The Mars Volta
Noctourniquet


4.0
excellent

Review

by Hernan M. Campbell STAFF
March 23rd, 2012 | 18 replies | 2,856 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Mars Volta reflect on past ventures and fuse them into a new sound.

A Supernova of anarchical psychedelia. Sounds so delicate in nature that they can induce a hypnotic ambience, as easily as they can descend into a more intense eruption of ferocious instrumentation. Meditative voyages exploring the realms of not only the music at hand, but a personal odyssey where the musician discovers their full potential, and then goes even further. And all of these different musical approaches are often decorated with cryptical lyricism which are often expressed in ominous and metaphorical ambiguity- This is the The Mars Volta, or at least how they chose to project themselves for the world.

The main creative force behind The Mars Volta has always been the collaboration between, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and throughout the years we have seen these two musicians evolve in such a way that is rarely seen. From their origins as members of renowned Punk band, At The Drive-In, to their brief time as the Dub/Reggae outfit, De Facto, and now as the composers of the Progressive musical act, The Mars Volta. In the past decade we have seen The Mars Volta compose an illustrious discography. From their early orchestrations of Psychedelia, yet aggressive in nature, the music displayed an emphasis on atmospheric compositions. In their latter efforts the band begun to exhibit a much more experimental agenda, embracing their Progressive Rock influences as ambient decorations begin to play much more prominent roles. But their music often incorporated elements of Jazz, as the musicians developed a connection with their instruments and letting their hands and fingers translate the passion from their souls into surrealistic performances consisting of sounds so versatile ranging from delicate ballads, to intense explosions of musical improvisation. and of course, there is the voice of The Mars Volta, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, whose voice has a such a range that can at times sound ethereal and gentle, to a malevolent roar of vivid passion.

But since the release of Octahedron, new ideas were beginning to formulate and The Mars Volta took themselves to different paths. Octahedron is the album that was most perceptible because it is everything that The Mars Volta never was. The band had begun to strip themselves of everything that once made them so easily distinguishable. The music begun embracing a more traditional approach, behaving in a normal fashion and diverting from their usual orchestrations that presented themselves like a supernova of sounds. In other words, The Mars Volta were trying out what it's like to be normal, to make music that is ordinary and easier to grasp. What is most ironic is that this was a band that people loved because they were different, but the one time they experimented with being ordinary- people turned on them. Some fans opinionated that The Mars Volta had "sold out", others expressed that the band had explored every realm of Progressive music and the only thing left to experiment with was, inevitably, normality. But now, after running out of ways to surprise their fans with new directions, what is there left to do? What comes next?

Of course, it's no secret that the band's main composer and visionary has always been it's lead guitarist, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. And aside from his work with The Mars Volta, he has begun to explore his own musical ambitions, though the two sides often interact. Omar's solo releases have often served as a window into the direction of where he was going to take The Mars Volta on upcoming albums. And if we refer to the recent albums that Omar has released under his solo moniker, we can see that Omar has diverted from the more improvisational and Jazz influenced style, and has embraced a much more restrained sound. Noctourniquet truly reflects the compositions of Omar's Un Escorpión Perfumado. In Un Escorpión Perfumado, we find Omar fusing the improvisational atmosphere of his past works with a pop-musical structure. There is a significant absence of moments of energetic improvisation that once dominated the overall sound of Omar's albums. But now, the music is orchestrated with restrain as a barrage of instruments work together to create a deranged sense of psychedelia.

Noctourniquet is an amalgamation of everything we have already heard from Omar and Cedric in the past. Instead of actually evolving into a different musical approach, we see The Mars Volta regressing into past ventures and fusing these past tendencies into a new sound. A song like,"Dyslexicon", displays the typical paradigm for the album. Noctouriniquet exhibits the traditional musical structure of it's predecessor, Octahedron. It's songs are composed in a Pop-oriented orchestration but the approach to the overall sound of the music reflects the experimental nature of their earlier albums, particularly De-Loused in the Comatorium. The album does introduce some new influences, or at least some we haven't quite heard in a long time. In songs like "Imago" and "Lapochka" we see that electronic decorations play a much more prominent role in Noctourniquet than in previous efforts, drawing a strong influence from their days in the Dub-Reggae act, De Facto. Instead of each instrument taking their turn in the spotlight, like in the past efforts from The Mars Volta, we find that they are instead working together to create a dense layer of sounds that create an atmosphere of ambient chaos all around, yet it's all coordinated exquisitely.

Noctourniquet is driven by a different philosophy than their previous work, and that philosophy is that just because these compositions are not as overly experimental as their earlier efforts does not make them any less artistic, quite the contrary. A song like "Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound" displays a typical orchestration, and is completely stripped of all the numerous psychedelic effects that overran their music in the past. But because it's so plain, because it doesn't contain all of those fancy effects is the very reason it's so effective. "Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound" is the very song we never expected a band like The Mars Volta to create. No one could have predicted this. Within its simplicity, this song displays an ethereal delicacy, yet in its progression reveals a slightly more aggressive side. Perhaps reflecting the euphoric sensation of being in love, and the frustrations that a romantic relationship can produce.

But don't worry, there are moments were Noctourniquet reassures us that we are indeed listening to The Mars Volta. "Molochwalker", with all of it's complex musicianship and elevated pace, desperately trying to convince us that the ferocity that once drove The Mars Volta is still well preserved inside them. But yet it presents itself in such a restrained manner, that it's almost hard to believe. And now, we arrive to the imminent question; "Is Noctourniquet as good as it's predecessors?" Well, it depends on the hopes you had for this album. As unprofessional as it may appear, I can't help but express my own initial disappointment when I first heard this album. I was hoping that in this album, The Mars Volta would return to their original style, having us descend into those musical voyages of progressive instrumentation. Appreciation for the earlier work by The Mars Volta often had to grow for the average listener because their music was so experimental, with so much to have to grasp and understand. But now, we the fans who fell in love with the very things that made this band so bizarre, have to learn to understand these new unfamiliar textures of normality. To accept this album for what it is, or more accurately, for what it isn't- The "old" Mars Volta. If you, the fan, are hoping to hear Omar shred on the guitar like in The Bedlam In Goliath, or lengthy instrumental voyages reminiscent of Amputechture, this will surely be a lamenting experience for you. But to those who admire The Mars Volta for exploring different realms within musical genres and expanding their sound into new creations, this may be the album for you.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
March 23rd 2012



4400 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

reuploading my noctourniquet review. it's a little long but this is the first chance i got to review my favourite band, so i had a lot
to say.

Digging: Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty

taxidermist
March 23rd 2012



7197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Whoa, this is huuuuge. Will read.

CarlosOrellana
March 23rd 2012



11 Comments


^ What he said. but you seem to like writing long reviews so not too surprised.
looks decent tho

taxidermist
March 23rd 2012



7197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cool, you managed to fix the "projected" error before I could point it out :p

It's long, which isn't a problem for me, but it does take quite a while for you to get to actually talking about the album.
Might be a problem for some who just care about the actual music. I liked reading it, though. Pos :-)

ohfoxxxycole
March 23rd 2012



4353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"A Supernova of anarchical psychedelia. Sounds so delicate in nature that they can induce a hypnotic
ambience, as easily as they can descend into a more intense eruption of ferocious instrumentation.
Meditative voyages exploring the realms of not only the music at hand, but a personal odyssey where
the musician discovers their full potential, and then goes even further. And all of these different
musical approaches are often decorated with cryptical lyricism which are often expressed in ominous
and metaphorical ambiguity- This is the The Mars Volta, or at least how they chose to project
themselves for the world."

The capacity of human intelligence seems to limit the capabilities to expand upon any possible
creative aptitudes. Indeed, if one cannot even notice the facets that the ingenuities around him are
comprised of, how can he be expected to fashion a beast of his own? This inveterate sense of
constraint is a great blow to the veracity of mankind’s abilities. It restrains us and holds our
minds to the ground below, averting any possibility of rising above ourselves to something greater;
something not fathomed by the conventional mind. This concept of seeking to go beyond one’s self,
known as “transcendence”, is essentially a gateway to unlocking pieces of ourselves that can lead to
some of the most elaborate and significant creations of our world. For many, this quest to transcend
and form creations that were once considered unthinkable and overwhelming consumes life. Certainly
it is rare to find such people, but when they are found, creative barriers are destroyed.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
March 23rd 2012



4400 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wow, that was really well articulated. I believe that The Mars Volta falls under that category, of better oneself and pushing the boundaries of creativity.

Oceanus
March 23rd 2012



877 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

This is actually a pretty informative review. Here's a pos, man.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 23rd 2012



3353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Really good review! Pos. I really like your writing style and you give a very detailed overview of the album but also background information.

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

Tyrael
March 23rd 2012



20795 Comments


Great review, pos'd

CaptainDooRight
March 23rd 2012



28664 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Hey Paper I didn't know you had any reviews bro. I'm smart enough to know this is a pos but I'll read this ina bit as I'm really interested in what you had to say, even though we have different opinions about the album.

Digging: Tukaaria - Raw to the Rapine

Tyrannic
March 23rd 2012



3261 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

doo- thank you for 1-ing this.

Taxt
March 23rd 2012



621 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review

BurninTheFire
March 23rd 2012



4 Comments


Wow. seriously good read! Pos'd

Superfriendlyaviator
March 28th 2012



32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good read, thumbs up

YoYoMancuso
April 28th 2012



10994 Comments


their best album since Frances The Mute

NightmareCinema16
October 15th 2012



2016 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Brilliant review. I might end up checking out De-Loused in the Comatorium first.

tommygun
October 15th 2012



24135 Comments


Review rules, album is decent but not mind-blowing. Not sure how I missed this review but pos'd hard.

Some absolutely killer tracks and some stinkers. 'In Absentia' and 'Vedamalady' are so great. I really dig Cedric's performance on this record.

Digging: J Mascis - Tied to a Star

NightmareCinema16
November 9th 2012



2016 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is a contributer review hotspot. For sure.



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