Published Nov 16, 2016Omar Rodríguez-López (the Mars Volta, At the Drive-In) is releasing 12 albums every two weeks over the second half of this year. The series has ranged from folk-rock to electro-pop to the alien-prog-rock he is known for, and Zapopan, the ninth in this series, in informed by that last style.
Drummer Deantoni Parks has played with ORL since 2008 and even joined TMV for their last album, 2012's Noctourniquet. He gives the songs a similarly aggressive vibe at times, especially coupled with the more dissonant style in ORL's guitar playing from that time. However, ORL's humble pipes make for no fair comparison to Cedric Bixler-Zavala's (same goes for most human beings, really).
Most of Zapopan's songs are reworks from past ORL albums (2012's Saber, Querer, Osar y Callar and 2013's Unicorn Skeleton Mask, both of which also feature Parks). In that light, improvement abounds here. The old versions were swamped with effects and hampered by lo-fi; Chris Common not only cleans up the mixes tremendously here, but the slightly different arrangements of guitar and synth parts sparkle.
ORL's strengths are guitar playing and composition, and the best examples here are probably "Tentáculos De Fé" and "Spell Broken Hearts." The former uses watery chords and a simple but insistent beat for a sort of new wave sound, while the latter has a creepy, bluesy, swing feel and a pleading solo towards the end. "Harboring a Sadist" is terrifyingly sparse and chill-inducing.
The solo releases from ORL this year dispel any doubts about his talent and restless experimentation. While not always successful on their own, they show an artist developing his own language, often with equally talented collaborators. (Ipecac)