Review Summary: When I sift through the air/ In your mask made of infinite bane/ There is bliss from the smelter that stained
Personally, the saddest news from the music world in 2013 was the disbanding of The Mars Volta. While they amazed and irked in equally manic measure, there was something oddly alluring about that unique sound, the sound of progressive rock from another cosmos; a sound that could only ever be created by Zavala’s unique, nasally falsetto, Omar’s serrated fretwork and those free jazz freak-outs.
The B-Side collection; the final scraps of carcass that a record label serves after a musician’s creative death. Something I usually abhor. However, this time the situation is different, this fifteen track LP spanning ten years has some controversy attached to it. Leaked in August by a mystery source with a private message that demanded the sharing of this material, fan site ‘The Comatorium’ soon took up on the offer and began to share the LP. As the files began to circulate Cedric Bixler-Zavala tweeted to assert that the mystery source was indeed him, jokingly stating that the tracks were recorded in Ibiza at a session with none other than David Guetta, meanwhile on Facebook former Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen also confirmed the files legitimacy; adding fire to rumor of an Omar mutiny. While a definite reason for the leak is unknown, fans and music journalists alike have argued over the past few months that the leak was a jibe at Omar Rodriguez Lopez for disbanding The Mars Volta in favour of a new project, Bosnian Rainbows. A typically oddball ending to an oddball band it seems… but is this free material any good? Can it stand up to anything on Frances or even Noctourniquet?
The most striking aspect of the album is the completeness of the production on some tracks. The opener, ‘Clouds/ Orchestrina’ wallows in a warm, but agitated vibe, displaying a hi-hat drumming style typical to that of Noctourniquet, it’s a joy made only more so by Cedric’s characteristically beautiful lyrics, ‘In the clouds, in the clouds I ride/
Lacing the sulfur in rain.’ The sophomore track, an early demo of ‘Molochwalker’, is more fascinating than the album version, thanks to Thomas Pridgen’s powerfully raw drumming style. The soft dazed atmosphere of the instrumental ’Peeling Of’ is also noteworthy for being perhaps the most dulcet track the band had ever recorded, sounding more Abba, than Volta. (Ok, perhaps not Abba). Nevertheless, it is the tracks in which Cedric’s vocals are laid down which are perhaps the most complete and enjoyable. ‘Postulate,’ retains its interest through an ominous earworm of a chorus ‘My wish is to forget I ever knew/
And postulate in song.’ However, the jewel of the collection is the manic ‘Whisper Your Flinch,’ which flaunts its war paint through a bone rattling bass line and several interspersed jagged guitar solos typical to that of The Bedlam in Goliath.
Coming off somewhat like the musical equivalent of Guess Who, B-Sides is fascinating because of the ambiguity that surrounds it. Clocking in at over eighty minutes however, it is fair to say that the album has a lot of waffle on board and is about as cohesive as a box of popcorn, but shift through the sand and there are diamonds that even the most cynical of listeners will revel in.
Whisper Your Flinch