The Mars Volta


Written by: PP on 16/05/2012 04:49:50

Listening to a new Mars Volta album is always like entering a room with a bag over your head and trying to describe what it looks like. The band changes style and tone more often than most people change their socks, and so it is no surprise to find their sixth album "Noctourniquet" showcase yet another hitherto unseen direction from the band. It has been three years since the release of the somewhat disappointing "Octahedron", their by far longest break in between album releases, so it's interesting to check out how the band have refined their sound in all that time considering Omar Rodriguez-Lopez tends to release about a gazillion solo albums per year at the same time.

If you thought you had The Mars Volta figured out prior to this album, you're mistaken, because "Noctourniquet" shifts the band into a more psychedelic direction in the same vein as "Amputechture" while returning to some of the pop sensibilities of their early material on "De-Loused In The Comatorium". All the spazzy latino rhytms have been pretty much abandoned in favour of a more ambient and effect-laden sound, where the band seems to consciously experiment on the soundscape as a whole by stretching it wide open and loose, a considerable change from the tight and occasionally insane guitar-driven experimentation of the past. It's like a combination of the soft material on "Octahedron" while recounting their entire discography with the exception of "Frances The Mute", where the experimentation has reached as far as production given how the instruments constantly appear at differing distances to the recording microphones in an attempt of a layered and, yes, 3D sound (like a sonic equivalent of what you see in the cinema).

It's a hit and miss experiment. "Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound" is excellent because it has a fairly catchy, introspective chorus in the midst of the weird production and space-y feel, whereas "Aegis" is great exactly because it does the opposite and partly returns the listener to the really old days of The Mars Volta (minus the latin rhythms). Yeah - what happened to the latin rhythms or the weirdo spastic guitar experimentation on this record? No one knows but it's been left to the background instead of being considered as the main element as it has been on several albums in the past. That may leave the hardcore Mars Volta fans a little puzzled, but should serve as a way to re-open the band to the masses that were lost once the band went full on progressive super-experimentalist mode somewhere around 2005.

So what should you make of "Noctourniquet" then if it sounds so different? The gist of it is basically this: even though it sounds like a retrospective of their entire discography with odd production and some new things added in, it's still uniquely a Mars Volta record in that you need to hear just one song - any song - from the record and you simply can't mistake it for anyone else than The Mars Volta. So in that sense the record is successful: it maintains the image and ideal of The Mars Volta while once again attempting something new. And while the album is leaps and bounds better than "Octahedron", if you look back at the absolutely fantastic "The Bedlam In Goliath2 from 2008, it pales in comparison. So lets just say it this way: it's a solid Mars Volta album worth checking out, but nowhere near the best they've put out in the past.


Download: Aegils, Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound, Vedamalady
For the fans of: spaced out psychedelic progressive weirdo rock aka Mars Volta
Listen: Soundcloud

Release date 26.03.2012
Warner Bros

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