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Duo finds magic on new album First album in 23 years find Pixies in ‘progression’

Rodrigo y Gabriela, “9 Dead Alive” (ATO Records)
Wielding only acoustic guitars, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero conjure a mix of influences to create a sound that might only have been dreamed up by classical guitar great Andres Segovia, if he’d been born listening to Santana and Metallica. On “9 Dead Alive,” Rodrigo y Gabriela’s first new album in five years, the duo strips down to return to the raw, ferocious energy that won them global acclaim after they were discovered busking in Ireland. Alone with their guitars, the couple indeed create a whole far greater than their two instruments.

Each of the album’s nine instrumentals pays tribute to “enduring touchstones” such as writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, plus one string-bending thumper, “Torito,” honoring animals and nature. On the opening track, “The Soundmaker,” they bow to classical guitar godfather Antonio de Torres Jurado with a technically gorgeous piece in which Rodrigo furiously soars as Gabriela powerfully beats her guitar into a percussion piece. “Megalopolis,” their haunting homage to Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, weaves Rodrigo’s fragile melody through Gabriela’s melancholic rhythm.

The self-produced album recorded at the couple’s studio on Mexico’s Pacific Coast gives space for their untouched musical expression. The mix by acclaimed rock engineer Andrew Scheps is the perfect treatment, expertly restrained to allow Rodrigo and Gabriela’s magic to flourish on its own.

Joey Santiago has this helpful tip for Pixies fan savoring the alt-rock band’s first album in 23 years: Add to your existing playlist of past Pixies favorites. Hit shuffle. Enjoy. “It belongs in that old catalog,” said the lead guitarist who, with frontman Charles “Black Francis” Thompson and drummer David Lovering, has kept the Pixies at the cutting edge of American indie music since the 1980s. “The shuffle thing works for me, and hopefully people are cognizant of that,” added Santiago over a dodgy telephone line from London on Tuesday, the official North American release date for “Indie Cindy.”

Bringing together a dozen tracks from three previously released extended-play records, “Indie Cindy” is the Pixies’ fifth studio album — and the first since “Trompe le Monde” way back in 1991. Never ones to dominate the charts, the Pixies have nevertheless had an outsized impact since coming together in Boston in 1986, with their raw sound influencing the likes of Nirvana, Weezer and Radiohead. A cover version of their earliest hit, “Gigantic,” features prominently in an iPhone commercial now running on US television. Reviews for “Indie Cindy” have been mixed: while Rolling Stone shrugged it off as a sampling of “hit-or-miss songs,” Britain’s NME music weekly hailed the “long overdue” album as “free-sounding, adventurous and explosive.”

For Santiago, it is “an honest progression” and something of a “snapshot” of where the Pixies now stand, and where they might be going next, now that its members are well into middle age. “We’re such a lucky band, that we have, like, a style of our own,” he said. “We can basically pick and choose (musical styles) and explore out of that, without even thinking of it.” Hardcore fans will lament the absence of founding bassist Kim Deal, who abruptly quit the band in 2012 just as it was starting to record new material in Wales with producer Gil Norton. But Santiago, who kept in touch with all his band mates when the Pixies took 10 years off before reuniting as a touring entity in 2003, said the remaining Pixies have moved on.

“When the news first got to us in that coffee shop in Wales (that Deal was leaving), it was a shock to the system,” he said. “But after the third day... We went through the mourning process, and it’s over. We’ve got to let the past be the past.” While Simon ‘Ding’ Archer laid down the bass lines for the “Indie Cindy” tracks, Santiago said the band is delighted with its current touring bassist, Paz Lenchantin, formerly with the rock group A Perfect Circle. “Fortunately, we found somebody who fits right in,” he said. “We’re enjoying every moment of it, and we’re really enjoying this new line-up.” The Pixies should be enjoying life on the road as well. Coming off a US tour that began last September, the group is soon heading to Australia for four gigs at the Sydney Opera House, before spending June and July in Europe — including a Glastonbury festival appearance. “Sometimes I don’t know what country I’m in,” said Santiago, reflecting on the touring life with a hearty laugh. “You know what? I relish it, because it’s complete freedom, not knowing where you are. Does it really matter, as long as you woke up?” (Agencies)

By Michelle Morgante

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