The Mars Volta

The Mars Volta
Location:El Paso, TX (USA)
Record Label:Universal Records
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Album ReviewMars Volta, The - Frances the Mute
Posted by JustNick on 09/28/08
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The Mars Volta is the creative partnership formed in 2001 between bandleader/composer/guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and lyricist/vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

The Mars Volta's first recorded output was the three-song Tremulant EP, released April 2002 on the Gold Standard Laboratories label.

De-Loused In The Comatorium, the first full-length album by The Mars Volta, was released in June 2003. Produced by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Rick Rubin, De-Loused In The Comatorium served as a celebration of the life of Julio Venegas, a local artist who had been a mentor to Omar and Cedric during their youth in El Paso, Texas, before committing suicide in 1996.

De-Loused… established the Mars Volta creative template: Omar writing, arranging and musically directing every note, and Cedric distilling every lyric and vocal melody from a story he’d written inspired by Venegas: a story in which fictional protagonist Cerpin Taxt falls into a coma following a botched suicide attempt, experiences fantastic adventures in his dreams, epic battles between the good and bad aspects of his conscience, and ultimately emerges from the coma--only to succeed in taking his own life.

Omar and Cedric’s musical and lyrical creation was expressed on De-Loused… with the help of keyboardist Isaiah Ikey Owens, drummer Jon Theodore, sound manipulator Jeremy Ward, as well as Flea and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Mars Volta’s second album, Frances The Mute was released in March 2005. While similarly inspired by the memory of a dear departed friend, Frances… was by no means a "sequel" to 2003's De-Loused…. Where De-Loused… was a finite sci-fi narrative that took place entirely in an imaginary universe created for the story, Frances… would transpire in the real world, inspired by a diary found by late bandmate Jeremy Ward (R.I.P.) and the similarity of the anonymous author’s life to his own.

Frances The Mute was named for the biological mother who is the object of protagonist Cygnus’ quest--a story roughly and (deliberately) vaguely mirroring events and characters in the aforementioned diary and possibly even in the brief life of the then-recently deceased Ward. The freshness of the trauma in the case of Frances… rendered it a very different record from De-Loused…: Cedric’s lyrical tapestry of abandonment, addiction and the search for the meaning of family more intense and ambiguous, Omar’s assumption of the musical helm more absolute as he added video director (“The Widow”) to his list of duties on Frances…, and dropped the co- to produce the record himself.

Having made their recorded debut on Frances The Mute, the members of the Mars Volta band that had been touring together since De-Loused…--Owens, Theodore, bassist Juan Alderete De la Peña, percussionist (and Omar’s younger brother) Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, flautist/multi-instrumentalist Adrian Terrazas Gonzalez, sound manipulator and fellow at the drive-in alum Pablo Hinojos-Gonzalez—joined Omar and Cedric in translating Frances… into an unforgettable live experience—the culmination of which being a stint curating All Tomorrow’s Parties 2005 Nightmare Before Christmas festival at the UK’s Camber Sands. Inspired by the diverse array of talent they were able to assemble—CocoRosie, Diamanda Galas, Antony & the Johnsons and many others—Omar and Cedric regrouped determined, in their own words, to “step up our game.”

The resultant Amputechture, the third album by The Mars Volta, marks the first time Omar and Cedric have created a work without a single unifying narrative. The essential creative process remained the same: Omar creating the music (including the horn sections) for Cedric to lyricize—but this time with the freedom to document unrelated stories, vignettes, inside jokes, various people, events memories… All in all, Cedric likens the experience alternately to the compartmentalized episodes of Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY or the disparate plotlines of David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS: Storylines not necessarily linear or in any way connected, but all told in the same voice.

The Mars Volta cast that performed Amputechture will be modified for live dates that begin imminently, with drummer Jon Theodore replaced by Blake Fleming, formerly of Laddio Bolocko and Dazzling Killmen and actually the drummer who played on the very first Mars Volta demos. Pablo Hinojos-Gonzalez will expand his role, contributing both guitar and sound manipulation skills. Finally, while not a member of the touring Mars Volta band per se, Amputechture contributor John Frusciante, on the other hand, will be in close proximity, as his Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Mars Volta are scheduled to tour together through November 2006.

Amputechture was released September 12, 2006 on GSL/Universal.

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Last Updated: 11/12/06

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