Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Review: Del Toro - Hydra

Del Toro's debut album, Hydra, is aptly named. At times this album feels like it has many heads, but at the bottom of it all it's all part of the one beast. Each song feels like the score to some cinematic masterpiece, but exactly what film you don't know, and therein lies the beauty of Hydra; each song is open to the listener's unique interpretation.

Hydra kicks off with a RZA-style intro featuring dialogue from a Alejandro Jodorowsky film before vaulting into the sound that Del Toro has come to embody; sprawling atmospheric 'desert rock'. The track, 'Man Bites Bear', rambles on until to the exact point where the listener begins to drift, and then Adam Dodd's guitar kicks into overdrive and gives the song another perspective before trailing off into the setting sun. 'Spare Parts' is a bouncy change of pace that makes good use of delay and distortion. Jason Leca's bassline carries the song along in whichever direction he feels they need to go, while Adam's guitar weaves around and Bre O'Neill pounds away on the skins.

'Exxo' intersperses distorted riffs with some eerie effect-laden guitar lines. The song is one of many tracks on Hydra to display the influence of the album's producer Casey Rice (Tortoise, Dirty Three). The shrill 'Transit' sound like it's being played with a dentists drill rather then a guitar, but the three-minute blast of sound works quite effectively. The brooding 'Frog Prince' gets a little crazy midway with what sounds like a Japanese women speaking before being shattered into electronic oblivion.

The pounding 'Oaxaca' follows on with that spaghetti western-in-space feel returning under the layers of sonic distortion. The excellent 'Cabo' has a similar, if somewhat more laid back, vibe to it. 'Sharpie' throws a bit of surf-rock guitar styling into the post-rock mix, before Del Toro launches into the one-two punch of 'Hydra' and 'Huevos Del Oro'. The title track has a glimmering, aquatic feel to it, building up until it reaches the sludgy, Swervedriver-like 'Huevos Del Oro'. The whole band shine on the track, with Dodd's guitar creating dense sheets of sound that make the song sound a lot bigger then it has any right be.

'Unlimited' and the oddly named 12th track, '13', continue with the proven formula or previous songs, but the next song, 'Saddle Down', is an epic eight minute long track which verges on falling under the classification of Krautrock. The track chugs along until the pulsing semi-motorik beat drops away halfway through and is soon replaced by a filtered didgeridoo before the song builds up to a soaring conclusion. Hydra then reaches its conclusion with 'The Good, The Bad, and The Undead', a Morricone-esque piece that is a fitting ending to the aural journey the album proffers.

Hydra is a unique and well developed take on instrumental rock, with the ability to stand up to the works of its peers within the genre. The album rewards the listener in a different way each time it is played, a sure sign that Hydra will stand he test of time.

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