CL Feature: Rodrigo Y Gabriela, an acoustic rock duo from Mexico who play The Ritz on Sunday

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Much of Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s singular sonic character comes from the fearless way they intertwine these inspirations, particularly with regard to their prodigious use of elements of the genre that drew them to playing in the first place: “I’m a metalhead, and I can talk about it for ages,” says Sanchez. “I think we actually somehow get it into the music we do, acoustically speaking, we play a lot of metal riffs on acoustic guitar, and people don’t really realize that it’s metal, but somehow we’re introducing this music to a lot of mainstream people … it’s a shame that a lot of people don’t really acknowledge that, because it’s a very technical style where you find a lot of excellent musicians.”

Those articulate, atmospheric and often eerie elements inspired by metal are, if anything, even more prevalent on the duo’s follow-up to Rodrigo Y Gabriela, last year’s 11:11. Conceived as a tribute to some of Quintero and Sanchez’s most revered influences, each of the CD’s tracks is inspired by a different artist. One of the most frenetic, “Atman,” honors Dimebag Darrell, the former Pantera guitarist who was shot and killed onstage during a show in late 2004; Alex Skolnick, a shredder best known for his work with thrash outfit Testament, contributes a masterful electric solo to the track.

Acoustic instrumentation aside, the entire production and airtight exactitude of 11:11’s performances also echo the metal aesthetic, due to both the contributions of mixer Colin Richardson (Fear Factory, Chimaira, Slipknot, Trivium) and Sanchez’s desire to step away from the simpler, more organic process of previous recording efforts.

“We wanted to do something more technical and more anal, a little more based on the way we used to record when we were in a metal band in Mexico,” he says. “And knowing we were going to work with Colin for the mix, we had to produce kind of the same technique, we wanted to do something very clinical and clean … the recording [process] was clear to me, what I wanted to do with it.”

With that clarity of vision, Sanchez and Quintero went about producing the album themselves, in their own newly-constructed studio in Ixtapa, near Mexico’s west coast, free of time constraints and far from the influence of big-city scenes and label pressure.

“It is very comfortable to have our own studio, and being at home, knowing that you can spend fifteen hours a day in the studio without thinking about the budget, having the record label there just to tell you to hurry up and all that, I think it makes a big difference, you know?” Sanchez says. “I’m glad we got to this position to [be able to] build the studio. It was very expensive, obviously, but now I can see how worth it it was.”

All this talk of buzzsaw inspiration and immaculate recording process shouldn’t have fans too worried. Rodrigo Y Gabriela certainly didn’t emerge from their endeavors with anything remotely resembling a metal album. Dimebag Darrell, Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix aside, the vast majority of artists paid tribute on 11:11 have nothing at all to do with hard rock, and the album simmers with that indescribable blend of mood, technique and energy that first endeared the pair to open-minded listeners worldwide. In fact, several of the musicians they chose to celebrate could politely be described as obscure outside their homeland or genre — a circumstance that weighed heavily in their inclusion.

“I think the most important part of it is to contribute to music and art by introducing these artists,” says Sanchez. “A lot of them are well known, obviously, but a few of them, our friends and fans wouldn’t know they existed. I think that’s the main part of the whole thing, to introduce these artists to the people who potentially would like them, and spread the word about their music.”

A gorgeous, layered album of groundbreaking instrumental guitar music that pleases old fans and is sure to attract new ones, while honoring Pink Floyd, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco De Lucia, among many others?

Pretty ambitious for a flamenco duo.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Sun., March 21, 8 p.m., The Ritz Ybor, Ybor City, $25 general/$40 VIP Balcony.

The first sentence of their biography on calls twosome Rodrigo Y Gabriela a “flamenco duo.” Which is about the same as calling foie gras a “dip” or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a “black dude.” Okay, yeah, you could argue that the description is technically true on some level, but it fails so spectacularly to express the import or essence of its subject that it’s pretty much useless.

Yes, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero are Mexicans who use acoustic guitars to produce complex, exotic music that often evinces a Latin flavor. Those sounds and styles, however, represent only a fraction of the myriad influences — garnered over the course of a journey that’s taken the pair from their teenage years as Mexico City speed-metal musicians to buskers on the streets of Ireland, then to headliners at legendary European halls and back to their native country as a critically-acclaimed act — that shape Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s evocative, multilingual aural persona. The duo’s eponymous 2006 breakthrough showcased them as musically omnivorous fans and practitioners of everything from rhythmic funk and adventurous jazz to complex Spanish, South American and Middle Eastern traditions, executed with original flair and virtuosic precision.

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