Review Summary: An experiment in tongue-in-cheek absurdity that is, if nothing else, unique.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Cryptomnesia is the first in a series of three albums recorded in 2006 by Omar Rodriguez Lopez. The project started as a duo between Omar Rodriguez Lopez (At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta) and Zach Hill (Hella, Team Sleep), but eventually expanded to include Juan Alderete De La Pena (Racer X, The Mars Volta) and Jonathan Hischke (Hella). The instrumental album sat on the proverbial shelf for two years, until Cedric Bixler Zavala (At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta) recorded vocals for the tracks in 2008.
Sonically, Cryptomnesia is what you would expect from a collaboration between this particular group of math-prog heroes: a compact block of rock'n'roll, a chunk of claustrophobic dissonance, experimentally chaotic, ambitious, and aurally absurd. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea; this record is bound to be polarizing.
Zach Hill gives one of the best performances of his career, skittering from snare to toms to cymbals and back before you can say holy sh*t; bashing his kit like a coked-up octopus with the leg of a jackrabbit. He relies on a few too many formless 30 second blast fills for my taste, but when he plays it tight, he plays it TIGHT, while still playing at his trademark breakneck speed.
From just reading the tracklist, the tongue-in-cheek nature of Cryptomnesia is easy to see. Bizarre dialogue clips that could have been recorded by someone lost in Jerusalem on a bad acid trip are sprinkled throughout the album's 36 minutes, and give the record a disjointed and nonsensical theme. These clips are often awkwardly placed and unnecessary, but are too short to be too detrimental.
Polyrythms abound as guitars squawk and squeal over rumbling basslines. The first half of Warren Oates showcases Lopez with a blistering guitar solo; while De La Pena lays down some wah-laden bass shredding in the second half the likes of which he hasn't played since his days in Racer X. Zavala takes this record to another level. He tries some new techniques and some old standbys; at times belting out high notes Volta style (Warren Oates), at times disdainfully spitting his lyrics out as if they taste bad, with At The Drive-In flashback-inducing attitude (Half Kleptos, Puny Humans).
Understandably, for the same reasons I enjoy the album, it is very polarizing. It starts fast & loose and ends the same. The bombast hardly lets up in it's 36 minute runtime. Adore it or despise it, I think we can all agree that Cryptomnesia is unique.