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Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A. – Area 52

Mar. 8, 2012

Now, here are nine tracks of different. Granted, most of us are familiar with the fiery and exotic energy of Latin music, not to mention its adorable melodies. However, what Rodrigo y Gabriela have done with their latest project, Area 52, goes far beyond that usual comfort zone. Here, we find the duo dabbling in the unknown, the uncharted, the land of—as they put it—“Mulder and Scully” (“The X-Files”).

Fresh from scoring Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Hans Zimmer, the duo headed to Cuba and, after securing a full 13-piece Cuban orchestra, began work on this album that includes a tribute to Pink Floyd (“11:11”), treads comfortably and confidently into Santana-land (“Hanuman”), plays in some hybrid world/Latin playground (“Ixtapa”), and, of course, the spice of Nuevo Flamenco (“Tamacun”). This is some complex-in-practice yet simple-in-concept stuff that demands attention.

From the opening notes of track one, “Santa Domingo,” you sense that you may be in for more than you bargained for, but you should quickly find the entire album a pleasant and refreshing exercise in experimentation and creativity. It’s…different. Flamenco and other Latin styles have taken on a variety of sounds and energy, and this unique take ranks among the most notable.

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s work here is replete with examples of plush self-expression while containing itself within the framework of the whole concept, despite the rather profound admission by the duo that they never had a direction and never will. Perhaps, when listening here, one can actually really appreciate that.  – Ronald Jackson