thu 25/07/2024

CD: Rodrigo y Gabriela and C U B A - Area 52 | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A. - Area 52

CD: Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A. - Area 52

Mexican duo head off their well-worn path to mark out new territory

Rodrigo y Gabriela thrusting heavy metal hand signs at the Cuban Revolution

It must have been difficult for Mexican acoustic instrumental guitar duo Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero to know where to go next. Initially discovered in Dublin as high-end buskers, they’ve built a career on energised acoustic pyrotechnics, combining complex Hispanic flourishes with heavy metal tics.

It’s an invigorating concoction, especially live, and eventually they were courted by Hollywood, writing pieces for Puss in Boots and the last Pirates of the Caribbean film.

The bigger picture, however, is that they’re seen by some as a one-trick pony. There’s a touch of the Gotan Project syndrome about them. Gotan Project’s every album is very tasty but the millions who own their debut, La Revancha del Tango, feel that’s all the electronically tinged tango they’ll ever need. Same sort of thing with Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Thus they have taken a leap into the unknown, going to Cuba with producer and Swinging Sixties Beatles pal Peter Asher, hiring a 13-piece local ensemble to pep up a selection of their best-known numbers. It’s an ambitious project and some of the tunes – notably "Diablo Rojo" which was an unstoppable smasher in its original form – are not improved, but overall it’s a success.

There’s an exciting sense of things teetering into chaos, a wild vibrancy as guest Anoushka Shankar’s frenzied sitar plays off against Las Vegas stage show brass stabs on “Ixtapa”. There’s variety too, sometimes heading towards Home Counties car stereo territory, like the proggy, reflective guitar play of “11.11”, but more often hyperspeed fretwork and deliciously playful Latin ballroom sounds, as on the piano-laden “Santo Domingo”. It’s an album that, paradoxically, combines easy listening grooves with wild global hybrid music. It also undoubtedly achieves its aim, taking Rodrigo y Gabriela out of their comfort zone, making them a less predictable quantity and begging the query, “I wonder what they’ll do next?”

Watch trailer for Area 52

They have taken a leap into the unknown, going to Cuba with producer and swinging Sixties Beatles pal Peter Asher


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters