Having just written about my ten favourite albums of 2016 – here are two more I discovered before the old year ran out as a bonus:
The first one is the jubilee edition of one of my favourite albums: “Omega” by Morente & Lagartija Nick. About 20 years ago Flamenco singer Enrique Morente met alternative rock band Lagartija Nick and other musicians to record an album. “Omega” was unlike any other venture into flamenco-rock. The idea was to set some poems by Federico Garcia Lorca to music, choosing mainly his later poems written in New York where the writer experienced isolation and alienation that found their way into his poetry of that time, as well as the criticism of the capitalist and materialistic society he witnessed in a world suffering from the Wall Street Crash and the financial crisis.
What makes “Omega” such a fascinating album is how the musicians manage to capture these dark atmospheres with their sad flamenco tunes that, at times, they simply basted away with walls of electric guitars, before they slowly pave their way back through all the heavy riffs. This is most prominent in “Vuelta De Paseo” where with the line “¡Asesinado por el cielo!” (“Assassinated by the sky!”) the guitars almost strike you down like thunder.
The poems don’t really have a refrain and are not really accessible at first. To compensate for that, a few cover versions of Leonard Cohen songs are well placed throughout the album and help you to tune in much faster. When the album starts with its 10 minute title track, you get “Pequeño Vals Vienés” (“Take This Walz”) straight afterwards, giving you something like and anchor to hold on to in a sea of flamenco and electric guitars, and bringing Garcia Lorca and Cohen together in a natural way.
The jubilee version finishes the album with a bonus track that was recorded with Sonic Youth. A second CD contains demos, out-takes and alternative versions, including two more Cohen covers and another unreleased track, completing the picture. There also is a documentary on DVD and an extensive booklet with photos, notes and interviews.
Named after a fictional terrorist group in Luis Buñuel’s film “That Obscure Object of Desire”, the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus is a somewhat obscure band. Having only released three albums and an EP in almost thirty years, their sound mixes folk, Christian chants and mysticism with electronic sounds. “Beauty Will Save The World” was already released in 2015, about two decades after their second album “Mirror”, but I only noticed it in late December. Similar to their previous work, they continue to create beautiful music that takes from many genres and cultural references, but their new opus revolves around a meditative undercurrent that is hardly ever broken. Gone is the distortion and the noise present in some of their previous work and replaced by pianos, strings and ethnic percussions that carefully drive the album further and building a piece of music that seems to revolve entirely around different concepts of beauty.