Published Nov 30, 2016We're nearing the end of Omar Rodríguez-López' 12-album series for 2016, with the 11th out this week. The series has ranged in quality, but has provided fans with a glimpse into ORL's archives and his working process, and dispelled any doubts about his consistent work ethic.
Nom De Guerre Cabal again finds ORL working with frequent collaborator and drummer Deantoni Parks. It also continues his habit of re-working and re-releasing old material, as most of the songs originate from 2013's ¿Sólo Extraño?. In both cases, the strengths and weaknesses of Zapopan and other albums in the series continue: Parks is a great drummer, Chris Common is a great producer/engineer, and ORL's vocals are underwhelming. Help from other frequent collaborator-vocalists Cedric Bixler-Zavala (the Mars Volta, At the Drive-In) or Teri Gender Bender (Bosnian Rainbows, Crystal Fairy and an earlier album in this series, Cell Phone Bikini) would have been appreciated.
What ORL does excel at is progressive-to-the-point-of-being-extraterrestrial songwriting and arrangements. One of the best tracks here is "Bitter Sunsets," which follows the jarring and dissonant opener "Uncovering a Word" with sparkling synths, dirty bass and a surprising vocal stretch around the one-minute mark, but transforms by the end to linger on the darker lyric, "for a god who never cared."
There is no one who can do what ORL does on the guitar, let alone what he does with guitar, bass, synths and samples. It might not always make sense immediately, but those who endeavour to unravel the mysteries in ORL's work will find it uplifting. (Ipecac)