Argentinian guitarist Mariano Rodriguez weaves a compelling narrative with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an understanding of the evolving landscape. La Ciudad que descansa sobre las espaldas de un Monstruo Dormido translates as “The City that Rests on the Back of a Sleeping Monster” and across 14 beguiling pieces, Rodriguez paints intimate sonic pictures of his life in ways that extend across imagined borders to become everyone’s stories, the sounds of traditions and memories across time as viewed backward in time.
The album opens with a three-part meditation on the way the dawn, each day, gives us another chance to persevere. Lighthearted and amiable, “Las bromas del Gringo Sheffield” forges ahead with familiar song structures, a soundtrack to tumbleweed adventures rolling across dusty plains. Simple pleasures abound, the lightness felt is a dream. “El Campanario” stands tall, strutting across chord changes that rise and fall with the mountains’ shapes along the horizon, a stolid permanence that, from a certain position, gives away its constancy. Rodriguez weaves hidden threads throughout La Ciudad, hints that the outside story isn’t the whole story after all. Minor chords sneak into the bouncy plucks of “La Ciudad que descansa sobre las Espaldas de un Monstruo Dormido,” the tide shifting.
Throughout La Ciudad Rodriguez never misses. Every note is perfectly placed, balancing timeless melodies that are simultaneously fresh and well-worn. Rodriguez’s timing is like a metronome, always in the groove, and while there’s a familiarity in his style – most reminiscent of Henry Taussig – he plays with refined sweetness. Ingrained in every bar is an almost anxious desire to make the right choice, the hope that whatever path we follow does the least damage to the people, and places, closest to us.
With “El fantasma del Gigante” that feeling becomes too much as the darkness beckons. Translated as “The Ghost of the Giant,” these aural ruminations trickle out from a sacred source, the temptation to throw it all away and start anew even knowing we’ll be forever haunted by what’s left behind. The spacious landscape is an invitation to wander, but Rodriguez walks the tightrope of pensiveness and resolve. On “Siesta,” we rest and let it go, the searching notes imbued with the reminders of how the smallest things – the soft touch of a partner’s fingertips; smells of fresh-cut flowers; the way the morning air’s crispness tickles the skin – hold the deepest essence of who and where we are.
Solo guitar music continues having a moment in 2021 and Mariano Rodriguez contributes to the magic like a velvet hammer. His music is soft but carries so much weight. Trepidation becomes magnificence on the incredible “La Montaña Ventana,” Rodriguez carrying his reflection up the mountain as his guitar sings out in triumph, moving ever upward to the summit. His music is gentle yet potent; classic. La Ciudad que descansa sobre las espaldas de un Monstruo Dormido is a beautiful meditation on the permanence we live behind to find a place in the beyond as the echoes ring out in perpetuity.
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