14 August 2016
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Blind Worms, Pious Swine
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a man who a lot of my friend's hero worship to such a degree, I fear one day that a man with a long, grey beard will throw some tablets with a list of commandments from the leading Deity of the hour at them. The man is the guitarist of At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Bosnian Rainbows and Antemasque, he has produced albums by Le Butcherettes, John Frusciante, Juliette Lewis, he is a photographer and film producer - basically I am surprise the man has time to go to sleep, eat or use the toilet (and I strongly suspect he would still be making a side project whilst doing any of those things). The man is a creative force of nature who can inspire some, make others shriek in horror, but you could never accuse him of resting on his laurels. Which brings us to his latest project - he is committed to releasing twelve albums this year, starting with Sworn Virgins in July and ending in December. You can see all the released at the ORL Projects website (linked to the website here), with all the releases coming via the cult record label Ipecac. Now this is a very ambitious project to say the least, some artists struggle with one album every ten years (Axl Rose, we are looking at you); this man is already up to number three with this release, 'Blind Worms, Pious Swine'. This album was actually recorded back in 2012, just before he formed Bosnian Rainbows and features members of Bosnian Rainbows on the record and it was recorded in El Paso, Texas. I have a feeling that Mr Rodriguez-Lopez might be clearing the vaults before some more projects come to light. Now, I am not sure we will review all of the album; hell, this might be the only one we get to look at to be honest with the sheer number of albums we have lined up to review. But I feel drawn to review this one, I have no idea why I am doing it, but I feel drawn to it. Anyway, here we are and we might as well get started.
Starting off the album is "Vanishing Rock", it sounds like it is going to be a stomper of an opening and then it changes direction; so from the beginning Mr Rodriguez-Lopez is getting the audience to second guess itself and when the rest of the glorious, you do not care. Featuring backing vocals from Terri Gender-Bender and Deantoni Parks on drums, it comes across as a rock dream in places, an alternative anthem in other places and in others it is like a dream sequences from the dark side of your own mind where the shadows live. To say I am impress from the start is an understatement and you can think of this from the very beginning as the genius point of Bosnian Rainbows. "Atlantis Is Rising" continues that feeling with a progressive rock sound which mixes synths with the hallowing guitar style of Mr Rodriguez-Lopez with effortless ease, a hypnotic sound and the mixture of Mr Rodriguez-Lopez & Ms Gender-Bender's vocals is one of the best combinations in modern rock for me and even though this was recorded four years ago, it still sounds like it could have been done in the room next to me a few moments ago. "Black Mass" slows down the mood a little bit, but the mood has an air of the unknown and determination as well. It is a strange number, neither all out art-rock or alternative rock/prog goodness. To be honest, it is takes the album into a lull period with this song - so a well performed song that does not really hit the heights of the first two songs.
"Lights" goes down a blues route in comparison to the previous songs, with a break hearted lament about the state of affairs, the world is all greys and blues as all hope is drained from the universe and the world grows ever colder. It is a beautiful number, one that diversifies the album and works much better than "Black Mass" with a strong rhythm, riff and soul. "Tunnel Riot" brings back some of the energy that was removed from the world in the last song. In fact, this song is my favourite from the album, it is a strange number that would have found a great home on the Bosnian Rainbows album and I cannot believe it has taken so long to see the light of day. It is a strong and passionate number, it has an 80's lint to the sound and it makes my world so colourful when it is played. I think this will definitely be my song of the month, it might even become my song of the year - what a tune. "Savage Letters" is a number that feels lost in time, out of place and rather strange on the album; but it actually works as a grand dramatic piece of rock drama. It is stupidly OTT, full of lavish and dramatic keyboards, a strange word play and some of the best baroque pop outside of the Divine Comedy that I have heard in years. It is a song that I can see being mocked in some quarters, but the Latino sound behind the music just nails it for me. "Mariposa" is the seventh song from the album, which is another song that I cannot quite make my mind up on. Being synth heavy again, it is a song about being left behind, but musically it is one of those numbers that just drifts by for me once again. It is a simple song, with a gentle rhythm and it sounds quite nice, but I think that is the problem - it is a nice song, but not as strong as some of the others on here.
The last four songs, well here we come to a little bit of a sticking point for me - "Swollen Neck" starts off much more focused and driven, but underneath there are hints that the machine is in danger of moving off course and towards the edge of a cliff with strange and off-key noises and noodles. This instrumental actually gives me the shivers as it sounds like the music has been created under quite a lot of pressure and towards the end as it starts to slowly fall apart slightly, it gives everything an organic and natural feeling that I love about this sort of music. Then comes "Hieroglyphs From Hell" which actually just follows the exact same pattern, it is almost in reverse, like a record being played backwards and it has that same fantastic feeling. Only problem, why is it two separate songs? And the same goes for "Acacia" & "Only Nothing", they are essentially all part of the same song that has been cut into separate little pieces and whilst I can guess why it has been separated from the other parts, it could have worked better as part of a glorious whole. I mean overall I like each part as they are as they are all great numbers, but for me it works better when you listen to them as a collective and just zone out to it - someone needs to splice them together.
So, what are my overall thoughts here? Well, there are a couple of numbers which filler and that can happen with any project, also as mentioned above, the last four songs really should have been edited again. However, these are small things to be honest as the album is one of the best solo works I have heard from Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. It is an album that works much better as a collective, all of the tracks played together just gel into one special moment for me, individually sometimes the songs feel a little vulnerable. But overall, you cannot deny the quality of the performance and the power of this album, it is a brilliant moment in 2016. It is making me curious how this will sound at the end of the project, but that is something to be discussed once all of them have been released at the end of the year. This album has one of my favourite moments of the year in "Tunnel Riot" and is worth the price for that song alone, it is an album rather than a collection of hits that needs your full attention for the full circumference and no pauses - trust me, you will love it!
8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top song - Tunnel Riot
You can purchase Blind Worms, Pious Swine from the ORL Projects Bandcamp Page here.
You can visit the ORL Projects website here, you will be able to purchase Blind Worms, Pious Swine there, as well as the previous releases and pre-order the forthcoming releases as and when they become available.
You can follow the activities of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and the ORL Project on the ORL Project Facebook page here.
You can stream Blind Worms, Pious Swine on Spotify here.
You can stream Blind Worms, Pious Swine on Deezer here.
You can stream Blind Worms, Pious Swine on Tidal here.
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