Spiritual merrymaking is one way to explain Monte Sagrado, Draco Rosa’s first full-length album of original music in nine years. Surviving cancer in two hard-won rounds had shifted the Puerto Rican singer and songwriter into an understandable seriousness. Later, in the wake of being cleared a second time, medications were scaled back and, eventually, Rosa began to “feel normal” – the vitality he “thought was gone forever,” he says, had finally returned.
Today on Remezcla, Rosa premieres “333,” a track from Monte Sagrado that wholly embodies that rejuvenation, and highlights especially what a triumphant restoration of personal health can mean for the mind. Charged with heavy, explorative guitar riffs, Rosa is absolutely reveling in the act of music-making here. It’s a trip of a track, with vocals that are nearly shouted, like declarations of an emergence post-haze that grow stronger and stronger, energy escalating. The “woo!” he emits almost two minutes in is like embracing being airborne, and the giddiness you feel in that temporary weightlessness. Later, the song gears back up, goes rogue, then mellows out. Just when you think “333” is done, over – it’s really not.
Maybe “333” isn’t the easiest listen, but the track wasn’t meant for starting rousing singalongs. While technically the second number on Monte Sagrado, it’s the album’s first actual piece of music after an introduction that invites listeners to the “Hotel De Los Encuentros,” the lit-up, faraway structure that a cloaked, mechanically-enhanced Rosa overlooks on the album artwork (created by his son, Revel Rosa). In the greater context of the concept, where blues-rock and reggae and prayerful contemplations all reside, “333” can be considered the welcoming lobby of a complex, otherworldly place.
Monte Sagrado was recorded at Phantom Vox, the studio Draco built on his 100-acre farm in the central mountain range of Utuado, Puerto Rico. It’s neighbored by the Parque Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana, where Tainos built plazas and dwellings and carved petroglyphs centuries ago. “All these tierras have that history, that aroma of mysticism and spirituality,” Rosa tells Remezcla in an interview at his farm. The album is in tribute to those ancestors – con su permiso, he adds – and following instinctually his newfound energy is in service of that gesture.
With this release, Rosa might experience another Vagabundo, the 1996 album that, at the time of its release, was too experimental for many but is now widely celebrated. Having reissued the work on vinyl in August, Rosa seems to know that Monte Sagrado might share a similar fate. “The body of work, the craft of making music, all these things, that’s what trumps everything. That dominates everything,” he says.
But with the earnest perspective of gratefulness he now possesses, Rosa’s penchant for following where creativity leads him – regardless of other people’s expectations – is even more resolute.
“It’s out of my hands,” he says. “The big thing that keeps me happy today and grateful is the fact that I’m fucking alive. Other than that, if you don’t like me, that’s OK. I still love me, and I love to be alive.”
Listen to our premiere of “333” here:
Draco Rosa’s Monte Sagrado drops on October 26. Stay tuned for a full feature on the album, and check out tour dates below:
November 17 / Miami, FL / MANA Wynwood RC Cola Plant
November 28 / Philadelphia, PA / The Foundry at The Fillmore
November 29 / New York, NY / Highline Ballroom
December 1 / Washington, DC / The Howard Theatre
December 2 / Boston, MA / Royale
December 4 / Chicago, IL / Thalia Hall
December 12 / Los Angeles / The Regent
January 4 & 5 Orlando, FL / House of Blues