“Oil Islands” is intoxicating. Voice, saxophone, and electronics mesh art song with synth pop, blurring the lines of genre or perhaps shrugging off those confines entirely. Andrew Rodriguez isn’t interested in defining his music by one style – his influences range from DIY to hip hop to classical and jazz. And “Oil Islands” is his sonic playground.
Commissioned for Rodriguez by celebrated mezzo-soprano/saxophone curatorial team, Megan Ihnen & Alan Theisen Present…, “Oil Islands” is a setting of a visceral poem of the same name by Jeremy De La Rosa. In writing the piece, Rodriguez dove into pop production to trace the poem’s emotional trajectory and mimic its vivid, water-centric imagery.
Particularly captivating is the musical explosion accompanying “At night the barges sit on the surface:” Ihnen’s powerful voice, supported by synthesizer, bursts with heightened drama and syllabic art song sensibility. Then, the piece becomes a synth pop power ballad – saxophone and synthesizer even enter a full-blown jam session at one point – only to fade away in suspended dissonance with the haunting final words, “decisions he doesn’t know he’s making.”
“Oil Islands” embodies nostalgia, oozing drama in every breath. It finds its groove in an unwillingness to be defined by anything other than the emotions it expresses. It’s a piece that doesn’t shy away from its influences, but rather embraces them to their fullest extent.
“Oil Islands” is available for purchase and streaming on Bandcamp.