Album Review: “The Clouds Hill Tapes Part I-III” by Omar Rodríguez-López

Omar Rodríguez-López

This summer continues to see tracks released by multi-Instrumentalist/composer Omar Rodríguez-López (ORL) from his new 3LP vinyl box-set entitled “The Clouds Hill Tapes Parts I-III.” The complete vinyl box-set, which was finally released today July 24th, contains vinyl-only tracks along with the yet to be heard Part III. This vinyl box-set arrives just in time for the summer blues that have been plaguing the party nation.

These albums include new recordings of three sessions dating from the years 2018-2019 recorded at the Clouds Hill Studios. Part I features eight pieces, and Part II and III six pieces each. All of these tracks are performed by Omar Rodríguez-López and include a range of guest musicians.

In this album review Hazy Eye Music Media’s contributor Joseph Strand reviews “The Clouds Hill Tapes Part I-III” by Omar Rodríguez-López. ORL is best known as the guitarist and driving force behind At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta; however, this project takes the listener down an alternate path. “Each part is a different path to a different world. Each track a different incantation. Omar Rodríguez-López again shows us what kind of pan-dimensional musical collaborator he is.” Continue reading below for Joseph’s full review.

Omar Rodríguez-López

As you may already know, the songs in these three volumes were selected from the variety of solo albums that ORL previously released from his private collection, through Ipecac Records circa 2016-2017. These new renditions, originally featuring ORL on vocals, have been revived with new breath from Spanish singer/songwriter Virginia García Alvez, and her unstoppable vocal prowess.

Helming the ship at Clouds Hill Recording Studios in Hamburg, Germany, was Johann Scheerer, and long-time friend and collaborator of Omar’s. Together, with the help of many other collaborators, this incarnation of The Omar Rodríguez-López Group has transformed these solo originals into three very different sets of virtuosic grooves.

Clouds Hill Part I:

This initial offering is what you’d hope to find in any jukebox or playlist. A concoction of up-tempo rock and funk riffs, swirling organs and synthesizers, sexy bass beats, and the occasional dash of exotic piano keys. A wide range of urban tropical themes, danceable grooves that course tastefully through psychedelic landscapes of inner turmoil and self-actualization. Electric witchcraft on ecstasy.

This volume is comprised of 8 songs re-recorded from solo albums like Roman Lips, Umbrella Mistress, Weekly Mansions, and Killing Tingled Lifting Retreat. Two tracks from this collection are available on vinyl only: “Arcos Del Armor,” (originally from Arañas En La Sombra), the only song in Spanish, and also a bewitching rendition of “To Kill A Chi Chi”, (originally from Sworn Virgins) with its crushing beat, noir-like guitar treatments, and García Alvez’s haunting vocals.

Clouds Hill Part II:

An emotive collection of ballads and other soulful inversions, heavily focused on piano performance and Virginia García Alvez’s vocals as centerpiece, with other instruments like guitar and symphonic synths acting as accompaniment. The mix on this collection is markedly different than Part I and cinematic in feel, giving the impression that García Alvez’s voice in suspended in time, a relic from a lost era.

With the opening line “Haunted by diamond cut teeth and carved out of pain…” we are immediately transported. A small choir made up of García Alvez’s voice sings “All these sad, sad songs will never amount to anything. But if these sad, sad songs should give you hope…” a one-woman choir, summarizing in this one line, a theme that permeates Part II as a whole. Perfect for late night musings or remedy to a Sunday morning hangover.

Clouds Hill Part III:

Along with the vinyl box set that has officially been released today July 24th, a new pop friendly single from Part III is being released, entitled “Winter’s Gone.” It begins with sporadic synth chops to a marching beat of light electronic snares rolling into the lines “Another winter goes away…I find myself waking in bed alone…the cold outside can’t deny me the right to fight.” A fresh breath of optimism and renewal after having revisited so many past lives filled with what Omar himself described as “an incredible amount of suffering.” This final volume brings yet another stylistic shift moving into chill tempos with acid jazz organ melodies set to electronic beats and more prominent use of sub-bass drops.

The deck is cut. The cards are on the table. Each part is a different path to a different world. Each track a different incantation. Omar Rodríguez-López again shows us what kind of pan-dimensional musical collaborator he is. We’re going to keep our eyes on Virginia García Alvez as well, whose contribution elevated this already great material to a whole new plane.

The 3LP box-set includes 10 printed photos taken during the Clouds Hill Sessions and the original tapes can incidentally be seen on the covers of the three albums resulting from the sessions. Part III will be available on Friday, July 31st in digital format along with Part I-II on all digital platforms. Enjoy!

Purchase “The Clouds Hill Tapes Parts I-III” at the Clouds Hill Shop and watch the new video for the song, “Winter’s Gone.”

Click HERE or…Omar Rodríguez-López & ORL Projects for more info. You can also check out ORL bandcamp and/or stream these other ORL albums on Spotify:

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