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#039: Old Money

For hip hop heads, Stones Throw records has always been a consistent source of quality tunes. Even if you’re not into Gary Wilson’s eccentricity, Dudley Perkin’s crooning or the never-ending infinity of Madlib’s musical output, you can always rely on the Oh No / Dilla / Peanut Butter Wolf releases for some solid boom bap.

Then Stones Throw put out Old Money.

Omar

This is the latest solo album from Omar Rodriguez Lopez, lead guitarist of prog-rock masters The Mars Volta (and previously the amazing post-hardcore band At The Drive-In). Despite the album featuring six guest musicians that are all current or former members of The Mars Volta, Old Money is wholly Lopez’s project as the bass, drums and percussion all act as a backdrop for Lopez’s dominating guitar work.

Old Money seems to be an exercise in (relative) frugality from Lopez, who normally thrives on elongated guitar solos and hours-long jam sessions (just go see The Mars Volta live) as the album opens with the ‘The Power of Myth’. The track is a commanding opener with an immediate driving energy and despite inevitably dropping into a few guitar solos along the way, the rhythmic pace is sustained elegantly until the track names get typically weirder and ‘How To Bill The Bilderberg Group’ carries the album forward. Wurlitzer, keys and synths meld together as filtered vocals swim back and forth, and in this collage the hip hop heads could imagine a flowing emcee kicking off the rhythm of the bass… that is before the experimental rock craziness that is within Lopez’s mind takes control and we are lost amongst ghostly helicopter-like echoes.

It’s at this point though, that the album does begin to fly away and the energy felt in the opening track returns with increased potency and continues for the remainder of the album. Tracks led by Lopez’s skilled guitar meandering are held together by steady percussive rhythms and while occasional bursts of eccentricity puncture out above the drums, Old Money maintains a consistent meditative quality found in some of the best guitar-led instrumentation (for example, the last 9 minutes of ‘Just Abondoned My-Self’ by Boris).

Feeding from a pulsing crescendo, the track ‘1921’ provides an instrumental composition of sounds, really creating a very evocative and atmospheric resting point in the album. Old Money continues afterward, blasting through funk infused melodies, frenetic power jams (‘Family War Funding’), gritty chilled interludes (‘Vipers In The Bosom’) and enveloping aural soundscapes before it’s soon all over. Too soon even.

However, the final track, ‘Old Money’, is definitely worth waiting for and it closes the album with superb melodic subtlety and showcases the best of Lopez’s talent.

Experimental rock is in full force throughout Old Money but don’t let the ridiculous track names put you off (‘Population Council’s Wet Dream’ !?) there is a lot to be gained from listening (even if you are a hip hop head) and Lopez really pushes himself musically, creating the kind of wonderfully crafted compositions that you would expect from someone who must currently be one of the best blokes that play guitar.

Links:
Stones Throw Records - Old Money
The Mars Volta

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