Hermanos Gutiérrez ‘El Bueno y el Malo’ Is a Vividly Morricone-esque Take on Instrumental Rock: Album Review

From Tortoise to Tarantino, from Khruangbin to Royal Arctic Institute, the spaghetti-western twang guitar has unexpectedly become a staple of the soundscape of the past 25 years, particularly for indie-leaning instrumental acts. And it’s basically the entire template for Zurich-based duo Hermanos Gutiérrez (consisting of guitarists and actual brothers Estevan and Alejandro), whose albums consist almost entirely of instrumental, heavily reverbed guitars creating that kind of film soundtrack-esque atmosphere and vibe.

The title of this, their fourth album is, of course, a nod to Sergio Leone’s legendary 1966 spaghetti western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and especially its Ennio Morricone score.

While the format might sound limited, it’s not at all — the songs drift by in an unhurried, almost impressionist fashion, segueing gently from one to the next, with moments standing out more than individual songs. The brothers mix up the approach, with one anchoring the rhythm with a gentle arpeggio or bass-like melody, keeping time with a soft tap on the strings, while the other carries the main melody. Like their previous releases, it’s the kind of album you can put on and leave on all day, and the relatively amorphous nature of the songs helps make it not feel repetitive.

The album was produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and released on his Easy Eye label (the sessions were the first time they’d all actually met in person, with the duo having been signed after their indie releases gained traction during Covid), and they recently opened for Jason Isbell at Nashville’s legendary Ryman — all of which give an indication not only of their cosigns from fellow artists but the range of styles their music can complement. The album includes subtle percussion and an occasional haunting viola, but their presence is low-key and at times almost subconsciously noticeable.

A quote in the bio from Estevan describes the feeling of the music as well as anything: “When Alejandro and I play together, it’s like we are taking a road trip. Sometimes we’re driving through a desert. Sometimes we’re traveling up the coast. But always we are in nature, and we see the most beautiful landscapes, sunrises, sunsets.” At a time when Khruangbin is filling 5,000-seat theaters, Hermanos Gutiérrez could not be a more natural RIYL for fans of that group.

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