Review Rodrigo y Gabriela – Area 52

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Released on Republic Media, the fifth album by virtuoso guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Area 52, is definitely a step in a new direction for the Mexican pair. Dedicated fans may approach the album with a little apprehension. Since Rodrigo y Gabriela’s last studio release, 11:11, the duo have made big moves towards widespread recognition; a headlining slot at Glastonbury 2010, a main stage slot at Latitude 2010, and of course work in Hollywood scoring Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Hans Zimmer. A lot has happened in a short time for the pair who started off playing in Dublin pubs.

Maybe the most significant change to the duo’s style for Area 52 is the collaboration with C.U.B.A.; a 13 piece orchestra comprised of some of Havana’s most promising young players. This is Rodrigo y Gabriela’s first album with a backing band and the name Area 52 aptly sums up the unknown and experimental feeling of this release.

Whilst some might see this move as a betrayal of the pure virtuosic guitar style the duo has become famous for, space has been left for the guitar workouts. What’s nice is that this isn’t Rodrigo & Gabriela simply with a backing band. C.U.B.A. are every bit as skilled musicians as the pair, and integrate more like a third band member. For me, this album is more about creating great music rather than just virtuosic guitar, and whilst I’ve loved Rodrigo y Gabriela’s previous work, it’s great that the fifth album has a little more variety.

The album is exciting and all encompassing. Alongside Rodrigo y Gabriela’s trademark style you can hear overtones of jazz, rock, Cuban, Irish and metal influences which have no doubt played heavily on the pair; yet nothing grates. The album is fluid, genuine and gives the impression that these are musicians simply enjoying playing. Importantly, none of the raw energy of the pair’s previous live and studio albums has been lost. If anything, C.U.B.A. drive them forward, giving them a challenge they rise to brilliantly.

Area 52 maintains the style, the flare, the virtuosity and most importantly the raw energy of the pair perfectly, and I think is a natural and well-timed progression in Rodrigo y Gabriela’s exciting career.

Area 52 is available from iTunes and Amazon


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