Omar Rodriguez Lopez is, in my opinion, one of the most creative and fascinating guitarists I have ever heard. He’s up there with the classics in my book, one of the greats, on par with David Gilmore and Jimi Hendrix. He’s well known for his work with The Mars Volta, where he showcases his unbelievable riff-driven, complex songs and acting like a genuine field-marshal for the band. He’s also one of the most prolific musicians I’ve ever heard, issuing a veritable deluge of recordings year after year, with his numerous side-projects, albums ranging from chaotic jam sessions (like the one with John Frusciante) to very coherent works like “Ciencia de los inutiles”, a mostly acoustic album, slightly jazzy and very subdued, a real break from his usual style.
What I love about this album is the patience and relaxation which seem to circle it from conception to listening. The music feels intimate, as if it were performed in the same room with the listener, as if the band were just about visible at the corner of one’s eye. Omar Rodriguez Lopez is an amazing acoustic guitar player and it’s a shame The Mars Volta doesn’t seem to leave much room for that on their albums with very few notable exceptions. His style goes from psychedelic exuberance to jazzy minimalism on this album, from electric shock to fireside warmth. It’s very hard to an album such as this not to sound like muzak, and yet he pulls it off simply by employing sincerity. If I could sum up this record with one word, it’d be “honest”. There’s a very simple, expressive dialogue between the very well-controlled double-bass, a guitar, some very discreet and lovely sound effects and Rhodes organ and Ximena Sariñana Rivera’s voice (as far as I know, she’s Omar’s girlfriend), which sounds childish and experienced at the same time. There’s something odd about her voice, or rather about her accent, sounding foreign in Spanish for some reason, but that makes it endearing after a few listens, the odd pronunciation acquiring a hypnotic effect, perfectly complemented by the mesmerizing music.
The album has a song for each day of the week, plus an extra musical meditation on the succession of night and day in general. I don’t understand the lyrics, since I don’t speak Spanish, but the gentle, slightly morose poetry in the music is more than enough reason for me to enjoy this offering. There’s something both natural and magical about this record. I feel the urge to liken it to a sort of prayer, or ritual, or at least something mundane, daily, with a ritual origin. There’s a feeling of mystery deeply embedded in Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s music and there’s no escaping that odd, enveloping sensation on this record. In his work with The Mars Volta, this strangeness is scintillating, powerful, aggressive. Here, it’s seductive and subdued, insidious. In either case, the effect his music has on me is very stimulating, even though that’s not a word I’d normally associate with such gentle, soporific music. However, the ebb and flow, the gentle breath this record speaks with is something I find very hard to ignore and simply set aside. On silent, mechanical days, one might picture himself changing the trajectory of raindrops on the window while listening to “Ciencia de los inutiles”, and that would be enough of a miracle, enough of a superpower to really matter.
I leave you with a few samples of this wonderful, unassuming record. See you tomorrow.