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Music Review: El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez – Cryptomnesia

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A chaotic, knotty blast of sound and violence, El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s Cryptomnesia is intoxicating in its breadth and passion.

The band, a construction from The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Hella’s Zach Hill, was originally intended as a sort of duo experiment but quickly blossomed into a wreckage of noise and experimentation. Along with Rodriguez-Lopez and Hill, El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez features Mars Volta lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Mars Volta’s Juan Alderete de la Peña on bass, and Hella’s Jonathan Hischke.

Call it a supergroup if you like, but El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez is a fucking attack on all that is holy. With ear-drum wrecking sonic assaults and enough musical intricacy to please math geeks everywhere, Cryptomnesia makes for one hell of an experience.

Building something on a foundation of Hill’s rabid drumming and Rodriguez-Lopez’s play-til-you-die guitar was always bound to be a bit of a dangerous venture at the best of times, but the results on this record are just staggering. It’s haunting in its need to spring loose from its crate and demolish furniture and fine art, leaving nothing but clawmarks and speckled pandemonium in its wake.

Cryptomnesia is actually one of three records made in 2006 by the band, meaning that there’s much more to come from this infuriating and imaginative group.

No easy feat to get into in one setting, Cryptomnesia is a bit of a clusterfuck. Violently artistic and incessantly bold, the “songs” roar and rattle into existence with peculiar effects, feral guitar and remorseless pounding from Hill. His playing borders on the irrational, rifling through insane fills while Rodriguez-Lopez’s guitar meanders with wrecked riffs and tricky patterns until the music absolutely breaks down.

In the middle of the madness, El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez seems suddenly content to lay out some of the sweetest and most satisfying grooves in modern music.

Case in point: the strong lines and hard edges of “Warren Oates.” Listen as Rodriguez-Lopez builds the living shit out of a towering and ungodly riff, letting it rise as the track completely envelopes him. Bixler-Zavala’s vocals enter skilfully, nailing down all the right tones with his alternating falsetto.

Grimy effects and vocal samples pepper the intro to the title track before Rodriguez-Lopez and Hill chime in with a saturation bombing of sound. Bixler-Zavala joins in, too, layering offbeat vocals over a stair-climbing bass outline and a pile of keyboard racket.

To say Cryptomnesia is a demanding, difficult record would be an understatement. With tortuous, noisy tracks like the ridiculous “They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara” mixed in with the pulse-pounding thrills of “Noir,” the debut from El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez takes some getting used to.

Insanely determined, disturbing, thrilling and extremely brave, Cryptomnesia does its best to contain Rodriguez-Lopez’s ambitions and Hill’s talents. Whether it (or anything) could succeed at such a task is hard to tell, but this record works its ass off to explore the energies of some of modern music’s most brilliant musicians.

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