Omar Rodríguez-López

A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack, Vol. 1

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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason

The first solo project from Omar Rodriguez Lopez (At the Drive-In, the Mars Volta, etc.) sounds at first like random scraps and half-finished doodles. The project's status as half of the soundtrack of an uncompleted film, recorded over the space of nearly three full years, would seem to support this reading, and admittedly, there are passages of this album, such as the elongated near-ambient intros of several songs, that fit that description. A closer listening to the album reveals that although it has its missteps and derivative aspects -- as both a guitarist and an arranger, Rodriguez Lopez seems to have a serious Frank Zappa fetish -- overall, A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume 1 is interesting enough to be at least guardedly recommended. An almost entirely instrumental album (the closing "The Palpitations Form a Limit," with lyrics and vocals by longtime partner Cedric Bixler Zavala, is as close as the album ever comes to traditional rock & roll, although the rather brilliant "Deus Ex Machina" features Spanish-language vocals over a salsa-rock fusion track), it skips blithely from sheets of fuzzy white noise ("Sensory Decay Part II") to layers of overdubbed guitar squalls ("Dramatic Theme") to skewed jazz-funk instrumentals that sound like early Brian Eno mixed with late David Byrne ("Dyna Sark Arches"), at times within the same song. Occasionally aggravating but more often intriguing, A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume 1 is a mostly enjoyable listen, as long as you're not expecting another At the Drive-In or Mars Volta release.

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