progressive melodies accompanied by a sombre, melancholic breakdown; a considerably more brooding and insidious effort than most metal bands could hope to muster up. Just as you are getting comfortable with the tempo and feel of the song Rodrigo and Gabriela do what they do best and change it all up again. This time in the shape of world famous violinist Roby Lakatos (who improvised the entirety of his honey sweet soloing on this track).
For those of you in the know awaiting the covers, there sit two breath-taking treats for you on this disc, a blinding jazz/Latin reinterpretation of Led Zeppelin‘s signature tune Stairway To Heaven and a slightly more obscure, but perhaps even more beautiful acoustic ode to their metal roots in the shape of a blistering seven and a half minute rendition of Metallica‘s instrumental Orion.
If you are a newcomer to this band, this package is nothing less than perfect as the feature packed second disc DVD, is full of live performances and a comprehensive documentary charting the duo’s progress from members of a heavy metal band in their homeland before making the transition to acoustic guitars in order to busk the streets of Europe and even a 10 minute guitar lesson for all those budding six string novices out there.