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Noctourniquet related interviews and reviews


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#21 Polipiromelitimid

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 09:14 AM

Review from beardrock.com (5/5)

http://beardrock.com...iews/mars-volta

Album
The Mars Volta / Noctourniquet
Warner Bros
Official Site
Release Date: 27/03/2012

“I’m a landmine, so don’t you step on me!!!”



The progressive rock equivalent to Marmite, there appears to be little middle ground when it comes to The Mars Volta. Devotees of the frenzied, chaotic post-hardcore of At The Drive-In often baulk at the progressive, experimental, and free jazz-influenced sound that guitarist / producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and singer / lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala have continued to produce and evolve over the past decade. As an ardent fan of this band, it confuses me how The Mars Volta have amassed such a sizeable number of naysayers. Six albums in ten years is impressive by any bands standards. However, given the complexities of the personal relationships, music, and concepts of individual albums, there is no doubt that the creativity and productivity of The Mars Volta is breathtaking.



Apparently, the initial work on ‘Noctourniquet’ started immediately after the recording of ‘Octahedron’; the project was quickly put on hold following Bixler-Zavala’s assertion that he could no longer keep up with the productivity of his long-time collaborator. With Omar concentrating on his solo and collaborative work elsewhere, Cedric’s need for appropriate time to develop his lyrics ( and some changes in personnel) appears to have refreshed the band, who have gone on to produce this wonderfully complex yet accessible concept album, if that is ever a real possibility with The Mars Volta.



The concept? I can only surmise that the album follows the natural path of the life and travels of a being (human or otherwise: I am undecided). This view stems from Cedric Bixler-Zavala's references to the nursery rhyme Solomon Grundy within a number of interviews recently. My concept proposal is purely subjective but certainly makes sense to me (especially in this darkened room with my headphones on). As most fans would attest, the listening experience and deconstruction of concept, theme, and music is best described as not only subjective, but a genuine conversation stimulator.



All the tenets of The Mars Volta sound are here. Bixler-Zavala’s trademark vocal delivery, though more thoughtful and restrained, remains; the searing guitar tones of Rodriguez-Lopez are interspersed with acoustic guitar inflections accentuating the bands Latin roots. Additionally, the album seems to flow organically, in spite of the flurries of electronics throughout.



Opener ‘The Whip Hand’ feels like a statement of intent; a frenzied rebirth where I am unsure in which direction I will be drawn. The song leads me to a breakdown of bass-heavy synth, Bixler-Zavala attesting ‘That’s when I disconnect from you’. Lead single, ‘The Malkin Jewel’, with its scratchy dub guitar, bringing to mind the band’s dub side project De Facto, and almost Fugazi-esque rhythm sees Bixler-Zavala abandon his trademark soprano, opting for a brooding, menacing tone; this feels like the transitional point in the record (the Volta if you will).



‘Dyslexicon’, feels like vintage Mars Volta. Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics reference ancient prophecies of changes in planetary consciousness; Rodriguez-Lopez’ guitar seemingly let loose to flow alongside the the lyrical theme. ‘Molochwalker’ seems to be the natural successor to ‘The Malkin Jewel’ as second single from the record (despite being apparently written and recorded for the ‘Octahedron’ sessions): up-tempo and direct, showcasing Rodriguez-Lopez's prodigious guitar talents. The song is certainly the second turning point in the record, with the lyrics perhaps placing faith in change.



Much has been made of the At The Drive-In reunion shows and the possible effect on the long-term future of The Mars Volta. Personally, I hope the reunion shows are an exercise in mortgage paying, but if this album does herald a swansong, then what a way to bow out.

Writer: Rob Wallace



#22 Polipiromelitimid

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 09:20 AM

Review from premierguitar.com (4,5/5)

http://www.premiergu...tourniquet.aspx

The Mars Volta
Noctourniquet
Warner Bros. Records


The Mars Volta guitarist, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, has been so busy this year that you couldn’t be faulted for wondering if he believes in the Mayan prognostication about the world ending this December: So far he’s toured as bassist with Le Butcherettes, taken his band the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group to Panama, reunited At the Drive-In, premiered his film Los Chidos at SXSW, and released the Mars Volta’s sixth record, Noctourniquet—all before May. Either way, the latter serves up enough pop-prog experimentalism to be the perfect 12/12/12 death march or a sneering, post-punk middle-finger salute to doomsday.

“The Whip Hand” terrorizes eardrums with buzz-saw guitar runs during its chorus, while its verses are more soothing, thanks to Rodriguez-Lopez’s reverse-delay riffs. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala agilely carries “Aegis,” while Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez’s trippy keyboards and Omar’s ethereal chords crisscross each other and build to an explosive chorus of instrumental mayhem and vocal pyrotechnics. “The Malkin Jewel” features Bixler-Zavala doing a ghostly Jack White-style vocal in the verse before unleashing his signature howl over Rodriguez-Lopez’s reggae-ish riffs and bassist Juan Alderete’s growling string slides.

While Noctourniquet isn’t your dad’s prog rock, it does provide some Pink Floyd-inspired journeys (think “Echoes” from 1970’s Meddle) in its mellower songs—especially the atmospherically creepy “Vedamalady,” the hauntingly brooding “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound,” and the ambient, weightless drifting of “In Absentia.” And there are even hints of At the Drive-In’s manic power in “Molochwalker,” which hangs its groove on Omar’s wah-driven rhythms and half-cocked-wah solo—which is easily the album’s best lead.

Overall, with Noctourniquet, Rodriguez-Lopez and company rein things in a smidge and create the band’s most accessible, iTunes-friendly album to date. But Mars Volta purists shouldn’t tweak too much over that—there’s enough keyboard-fueled textures, wacky compositions, and celestial guitar work to appease any cosmonaut in need of a soundtrack. —Chris Kies

Must-hear tracks: “Molochwalker,” “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound”



#23 Polipiromelitimid

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 01:28 PM

Review from popstache.com

http://popstache.com...-noctourniquet/

Apparently nobody has told The Mars Volta that it isn’t cool to mash words to make album and song titles anymore. But Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López love portmanteau, and thusly have named the band’s sixth album Noctourniquet. The concept for this album centers on a character based on the mythical Greek figure Hyacinthus and Superman villain Solomon Grundy. Ahhhh, welcome back, boys!

The album is the Volta’s first in three years, easily the band’s longest span between albums. Rodríguez-López thinks all of his ideas are worthy of publication (The man released 19 solo albums from 2007-10. 19.) and this prolific tendency has certainly affected the quality of TMV’s output. Taking three years on a record points toward a more careful craft, but as it turns out, the cause for delay was Bixler-Zavala’s inability to keep up with Rodríguez-López’s pace (Can you blame the guy?). Still, for the first time in a while, it seems The Mars Volta has given an album some time to breathe. Does it show? Not exactly.

Opener “The Whip Hand” sets up a dissonant groove but settles down a little for the verses, which really could have been compelling if Bixler-Zavala tried to write an actual melody. The song ends with him proclaiming, “I am a landmine,” the first catch phrase he’s provided fans since, “25 wives in the lake tonight.” If only it sounded half as cool.

Also, the band seems to be trying to incorporate synthesizers in light of the recent success of electronic music. The synth line is grimey and off-putting. The bizarre thing is that it’s higher up in the mix than anything Ikey Owens had ever done with the group, and this is the first record without him.

Also unexplainably higher in the mix is first-time drummer Deantoni Parks. He often attempts recreating the manic Latin-prog style of Jon Theodore, a facsimile which accurately replicates the style, but leaves out the soul. Other times, as on “Dyslexicon” (again with the portmanteau!), he tries the spastic and pummeling style of Thomas Pridgen, but sounds tame in comparison. Simply put, the keys and drums have the least identity of any Volta record so far; listeners have to wonder why after all this time they are just now getting this sort of attention.

The band sounds most comfortable in the second track, “Aegis,” the closest tune to capture the natural energy of 2003′s De-Loused in the Comatorium. It brings forth some promise, which the team quickly breaks going into the rest of the album. There are good moments throughout the album, but it’s incredibly spotty and only made worse by the volume of material.

Bixler-Zavala spends so much time trying different styles throughout the record that he forgets that, as a vocalist, he is supposed to carry a tune. It seems like Rodríguez-López had some decent ideas, but Bixler-Zavala didn’t follow through with his parts. His melodies are often lazily constructed and less than memorable. When he’s on, he’s one of the most unique and captivating frontmen in rock, but instead of just being that guy, he tries to be a lot more. It isn’t necessary or beneficial. This is the same guy who said he didn’t want to “hold the listener’s hand” and that “The Widow” was the worst thing the band has ever done, so this behavior doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t see how detrimental this mentality has been.

What does Noctourniquet do right? It finds a middle ground between the extremes of The Bedlam in Goliath and Octahedron. There is a balance of bombast and subtlety. The “ballads” are improved, too. While Bixler-Zavala’s abstract lyrics don’t really make for great ballads, at least this time the arrangements don’t give too much space for the vocals to command the tracks. Tracks such as “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound” and “Vedamalady” bear legitimate beauty and strong dynamics.

Since this material has been in the works for years, the recent At the Drive-In reunion really doesn’t invigorate the sound at all. Diehard fans may reject criticism as failure to accept change, but that’s far from the case. The Mars Volta has failed to find natural inspiration and, instead of focusing on its strengths, the band continues to force creativity. The difference isn’t just something you can hear; it’s something you can feel. Hopefully the guys will remember what it’s like to harness raw energy and passion like they did in ATDI and won’t be so numb next time around.



#24 Onion-Ringu

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 02:28 PM

New Cedric interview in Finnish rock/metal -magazine Sue. Here's my quick translation (might contain some spelling errors). The Finnish version can be read here by clicking the cover http://www.lehtiluukku.fi/pub?id=16729

WORLD IN COLORS
When the vapors have vanished, The Mars Volta's world is no longer black & white.

When talking about The Mars Volta, we talk about two men. Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez founded the noisy prog-band when At the Drive-In split in two in 2001. A decade later The Mars Volta is still their band. Constant is the complex music of Rodriguez-Lopez and the mysterious lyrics of Bixler Zavala, everything else can change.

Cedric tells he's been completely sober for almost two years. It's easy to believe. The singer-lyricist looks at things with focus and doesn't think he's the center of everything. The many changes in line-up have various reasons Bixler-Zavala tells. - Some people joined the band for wrong reasons. Some behaved badly. Some had personality but lacked character. Most weren't as obsessively excited as they were supposed to be. - The problem is that the players weren't mine or Omar's childhood friends. We didn't know them good enough. But it would be miracle if a band with just childhood friends would stick together. Then you'd had to know immediately how to deal with various problems. - Change of line-up has had a good side, that it has made our records different. Every musician has their own, unique style.

Experimental band has to change and directing that which changes forever needs firm grip. Are Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez the kind of omnipotent orchestra leaders as Frank Zappa was to The Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart to His Magic Band? - I don't dare to compare myself to them, B-Z laughs. -But Omar has something they have. How did your and Omar's cooperation go? Did you argue a lot? - Yes, we quarrel. When I became sober, I started to question things more, including Omar's decisions. But our quarreling is constructive. The sparks between B-Z and R-L have formed Noctourniquet,
an album the singer calls "musical film noir trailer for a story where the protagonist tries to escape a trap his life has led him to."

LIFE IN AN ALBUM

TMV's previous album Octahedron (2009) suprised for being listener friendly. In the serpentine measure of the band, it was almost a pop-record. Bixler-Zavala says that Noctourniquet is counterreaction to it. - I didn't much care for Octahedron. I wanted Noctourniquet to be the opposite. I got inspired when I
saw BBC4-documentary about krautrock, the original german stuff. I wanted to bring the spirit of krautrock to TMV's music. I dreamed of a record where punk rock meets Tangerine Dream.

B-Z calls Noctourniquet "future punk". - Punk is breaking the rules - even your own rules. When someone puts barriers between things, they need to be crossed. All the compartments need to be broken. Noctourniquet reminds of TMV's earlier albums in that it's a thematic whole. - The album is based on a story I wrote. It's about a young person who tries to escape his/hers parents spells. Mom and dad have planned his/hers whole future ahead. In B-Z's story the plans of the parents are dark, but beneath the surface the story widens into a big question about the meaning of existence. - The chapters of the story are divided to weekdays, like in the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme. I think it depicts well the path of life. - The Godfathers' song Birth, School, Work, Death is one of my favorites. I improvised it in our concerts. That song is about how it is to live without art to express your emotions. Noctourniquet is about the same thing.

BREAKING THE RULES

Rock is safe and nostalgic music. Many old bands playing their whole classic albums with the songs in original order in their tours is confirmation of that.
TMV has always felt like the anti-thesis of nostalgia. B-Z suprises saying that a classic album tour wouldn't be an impossible idea for TMV.
- But I think if we tried that, we would fail horribly. We couldn't be faithful to the recorded versions. We'd make them more modern, add hidden meanings, make mistakes on purpose. - Recently I've been listening a lot of Can's live-bootlegs. The live versions aren't always recognizible as the same as the album versions. Unexpected things happen also in TMV concerts.

Do you consider yourself as an entertainer? - Before, I would rebel the idea of needing to entertain people. In this band, there's a strong spiritual element. Art is our church. That's why I wouldn't call it "entertainment". But even so, because people seem to be entertained by our music, I guess it's entertaining.

B-Z's worldview isn't as absolute as before. He's breaking his own rules, which he considers the benefit of his sobriety. - It's more easy to communicate with people than it was before. I quit hard drugs in 2003, after my friend and bandmate Jeremy Michael Ward died of heroin overdose. After that I smoked pot for many years, chronicly, crazy amounts. When I quit smoking pot, I could grasp the present moment better.

Why did you use drugs? - I was enchanted by the myth of drugs. I thought that drugs helped me to express myself in music. Then I realized that it isn't so. I was just scared to admit that the musical ideas we're MY ideas. When I said that drugs inspire me, I let the audience understand that "this is how you should be to be creative and interesting."

The smoke vanishes around TMV and there appears new characteristics in the work of Bixler-Zavala. It may even be that TMV isn't their sole empire any longer. - Noctourniquet might be our last "mine and Omar's album". We want to make TMV more democratic. My personal mission is to rebuild the bridges that I burned between former members. I romantically dream that TMV could be like The Grateful Dead, a large community with many members.

OLD PLEASENT CHALLENGE
At the Drive-In returns ot stage in summer.

Why is it time for a comeback? - Because I wasn't ready for it before. The comeback of At the Drive-In is one of the positive effects of my sobriety.

How does sobriety involve in this?
- Because I understand much better what others are trying to say. I'm like the boss of the Ford-company who said that "my job is not to be understood, but to understand." That thought can anyone use in their relationships, family, friends and bands. You should be a better listener.

In what mindset do you expect the ATDI concerts?
- I'm excited especially for accepting that TMV and ATDI can exist side by side. Being in that position feels like a pleasent challenge.

Have you planned a new ATDI record?
- Well... We're moving ahead in small steps.



#25 Alderetism

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 03:49 PM

My personal mission is to rebuild the bridges that I burned between former members. I romantically dream that TMV could be like The Grateful Dead, a large community with many members.

Oh, this makes me feel really excited!

#26 masha

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:04 PM

Yes, we quarrel. When I became sober, I started to question things more, including Omar's decisions.

Somehow I expected that

#27 Jehu

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:39 PM

It seems Cedric isn't as opposed to the idea of a new ATDI album as Omar....

#28 Polipiromelitimid

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 09:11 AM

Review from all-noise.co.uk (4,5/5)

http://all-noise.co....t-album-review/

To many At The Drive-In fans (me included) The Mars Volta have always been the sideshow to the main event. Past albums have seen Cedric and Omar unleash their proggy and indulgent sides away from the restraints and pressures of the massively popular post-hardcore of At The Drive-In – which naturally led to some very strange and often inaccessible stuff.

All that seems to have changed with Noctourniquet though, which keeps the prog-rock template of previous Mars Volta efforts but redefines it for the iPod age. So out go the heavy, 15 minute long songs-within-songs-within-songs, and in come more structured, accessible and (whisper it) commercial songs. Not that this is any way a straight-up rock/pop album – some song titles still resemble CAPTCHA codes and there is more than enough spaced out interludes to keep the prog fans happy. It just feels like Cedric and Omar have made a conscious decision to rein in the crazy a bit – and the result is an almost perfectly crafted, absorbing and at times electric album.

‘The Whip Hand’ opens the album and quickly establishes Cedric’s vocals as the focal point, going from melodic and controlled to manic and intense wailing (“I am a landmine… so don’t you step on me!”) – all underpinned by a dark and brooding groove. As a statement of intent after three years away it does the job perfectly and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

‘Aegis’ and ‘Dyslexicon’ add a bit more rock into Noctourniquet and include the kind of riff and vocal pay-off that makes At The Drive-In such an exhilarating band.

Ironically for The Mars Volta’s first real ‘commercial’ album, it’s the more proggy and textured songs that make the biggest impact. ‘Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound’ is Noctourniqet’s first stand-out track, which builds on a delicate melody and soulful vocals and grows into an emotional juggernaut. It’s brilliance is only enhanced by it’s juxtaposition with the dark, Nick Cave-esque ‘The Malkin Jewel’ – which shows these guys can pretty much master whatever they care to try their hand at:
The Mars Volta – ‘The Malkin Jewel’

The next prog highlight comes in the shape of the seven-minute long ‘In Absentia’, which has Cedric getting busy with the vocoder over clashing drums and menacing sci-fi synths during a claustrophobic and unsettling first five minutes – before it opens up into a glorious two minutes of that familiar Cedric wail.

The controlled and subtle ‘Imago’ calms things down a bit and sets the scene for Noctourniquet’s final act, which includes the frantic blast of ‘Molochwalker’ and the beautifully melodic pairing of ‘Trinkets Pale Of Moon’ (which tries a bit too hard with the unnecessary Pink Floyd-esque crowd noises) and ‘Vedamalady’.

Rather than peter out from here, Noctourniquet still has time for another stand out moment in the form of the title track – a dense, synth-heavy prog-rock stormer that leads nicely into the energetic album closer ‘Zed And Two Naughts’:

With Noctourniquet, Cedric and Omar have brilliantly and infuriatingly turned The Mars Volta into an accessible and inventive rock band – just at the point when they leave it and return to At The Drive-In. If it is to be the final Mars Volta album though, it will act as the perfect send-off.



#29 Mataxia

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 10:32 AM

Well, I'm glad it was a positive review but I lol'd at him saying that TMV have always been the sideshow to the main event. And no idea why he's under the impression that they are leaving it for ATD-I.

#30 manstis1804

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 11:47 PM

It's so annoying when a reviewer says something is "unnecessary". They don't review the music as much as they run everything through their little taste filter, their narrow thoughts of the way things "should" be.

And they get paid to do it.

#31 TheFleshofMidnight

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 07:43 AM

It's so annoying when a reviewer says something is "unnecessary". They don't review the music as much as they run everything through their little taste filter, their narrow thoughts of the way things "should" be.

And they get paid to do it.

My thoughts exactly.

#32 Lewis T

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 10:33 AM

Yeah, I remember reading a review back in the day of Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I, and they said the single note riff in the background of "What do you want me to say?" was obnoxious and unnecessary. Thereafter began my hatred of reviewers and their use of "unneccesary".

#33 Jehu

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 09:32 PM

New review from Clash Music. 7/10.

http://www.clashmusi...a-noctourniquet

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
Quite Brilliant Lunacy

The Mars Volta have never taken the easy route. Their sixth album since Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala quit seminal post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In in 2001, ‘Noctourniquet’ is framed around a narrative based both on Superman villain Solomon Grundy and the Greek myth of Hyacinthus. If you need refreshing, that’s the one in which Hyacinth, the (male) lover of the god Apollo, attempts to impress Apollo by catching his discus, but gets struck by it and dies. The music follows the same recondite, abstruse path as the lyrics - an ambitious, avant-garde swirl of prog, rock, post-rock and quasi-metal that carries the weight of such intense cerebral pressure. Suffice to say, there are no songs about wearing the same jeans for four days…

It is, of course, utterly OTT, pretentious, and - at times - wilfully inaccessible. Opening gambit ‘The Whip Hand’ is a whirring buzzsaw of atonal dissonance that requires severe patience to get through it, while ‘In Absentia’, somewhat aptly, never really finds its focus. But there are times when ‘Noctourniquet’ settles into a spellbinding groove, namely on the paranoid ‘Aegis’ and the phenomenal, off-kilter, Nick Cave-meets-Marilyn Manson-esque of ‘The Malkin Jewel’, a disturbing track which prowls like a homicidal maniac about to strike. Elsewhere, ‘Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound’ is bewitching, lovely and accessible, while the frenetic ‘Molochwalker’ recalls the rambunctious volatility of At The Drive-In. Of course, after the announcement of their reunion, all eyes are currently on that former outfit, but, in the interim, this is a powerful reminder of the pair’s quite brilliant lunacy.

7/10



#34 Unt1tled

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:45 PM

http://www.factmag.c...-noctourniquet/

#35 SolarGambling69

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 02:28 PM

http://www.factmag.c...-noctourniquet/


PRO: Thank fuck the reviewer didn't mention Solomon Grundy as a superman villain.

CON: Mariachi? me thinks he didn't even listen to the record well enough. Just because they're hispanics doesn't automatically translate doesn't mean their music is influenced by mexican stuff.

#36 matt was taken

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 02:54 PM

... but it is

#37 betweenthelines

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 02:58 AM

http://www.heraldsun...8-1226307376709

Album review: Noctourniquet by The Mars Volta

Mikey Cahill
From: National Features
March 21, 20127:00PM

THE Mars Volta confounded expectations at last year's Splendour in the Grass festival by playing mostly this album ... a full eight months before its release.
In retrospect, it's something we should have expected of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala - they're a forward-ever, backward-never twosome (At the Drive-In's forthcoming reunion-for-the-moolah notwithstanding).

Things get weird quickly as album No.6 opens with The Whip Hand almost doubling up on itself before a whirring synth blows bubbles in the background then acquiesces into a buzzing, fuzzing bass "brrrr" (as favoured by Dave Sitek in plenty of TV on the Radio songs).

Guitarist Rodriguez-Lopez is steering the ship again, while Bixler-Zavala's lyrics call upon everyone from Superman nemesis Solomon Grundy to the Greek myth of Hyacinthus. They sure ain't Kaiser Chiefs.

First single The Malkin Jewel sees the El Paso veterans in full, furious force, especially the rattlesnake's bite of this vengeful line: "Because all the traps in the cellar go clickety-clack because you know I always set them for you". Ouch.

Bixler-Zavala's voice shows off his eccentric electricity, shifting from David Gilmour to early Mike Patton to Jack White and back to his own tenacious timbre in the space of one song.

In Absentia has traces of Angel Dust-era Faith No More and is the longest song on the album at 7 1/2 minutes. Brevity has never been The Mars Volta's strong suit and you wouldn't have it any other way.

As always, one must surrender to TMV from the first song. In doing so, they will look after you. It's a matter of trust. It makes you wonder: why can't Tool be as prolific/progressive?

Oi, Maynard! Take a year off making wine and try to make up some ground instead. The Mars Volta are starting to embarrass you.

--

The Mars Volta

Noctourniquet (Warner)

Stars: ★★★★

:happy:

#38 Kenticus69

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 03:08 AM

Review from popstache.com

http://popstache.com...-noctourniquet/

Apparently nobody has told The Mars Volta that it isn’t cool to mash words to make album and song titles anymore. But Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López love portmanteau, and thusly have named the band’s sixth album Noctourniquet. The concept for this album centers on a character based on the mythical Greek figure Hyacinthus and Superman villain Solomon Grundy. Ahhhh, welcome back, boys!

The album is the Volta’s first in three years, easily the band’s longest span between albums. Rodríguez-López thinks all of his ideas are worthy of publication (The man released 19 solo albums from 2007-10. 19.) and this prolific tendency has certainly affected the quality of TMV’s output. Taking three years on a record points toward a more careful craft, but as it turns out, the cause for delay was Bixler-Zavala’s inability to keep up with Rodríguez-López’s pace (Can you blame the guy?). Still, for the first time in a while, it seems The Mars Volta has given an album some time to breathe. Does it show? Not exactly.

Opener “The Whip Hand” sets up a dissonant groove but settles down a little for the verses, which really could have been compelling if Bixler-Zavala tried to write an actual melody. The song ends with him proclaiming, “I am a landmine,” the first catch phrase he’s provided fans since, “25 wives in the lake tonight.” If only it sounded half as cool.

Also, the band seems to be trying to incorporate synthesizers in light of the recent success of electronic music. The synth line is grimey and off-putting. The bizarre thing is that it’s higher up in the mix than anything Ikey Owens had ever done with the group, and this is the first record without him.

Also unexplainably higher in the mix is first-time drummer Deantoni Parks. He often attempts recreating the manic Latin-prog style of Jon Theodore, a facsimile which accurately replicates the style, but leaves out the soul. Other times, as on “Dyslexicon” (again with the portmanteau!), he tries the spastic and pummeling style of Thomas Pridgen, but sounds tame in comparison. Simply put, the keys and drums have the least identity of any Volta record so far; listeners have to wonder why after all this time they are just now getting this sort of attention.

The band sounds most comfortable in the second track, “Aegis,” the closest tune to capture the natural energy of 2003′s De-Loused in the Comatorium. It brings forth some promise, which the team quickly breaks going into the rest of the album. There are good moments throughout the album, but it’s incredibly spotty and only made worse by the volume of material.

Bixler-Zavala spends so much time trying different styles throughout the record that he forgets that, as a vocalist, he is supposed to carry a tune. It seems like Rodríguez-López had some decent ideas, but Bixler-Zavala didn’t follow through with his parts. His melodies are often lazily constructed and less than memorable. When he’s on, he’s one of the most unique and captivating frontmen in rock, but instead of just being that guy, he tries to be a lot more. It isn’t necessary or beneficial. This is the same guy who said he didn’t want to “hold the listener’s hand” and that “The Widow” was the worst thing the band has ever done, so this behavior doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t see how detrimental this mentality has been.

What does Noctourniquet do right? It finds a middle ground between the extremes of The Bedlam in Goliath and Octahedron. There is a balance of bombast and subtlety. The “ballads” are improved, too. While Bixler-Zavala’s abstract lyrics don’t really make for great ballads, at least this time the arrangements don’t give too much space for the vocals to command the tracks. Tracks such as “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound” and “Vedamalady” bear legitimate beauty and strong dynamics.

Since this material has been in the works for years, the recent At the Drive-In reunion really doesn’t invigorate the sound at all. Diehard fans may reject criticism as failure to accept change, but that’s far from the case. The Mars Volta has failed to find natural inspiration and, instead of focusing on its strengths, the band continues to force creativity. The difference isn’t just something you can hear; it’s something you can feel. Hopefully the guys will remember what it’s like to harness raw energy and passion like they did in ATDI and won’t be so numb next time around.


prolly one of the more spot-on reviews so far. Like how he mentioned how it was weird that the keys are suddenly louder now that Ikey's gone.

#39 Mataxia

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 08:04 AM

Lolwut? I stopped taking that review seriously when he said that the album is based on "Supermain villain Solomon Grundy" (people seriously still think that...?). Also, the fact that he thought Cedric was weak on this album, that he said "the band seems to be trying to incorporate synthesizers in light of the recent success of electronic music", and that he thinks Deantoni is a weak drummer trying to recreate what Jon did but without the soul did not help his case at all.

#40 Ilyena

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:24 AM

I can't wait for Pitchfork's reaction...




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