28
Jun 21

Omargeddon #22: Gorilla Preacher Cartel

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Omar Rodríguez-López song and album titles are some of the very best in existence, and it really doesn’t get much better than Gorilla Preacher Cartel. According to an early release schedule*, this was revised from the originally proposed Scrapyard Handshakes. Both are excellent appellations, and though I’m glad they went with the former, the latter would have been apt – APT!

If Weekly Mansions and A Lovejoy are like chronologies of ORL’s electronic music, Gorilla Preacher Cartel is like a cut-up method album featuring elements from no fewer than six albums, covering De-loused in the Comatorium, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus, Minor Cuts and Scrapes in the Bushes Ahead, Roman Lips, Solar Gambling, and the aforementioned Weekly Mansions (by way of Tychozorente). As on most of his other composite albums, ORL is credited with vocals and all instruments apart from the drums. The musicians featured here run the gamut of the Mars Volta’s lineup, including Jon Theodore, Thomas Pridgen, Dave Elitch, and Deantoni Parks, with only Blake Fleming absent.

ORL album covers are rarely indicative of the contents; Gorilla Preacher Cartel’s mirrorball and highlighter pen colouring hint at the ghost of disco beats. Although this is definitely a rockier album, electronic influence is heard most evidently on “Solo Dios Lo Permite”, a retitling of Weekly Mansion’s “Metallic Sweating for the Rich”. Over half the songs are instrumentals, something of a throwback to early-to-mid era electronic material but blessed with the crisper production quality associated with the Ipecac Recordings series rather than the lo-fi fuzziness of that time.

Opener “Spanish Castles” layers sonorous bass under top-level squelch smothered in spaghetti western sauce, which capably slides into “No Little Man”. From this point, light noodling gradually develops over the course of the album into a thick-cut slow shred, like an Ibiza holiday polaroid of Old Money. “Warship Super Flask” is less successful but only marginally so, due to the use of what frankly sounds like gibberish used as instrumentation, which I rarely enjoy.  

A slight deviation from the laid-back vibe is the punchy aggro of “Lección en Ignoracia”. This could very well be from a different pant leg of the Trousers of Time where ORL was the lead vocalist for At The Drive-In. The slight vocal delay and stabby judder of the beat makes it difficult for me to understand a lot of the lyrics (which include passages from “Bitter Tears” on Roman Lips), but ‘she’ is heard frequently, positively spat with passion. It speaks to the part of me who forever remains an angry teenager who hates ALL you guys and ensures that you are informed of this via lots of door-slamming and music-blasting.

The shakers and listless beat of “Civil War Chocolates” hearken back to the acid western backdrop of Old Money. This is actually hella tight but feels loose, an aural subtle-brag masking duck syndrome. The layers are heard distinctively, and most of the song consists of a build-up to an almost absent noodling, which gives me shivers every damn time and is the kind of thing I could literally listen to all day… and have. 

I’m certain that the final three tracks are meant to be a split track taken as a whole (“Loveless/Interceptions/Of Pride”). These songs continue to add layers on the shred, often pausing to strip them down, only to rebuild them with a solid foundation of guitar. I’ve noted before that cutting this across three songs could be another streaming-era device to earn a sad little millionth of a penny, but it’s also one that has been used in the past (one of my favourite examples is “A Device Imagined To Turn/Screaming Babies Inside Out/At the Push of a Button” from Megaritual).

Despite the somewhat piecemeal structure, Gorilla Preacher Cartel flows smoothly, progressively channel-shifting throughout, like lining up strips of William Morris wallpaper so skillfully you can’t see the seams. It fuses slick, late-era electronica with old-school psychedelic jamming and has been a near-constant soundtrack while I work from home in a room that’s an only slightly more grown-up version of my teenage bedroom and wait for shit to get back to normal. 

*Everything on this list after Ensayo de un Desaparecido  has been subsequently renamed, so I wonder if this list was simply a WIP placeholder. I also not that 12 albums are listed here but only 11 were issued, making me wonder if there isn’t a lost album somewhere, or if that material was absorbed elsewhere. I must admit, I am kind of bummed that Cosmic Jesus Hearst and Baby Teeth Farm didn’t make the cut.

Track listing:
Spanish Castles
No Little Man 
Buying Friendships
Te Adoro
Lección en Ignoracia
Solo Dios Lo Permite
Warship Super Flask
Civil War Chocolates
Loveless
Interceptions

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