CD Review

Orquesta del Desierto – “Dos”

By Dan Century

DosThe sound of “stoner rock” has changed over the past few years. Progressive artists like Josh Homme (Eagles of Death Metal, QOTSA, Dessert Sessions) have dropped the “ass, grass or gas” cliché, introduced new rhythms and instrumentation and left the omnipresent Sabbath influence behind. The result of this evolution is a sound that is unique, yet still rocks – it's proof that a stoner rock band doesn't have to sound like an Ozzy tribute band, and further proof that a any rock band can have their own sound and identity. Orquesta del Desietro's Dos album elevates the stoner rock genre to the next level of evolution, replacing electric guitars with acoustics, and adding brass instrumentation and tasty Latin percussion.

Orquesta del Desierto was brought together by songwriter and bassist Dandy Brown, with Pete Stahl (Scream, Goatsnake, Dessert Sessions) providing vocals, Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson), Country Mark Engle, and Mike Riley providing guitar, Pete Davidson and Adam Maples on drums and percussion, and Bill Barret as “The lone San Gorgonio trumpet.” Orquesta del Desierto, like QOTSA's Josh Homme, hails from the fertile rock scene of Palm Springs California, a desert resort town wedged between mountain ranges, boasting 364 days of sunshine a year. The sunshine and dessert vibe, along with local Western and Latin influences shine through Orquesta del Desierto's music.

You would not think so based on the title, but Life Without Color is a sonic celebration of Latin percussion, brass and acoustic guitar. This juxtaposition of somber lyrics and bright, effervescent music is characteristic of the entire album. Summer sounds like a summer night. Soft acoustic guitars, ethereal vocal harmonies and rolling rhythms frame singer Pete Stahl's hope that a waning romance will return like another summer.

Like a Summer as it ends
Like a touch of her hand
It's better still if you will
Say that it will come back.

In a time before corporate radio monopolies, in a time when radio DJs actually cared about music and sought out great new bands to play for their audiences, Summer would have been a huge hit.

Rope, a blues rock tune in the vein of Led Zepplin, finds Pete struggling with the ups and downs of life: “Gives me a whole lotta hope to hang on to, Gives me a whole lotta rope to hang from;” “I gotta wrist ready to bleed, I swear my dreams are gonna bury me.” Quick to Disperse, a collaboration of Pete and Dandy, is a song about escaping day to day bullshit: “I'm sick of sitting in traffic with millions of cars, I'm tired of standing around in the same old bars.” What in the World is a rock 'n roll boogie musically reminiscent of brassier Elvis or Johnny Cash tunes. Horns take this song from your local bar to the Vegas stage. Dos concludes with the somber and dreamy Sleeping the Dream. The warm and easy tone of Sleeping closes out the album like a dessert sunset – the perfect ending to fantastic CD.

Dos represents the greatest blending of Latin instrumentation and American rock since Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo Habitual. From start to finish Dos is an awesome album – there isn't one lame song on the disk. Orquesta del Desierto have taken “stoner rock” to a whole other level, and they may have given birth to a new genre in the process. If you're a fan of the Palm Springs music scene, or you want to take a break from Sabbath recycling, while still supporting the stoner scene, Dos is a must have album.

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