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Rodrigo Y Gabriela - Area 52

The duo’s most grandiose, outlandish opus yet.

Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero’s intricate, high-strung pageantries are never anything but exhilarating and extravagant, but this record is just absurd. Their unique busk-bred fusion of metal, jazz and flamenco has thus far sold them 1 million albums worldwide, but now, on this dive into the unknown, they’re backed by a youthful 13-piece Cuban orchestra (C.U.B.A) and bassist Carles Benavent (Miles Davis, Paco de Lucia). Having reworked and rearranged nine songs from their back catalogue at Abdala Studios in Havana’s Miramar District, their primal, formulaic guitar noodling has now been beefed up with a glorious, unrelenting mish-mash of horns, flutes and percussion. They’ve also brought in the cream of the world music cosmos to join them: sitarist extraordinaire Anoushka Shankar and Palestinian oud players Le Trio Jourban. The outcome? ‘Area 52’ is hands down the duo’s most grandiose, outlandish opus yet.

Their self-titled crossover was a bouncy, mellifluous two-guitar gem and follow-up ‘11:11’ was more of the same. But that was where the trouble lay: were you as bored as I was? ‘Area 52’ – although simply collected re-imaginings of the old tunes – is a breath of fresh air and a bona fide LP par excellence. It’s the follow-up to ‘La Revancha Del Tango’ the Gotan Project never made, the voguish wah-wah-filled record Santana will never, ever make. Whether we’re talking the interminably insidious ‘Diablo Rojo’, ‘Juan Loco’, and ‘Tamacun’ from the eponymous record, now sped up, horned up Ronson-style and galvanised with whimsical piccolo solos, or the later ‘Santo Domingo’ and ‘Hanuman’ in which a gazillion different things ostensibly happen at once, it’s impossible to pick out individual standouts. Further – Shankar’s extended sitar solo on ‘Ixtapa’ is a peculiar yet entrancing addition, whilst jazzy number ‘Logos’ is a lot prettier than its previous embodiment. My advice: bang this record on, pretend you’re in a Havana-set spy film for a bit and then get bopping like madman.

Tags: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Reviews, Album Reviews

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