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Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Old Money CD (album) cover


Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

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3 stars For my second PA review, I'd like to write about an album I'm a bit surprised hasn't had a review yet.

Believe me, you can tell within the first five seconds of pressing play who is at the helm of this ship. Old Money is peppered with almost all the hallmarks of ORL's work with The Mars Volta. Wild guitar solos, frantic drumming, spacey sound collages, and jazzy bass lines fill this record from top to bottom. The only thing missing is Cedric Bixler Zavala's bold (and controversial) vocals.

I really have to applaud the lineup gathered for this affair. Jon Theodore and Deantoni Parks provide some killer drumming packed with clever fills and inventive rhythms. Speaking of great rhythms, Juan Alderete lays down some of that fantastic bass work we've come to expect. He has a keen ear for the composition, always playing just what the track needs. No more, no less. Marcel Rodriguez Lopez's contributions are appreciated, if a little understated (except on the last song, where he plays some cool drum parts). Cedric (playing drums) and TMV's former woodwind player Adrian Terrazas-Gonzales also make brief appearances.

A lot of this album can sound very chaotic (The Power of Myth, Population Council's Wet Dream, etc.), but as TMV's fans know, it is a really nice kind of chaos. Omar and co. never let their jams fall off the proverbial cliff. To balance out the madness of some of the wilder songs, a few mellower tracks (Trilateral Commission as Dinner Guests, How to Bill the Bilderberg Group) are thrown in the mix. These highs and lows help to create the illusion that the listener is going on an unforgettable cosmic journey.

The highlights on this album for me are the last two tracks. I Like Rockefellers' First Two Albums, but After That... starts off with a hypnotic riff courtesy of Omar himself. Eventually, the song blossoms into a very psychedelic jam that always makes me think of spaceships in old sci-fi movies. Distorted synths eventually overtake the jam and close out the song quite nicely. The title track is a nine minute blowout that ends the album with a bang. Starting with a haunting soundscape reminiscent of Frances The Mute's more ambient moments, the band (comprised only of Omar, Juan, and Marcel) eventually segues into a nice laid back jam about three minutes in. This jam grows progressively more intense as one of Omar's tasty guitar solos dominates the song. After a brief reprise of the post-soundscape theme, Omar launches into a final solo that brings the CD to a terrific conclusion.

I really like this album, but I can only justify giving it three stars. It is a good place to start exploring ORL's solo work, but it's not as strong as any full length Mars Volta record. If you are a TMV fan who needs something to hold you over until the next release, I would definitely recommend picking this one up. At 45 minutes, it never overstays its welcome and you can listen to it over and over without growing bored.

Report this review (#395686)
Posted Sunday, February 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Supposedly, this album was originally intended to be the follow-up to The Mars Volta's Amputechture. The line-up is the same (almost certain) except there is no Cedric, whose vocals are almost missed. This is one of those instrumental concept albums where the cover art and song titles have a theme. The theme here is big money and those who control it. From watching interviews with Omar it is very clear he is into conspiracy theories, specifically the ones about a small, elite group who control the world.

Even though this is generally in the same territory as TMV, there are some moments of what I call 'solo Omar': music that you would hear on one of his many solo albums but not necessarily on a TMV album. Album opener "The Power Of Myth" is very Voltian. Features great guitar playing and drumming. Love the altered guitar sound in the middle. Parts of this song almost sound like symphonic prog. Gets very spacey after 3 minutes. Some backwards effects near the end. The title of "How To Bill The Bilderberg Group" is a reference to an annual meeting of rich and influential people from North America and western Europe, including bankers, politicians and heads of multi-national corporations. The attendees of each meeting are kept secret from the public.

The music itself is some jazzy dub reggae. Lots of spacey altered voice samples. The title of "Population Council's Wet Dream" is a reference to the Population Council, established by a Rockefeller. It was based in the eugenics movement of the late 19th/early 20th century which lead directly to Nazi Germany. Conspiracy theorists accuse this group of 'population control' by trying to prevent the birth of 'undesirables.' The music is again more TMV sounding. An almost siren-like sound from guitar at one point. Features the obligatory spacey sounds to be found on Omar's solo albums.

"Private Fortunes" sounds more like Omar solo with the percussion and symphonic string- synths. Good guitar soloing here. The title of "Trilateral Commision As Dinner Guests" refers to the organisation founded by David Rockefeller as a way of bringing the USA, Europe and Japan closer after WWII. Conspiracy theorists believe this group is trying to form a one-world-goverment. This is more Omar solo with sax and compressed drums. Cool spacey synth sounds at the end.

"Family War Funding (Love Those Rothschilds)" refers to the Rothschilds, who are a powerful European Jewish banking dynasty and are related to the American Rockefellers. They are often accused of influencing goverments and funding both sides of a war. This song is musically the most TMV sounding. It actually sounds sort of familiar; Omar sometimes recycles riffs. This song just grooves and is one of the highlights of the album. There are two references in the title of "I Like Rockefellers' First Two Albums, But After That..." One is of course to the Rockefellers themselves, who are based in the banking capital of the world, New York City. The second one I believe is a mocking of those who say that only the first two TMV albums were good.

The song itself features talking in Spanish at times. Musically this is similar to TMV and one of the stronger songs here. The title track is the longest and best song. Great guitar playing. Some parts are more spacey and mellow while others are harder rocking. For the most part the track consists of a main groove while Omar plays some great altered guitar sounds over top. Love the echoed effect near the end. This album very well could be the strongest of his 34,768 albums...but I haven't heard them all. Highly recommended if you like TMV but not Cedric's vocals and lyrics. 4 stars.

Report this review (#529790)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Being a massive fan of the Mars Volta, I've wanted to look into Omar Rodriguez Lopez's solo career for quite a while, but became slightly daunted upon the realisation that his studio discography was one of the most absurdly large ones I was aware of, only surpassed by 'Buckethead' (Note: That I am aware of). After much deliberation about where to begin, I decided to pick from his higher rated works at random, and fell upon his 9th effort, 'Old Money'. This album was apparently written to follow up 'Amputechture', which is quite clear in terms of the very strong resemblance to 'The Mars Volta' heard throughout the majority of the tracks. This to me sounds like an instrumental, more jam focused take on 'The Mars Volta', with more experimentation in the area of soundscapes and atmosphere, having more moments that become extremely chaotic, along with songs that progress very minimally, instead made to capture a particular tone or mood. This is essentially the 'Mars Volta' without Omar being tied down to the notion that his music needs to be liked by a slightly wider audience, in turn allowing for some great creative freedom.

The album starts off very strong with 'The Power of Myth', which if I'm being honest, I actually like more than a large number of Volta songs. The drumming throughout is incredible, with great fill after great fill, being able to so easily slip into brief bursts of energy before falling back onto the beat, constantly keeping time along with energy. This is further made better by the amazing riff that switches from guitar to bass throughout, and is all around a great track. 'Population Council's Wet Dream' is the next notable track, being quite chaotic, yet having the beat constantly return to a triple cymbal crash or bass drum hit on the 4th bar, providing the listener with something to be able to latch onto. Because of this, no matter how chaotic the song becomes, it never becomes too chaotic, as the improvisation of the other instruments is still closely linked to this motif. This allows things to go really far off the rails without it sounding dull or unbearable, as there is always something the listener can pick out, and this interesting little thing makes it one of my favourite songs on the album, along with the overall great groove that the song has. 'Family War Funding (Love Those Rothschilds)' is a faster paced song with a really great climax that makes the fact that the rest of the song is slightly subpar quite tolerable. 'I Like Rockefeller's First Two Albums, But After That...' is a really great track with the kind of danceable groove that could be found on 'Bedlam in Goliath'. Combine this with the stronger Spanish music influence that the band and Omar are known to have, complete with samples of a conversation, spoken in Spanish, further accentuating this identity. 'Old Money' is by far the highlight of this album, having extremely strong melody combined with guitar playing even more excellent than usual with Omar. The fact that it has those slower, spacier sections flesh this song out quite a lot, making it feel like an actual song, rather than an experimental noodling session, and in general sound amazing.

Speaking of experimental noodling session, those aren't necessarily a bad thing, as can be seen in the songs not talked about yet. 'How To Bill The Bilderberg Group', 'Private Fortunes', 'Trilateral Commission as Dinner Guests' and 'Vipers in the Bosom' all fit this description very well, but are mostly worthy compositions. 'How To Bill the Bilderberg Group' isn't anything particularly special, but I do like the eerie tone created by the heavily edited voices and heavy use of various effects, and find it to be interesting, even if not necessarily anything great. 'Private Fortunes' utilises world music instruments and has a much calmer tone to it when put up against the rest of the album, focusing on the really pleasant atmosphere set up, with even the impressive soloing sounding much nicer than usual. 'Trilateral Commission As Dinner Guests' has a structure similar to that of 'CAN', having a simple, repetitive groove or melody, and then simply jamming over it for a few minutes. The big difference here is that this is infinitely more bombastic than anything 'CAN' has done, although it doesn't have the same sort of feeling as 'CAN' does, as you don't feel like the songs could simply go on forever, and is definitely inferior to quite a bit of their work.

There are definitely a couple of weaker aspects to the album, the biggest being the filler tracks of '1921' and 'Vipers in the Bosom', both going basically nowhere and serving no real purpose, ultimately taking me out of the experience briefly. My other issue is that I feel like a few of these songs could have been developed a bit further, as some of them, while sounding good, are kinda underbaked when compared to the amazing heights this album reaches, although if taking away the perspective of this album, just focusing on the tracks themselves, they prove to be quite interesting and good, it's just that it can make the album feel slightly inconsistent at points.

Despite having no vocals and getting somewhat inconsistent in the middle section, this album is genuinely great, being better than both 'Octahedron' and Noctourniquet' in my opinion. While it took me much longer to get into this, due to the stranger qualities of the album, and also because I'm usually not an avid listener of purely instrumental music, I definitely find many songs on this to be of extremely high quality, and have been convinced to look through some more of Omar's gargantuan discography at some point as a result.

Best Songs: The Power Of Myth, Population Council's Wet Dream, Old Money

Weakest Songs: 1921, Vipers In The Bosom, How To Bill The Bilderberg Group

Verdict: More out there than most Mars Volta releases, but definitely has strong resemblances in terms of sound. I'd recommend this to any fan of Amputechture or with the Mars Volta in general, but would definitely recommend you check them out before delving into this one, unless the vocals were your issue with the band.

Report this review (#2117142)
Posted Friday, January 11, 2019 | Review Permalink

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