THE MARS VOLTA: AMPUTECHTURE

Listen to "Viscera Eyes" with Windows Media or Real Media

By Kayceman

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. If the name is not setting off your internal "Music Alert," then you best go get yourself checked out because something is broken. As producer, guitarist, musical genius, and co-founder of The Mars Volta, Omar has established himself as one of the most important artists of the past decade. Few musicians ever scratch the surface of stardom, Omar and his platonic musical soul mate, singer/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, have scratched it twice in six years. At the crest of their rising stock with indie-emo-punk band At the Drive-In, Omar and Cedric split to form The Mars Volta, a band they could call their own and be as long-winded, self-indulgent, and crazy as their little brown hearts desired. But the type and extent of artistic excellence being displayed by Omar does not rest solely on confidence, balls, and talent; it takes vision. Not only has Omar developed a unique, psych-rock guitar style built around strange bunches of notes, liberal use of effects pedals, and a heavy dose of his hard-Latin upbringing, but by taking full control of producing the band's third full-length, Amputechture (available September 12th on Universal), Omar has elevated himself from inspirational musician to Artistic Visionary. Omar has dabbled in production all along. He co-produced the Volta's 2003 debut De-Loused in the Comatorium with Rick Rubin – an experience he found stifling. Yeah, you heard me - he found working with Rubin, one of the most unconventional, relaxed, and respected producers in the game, stifling, which led to full control being taken for 2005's sophomore release, Frances The Mute. As insanely good as both records are, with Amputechture Omar has outdone himself.

Example: Although Omar is beyond capable of crushing any of the guitar parts on Amputechture (proof being both of the live shows I've witnessed on this past tour), he enlisted longtime collaborator and Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante to play almost all of the guitar parts in the studio. Minutes before they would record, Frusciante would be sitting on the sidewalk with Omar learning the guitar segments he was supposed to play for the session. They'd cut the dirty, nasty guitar madness (see "Viscera Eyes," "Meccamputechture," "Tetragrammaton") to Omar's liking and move onto the next part, bringing in Juan Alderte to record the bass or Jon Theodore (who has now been replaced with long-ago Volta drummer Blake Fleming) to cut the drums, recording each piece individually without the other band members or their instruments available. In other words, Omar had all of it in his head and knew exactly what he wanted out of each player, even though the other musicians had no idea how the often cacophonous, bizarre parts would blend. In essence, Omar refuses to be just another guitarist or bandleader. He removed himself from the mundane responsibility of playing the guitar and put himself in the role of producer and mastermind. Because when you really think about it, when handled a certain way, a guitarist is just acting like God, but the producer is God.

Bixler-Zavala & Rodriguez-Lopez :: The Mars Volta
There are others before Omar who have approached their art with a similar sensibility and confidence (some called it arrogance, but being the greatest comes with a price), you may recall such names as Miles and Zappa. Both were far more than just musicians. They would take over sessions and conduct the music with the sole purpose of fulfilling their vision. Miles was at times known to work in a similar fashion to how Omar cut Amputechture, often bringing players into the studio and telling them to play a color, or to react to a painting. Zappa, like Omar, often didn't even play guitar so he could be fully in charge of the production and masterminding of a record. By breaking out of convention, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa created some of the most important and revolutionary albums of all time. Has Omar accomplished this? Time will tell. But history also tells us that it often takes years for the rest of us mortals to catch up to folks like Miles, Zappa, and Omar.

Yet it's clearly not enough to just go it alone and make music based on one's vision, you have to deliver the goods. Amputechture delivers and then some. Similar in foundation to the Volta's previous albums, the dark, expansive tracks are built on a constantly shifting percussive ocean with waves of demented guitar and washes of effects pouring into your headphones only to be met by Cedric's heavily processed, high-register vocal-images of "Humans as ornaments" ("Meccamputechture"). But what makes the music so incredible is that just when it's about to be too much, just when your girlfriend is about to shut off the car stereo, it gives. The music breaks and the tension lifts, giving way to an ethereal space-rock guitar jam; or maybe a ballad of sorts such as "Asilos Magdalena" featuring Cedric's sensual, sexual Spanish and nothing but a tasteful calypso-inspired acoustic guitar and eerie organ behind him.

And then there's "Viscera Eyes." Utilizing a giant, stadium-rock hook and some bi-lingual bombast similar to Frances the Mute's "L'Via L'Viaquez," "Viscera Eyes" is the showstopper, and could be the band's best song to date. And while it hits the same nerve as "L'Via," it's more potent, a bit leaner, and just a tad meaner. This appears to be what we learn with Amputechture: it's still got that Mars Volta sound all over it, but it's more refined, more clearly laid out, a bit more mellow and melodic, perhaps even slightly more accessible, but every bit as potent. Although Amputechture is still packed with dark content and religious references, the story-book concept found on De-Loused and the personal tie-ins of Mute are replaced with a more universal look at our world. Or as Cedric told MTV.com, "This album's a commentary about the fear of God instead of the love of God, which goes hand-in-hand with Catholicism. To me, religion is the reason there is so much conflict in this world, and I think it's just so unnecessary to believe in this blue-eyed, white-bearded, white-haired God." With Omar creating the music and Cedric creating lyrics based on shit like that, there may be no better band on the planet. Every album moves The Mars Volta closer to stardom, and the beauty is they're doing it on their own terms. The Mars Volta are Visionaries; Amputechture is just further proof.

Editor's Reminder: Listen to "Viscera Eyes" with Windows Media or Real Media. Seriously, check it out and if you've heard a better rock song all year, tell us about it with the Comments Box below.

JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 9/8/06]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!


You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!



 
 

Comments

londonko starstarstarstarstar Fri 9/8/2006 05:16PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

great article, but I disagree with the statement that it takes time for people to appreciate the work of true genius'... because I have know for quite a while that Omar was the man.

It only took me some time for me to actually realize how badass his stylings were (wishing to be the next Mahavishnu and getting a drummer who wants to be Cobham is a great start).

//I cried when i heard Jon Theodore left the band.
//Although Mahavishnu Orchestra really only made 3 albums with the original band, I want more!!!
//The Volta is Dead! Long live the Volta.

mrkrinkle6884 starstarstarstarstar Sat 9/9/2006 01:32AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

mrkrinkle6884

Is it just me or does the author need to get off of Omar's dick. I mean I'm a Mars Volta Fanatic (22 live bootlegs and counting) But I mean Jesus Christ I dont know what he tastes like.

DirtyRice starstarstarstarstar Sat 9/9/2006 01:31PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DirtyRice

i saw the mars volta open for a perfect circle and they completely blew me away, they stole the show! bummer to hear Jon Theodore left the band and i wonder why he would do that. i have a feeling working with such a creative genius like Omar would take its toll. i liked the authors comparisons with miles and zappa and look at the revolving door of musicians those cats had. i really hope amputechture is as good as the author says because the live "scabdates" had moments of torture. who wants to hear a baby crying for 10 minutes during a jam, Omar!! it has moments of magic though but it is not repeat listening magic. FYI- anyone who has not heard the title track "frances the mute" must go to bestbuy and steal it. bestbuy includes it now if you buy a copy of the album but for those who already purchased without, just take it. you deserve it. it sounds more like classic yes and king crimson and it also includes a sweet acoustic "the widow".

vida421 starstarstarstarstar Sat 9/9/2006 02:44PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

vida421

No the write is money!!! These guys are the best thing happening NOW! When I saw their 2nd night at the Roseland(nyc)I was blown away. To sound good at the Roseland isn't easy...then to put on such a smoking show on top of it. I know "jam fans" don't like the fact that it the same show every night of tour, but with the songs their playing I can't see them doing any improv...they just nail that shit! Surgical precision, and all envloping sound...damn fine light show too. It a shame the drummer left, he really held it all down...but such is life. I couldn't help but thinking that this was what it was like to see some of the greats during the early 70's(Zepplin, Who etc.)
only these boys didn't look like they were over endulging with the rock and roll vices. TMV is a must see!!!

vida421 Sat 9/9/2006 02:48PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

vida421

Oh yea, they played 2 hours with no break and no bullshit encore. They just left you wanting more.

Stevie_t Sun 9/10/2006 08:40AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

not to bash the mars volta or anything, becuz i love them, but will no one point out there influence from king crimson and other pivotal progressive acts that have given them quite a bit of their style. i like so many other people who are/were a bit musically unaware thought that the mars volta were stumbling on something completely new and it mostly had to do with omar's guitar playing style. not to discredit him or any member of the band but it's not this completely unique self-derivative style. this guy is way too into omar, not that i don't agree with the fact that he and mars volta (and at the drive in for that matter) should go down in history, but people should know where the music is coming from, not just who is making it now. listen to king crimson and robert fripps guitar work in other projects, you'll hear where volta came from.

vida421 Sun 9/10/2006 01:52PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

vida421

Chuck Berry, the true king of rock and roll said that he never wrote a song he just rearranged song that had all ready been written.
Of course the guys were influenced by past music, but that music has been there for other people too...yet these guys are the first ones to pick up on it so well. F me running the Dead stole from everyone, and so did Phish. But you go ahead with your idealistic views and keep shitting on the little bit of greatness we have left.

vida421 Sun 9/10/2006 01:53PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

vida421

Its ALL been done before!!!

Domo1 Mon 9/11/2006 06:55AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Portland 05) Cedric had great stage presence! Omar kept losing it at the peak of every song. Love the prog-spanish-spice. LIVE??? Studio-def thumbs up. To me the defining factor of an amazing group is a live performance-as im sure many of you would agree. Just play televators next time-and stop buying smack from john frusciante or else im telling flea!

lonzo starstarstarstar Mon 9/11/2006 03:41PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Most of these comments are silly. Amputecture is amazing album first off. For those of you who haven't stole it yet (I'm buying it tomorrow), you're in for a treat. Second, Omar is an original. Saying "listen to King Crimson and Yes, they are the root" I think is silly. Omar is a true visionary and who ever loves him as much as this writer is alright with me.

raszputini Mon 9/11/2006 05:23PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Amputechture is a great album. I'm still stuck on De-loused, so I won't say its their best yet.

As far as the King Crimson comparisons go, and I love certain periods of Crimson, I just don't get it. Yeah, Mars Volta writes in crazy time signatures and jump in and out of them a lot; and yeah Cedric's got some serious range, but after that the comparisons end.

Omar's guitar style is probably more influenced by Jimmy page than Robert Fripp or Adrian Belew. And Volta as a band seem much more interested in overall tone than the notes it is comprised of.

Omar's use of dissonanace is where his originality really shines, I don't think I've ever heard a guitarist using dissonant note and chords as much as Omar ans still pull it off.

dizzle74 starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/12/2006 08:25PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hello mrkrinkle6884,
Sounds like you were allready on his dick! And now your jealouse that someone else feels the same way you do, (about your own private little rockstar) Dont worry soon the rest of the world will! Especially with the killer review kayceman gave him. But don't worry I feel the same way to! Thanks for letting us break your heart! Kayceman MIguel from VA says What Up!
P.S. I have 23 live shows want one?

AdamObs24 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 07:12PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

First of all "Amputechture" is incredible. The best original progressive rock album in a long time for me.

But to everyone, Robert Fripp's style IS very similar to Omar's. Listen to "Lark's Tongue's in Aspic", mainly the title track(s) to hear what Fripp was doing with strange sounding guitar back in the 70s. Omar's style incorporates latin influences which Fripp didn't have, but they both do have similar visions. The Mars Volta is more bombastic and a lot louder than King Crimson is now, but back in the 70s "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" was as loud as it gets, and far different from anything else out there. Keep in mind, while the Mars Volta's style is different due to other influences, King Crimson is easily one of the biggest (I would say the biggest) influence on the band. I mean, the horn part in Day of the Baphomets are very similar to what Crimson used to do.

deftone984 starstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 10:31PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

deftone984

the mars volta is way more than just omar. it is a sum of amazing talent from all members. yes he is creative, but lets not get caried away here. havent heard the new album yet but hope its on the same plain of greatness as deloused in the comatorium. im still not won over by the live show however. definitely check out comets on fire. really cool unconventional sounding band, in some ways volta-esque. be well.

Matthew Jaworski starstarstarstar Thu 9/14/2006 10:41AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Matthew Jaworski

Firstly, I'm really digging the new album, but I don't see these guys ever topping the pure genius that is De-Loused. There are moments in Francis and Amputechture that are absolutely brilliant and I truly enjoy both albums, but De-Loused ranks as one of the greatest pieces of music to ever hit my earholes. There isn't a single wasted moment on that album.

Secondly, does anyone have the scoop on why Jon Theodore is gone? He was other-worldly and I don't see myself enjoying this band as much, now that he's gone.

Jampes Fri 9/15/2006 09:55AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

The Mars Volta fell off after De-Loused. Not that they really could have topped it, I mean we could only wish then, but Frances was a let down, it sucked. The only good song was the first track and I heard they couldn't even play it live. I heard Viscera Eyes and it sucked. If you want good Omar pick up his first solo project 'A Manual Dexterity', I dont think I have ever heard better guitar work. Tremulant, the Mars Volta's first release, kind of a prequel to De-Loused was also great. I think that they let the "art" of being the Mars Volta get to their heads and they, Cedric and Omar, believe that whatever they do will be great because "oh, we are artists. we already made a masterpiece, so everything we do must be a masterpiece. Listen to this C chord." "WOW that C Chord was great!" It is like the theory of an artist being an artist because he went through the schooling. So if the "artist" shits in a bag he can sell it as artists shit. But what is he selling? SHIT. And shit aint that great, actually its pretty shitty.

JGabriel starstarstar Fri 9/15/2006 01:44PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

JGabriel

Miles Davis, Frank Zappa and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez should not be uttered in the same sentence...Anyone who disagrees with that needs to get their head checked.

Kayceman Fri 9/15/2006 03:55PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Kayceman

DeJayos: Checking my head... please explain why Zappa, Miles and Omar are not valid? Very interested in some reasons.

-kayce

bradly starstarstarstarstar Fri 9/15/2006 04:25PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

ok... jampes, first of all, your parents should probably be restricting you from visiting grown-up websites such as this... your maturity level (or lack thereof) is evident in your flailing verbosity.

miles, zappa, rodriguez-lopez? i think those names actually all fit rather well together... beyond whether or not you think omar is one of the most innately talented musicians working today, he and his partner in crime have realized their creative vision EXACTLY how they want it... every single aspect is executed without a single compromise or concession made... and they are being distributed on THE BIGGEST DISTRIBUTION NETWORK IN THE WORLD... they beat the fucking system as far as i'm concerned, and made music that was culled from the deepest depths of their imaginations, with no intervention from said distributor... they do what they want... and that's exactly what miles and zappa did - they did what they wanted and figured that is the only way they'd do it. otherwise, fuck it, it ain't worth it. and, they are not making it for you, they are not making it for me... they could give a rat's ass who listens to it, they just want to make a product of their hard work (zappa, read his biography, and you'll start to see what i mean by hard work) and expression (miles - see this painting, play this art) that meets their incredibly high standards.

Matthew Jaworski Sat 9/16/2006 06:54AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Matthew Jaworski

bradly - excellent points, brah

mattbixler starstarstarstar Sun 10/1/2006 08:45AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

whats all this about frances the mute sucking?! yeah its more sound effects than music but the flare of volta is still there every artist has to move on and try new things and i think that mute proved that Mars Volta can do this seamlessly. Also, what a shame that jon theodore is gone, i could have cried. he was a pure inspriation to me as a drummer and i just hope somehow he comes back cos blake flemming really doesnt compare. you all know it.

glpgeorge starstarstar Tue 10/3/2006 05:34PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I saw The Mars Volta open for the Chili Peppers last night in Boston. I have never heard a more repulsive bunch of garbage open for a nationally touring act in my life. Progressive you say? They got progressivly worse as the show wet on, until my 17 year old son asked if I wanted to go get a pretzel or something. Don't worry about me "stealing" your music on limewire, I won't even take a free download. Somehow they got a contract, I'm happy for them.

dawnthearsonist starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/15/2006 07:28PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

after reading all the comments i think we can all agree that the mars volta is one of the ONLY good bands out at this current point in time, but i'm not here 2 say that.... screw all u cunts that are dissing the mars volta if i heard u say that 2 my face i would laugh and then snap ur necks. 'nough said

god_of_music starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/22/2006 02:51PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Grat artical, i can see u have captured the true talent of mars volta and for all those noobs who say they not one of the greatest bands ever they should die of been soo gay. there is very few that has gone to the limit of great;like led zeppelin,phish,eric clapton,ect. i guess some people dont appreciate the true musicla talent of these bands anymore. thank u for appreciating the fine talent in music
long live the mars volta

tigeruprcut Thu 11/23/2006 02:27PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great article, but I have to say that Amputechture is not the greatest album concived by these musical giants and its really missing all the goods of the two.I know artest take differnt visions and turn it into art and move in differnt directions but I myself really think that all the energy and soul is missing. I have heard the album and its missing great drum work and great guitar jams Im not comparing the album to previous albums its just not enough talent in it, also TMV wont have the "wild" drum work due to lose of former drummer (Jon Theodore) wich I belive he is one of the reasons they made a good impact on many audiences.I really feel that you did a great work on the article but you really wrote about the wrong album like that.

Thanks
Tiger Upr cut!

ataxiac89 Sat 12/16/2006 07:53AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

^

ataxiac89 Sat 12/16/2006 07:55AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

that was beautifuly written, not many people can catch the boundlessness of the mars volta in words.

um.. and to jampes.. your pretty lame man..
and odviously not a musician, because i dont think in any recorded material of Omars, or at least that i've ever heard, has there ever been just a C, and on the past few albums its been more the extent of Cm7+9sus5, now i want you to take that and try to figure it out, and then i want you to play it in a song and let it make sense. Some people just dont like it when musicians grow, most dont have an open enough mind to listen to it more than once, im sure TMV tired of playing the same songs so they continuely reinvent themselves, not for a shock factor but for there own enjoyment, they were never making music for the people anyways its all been completly self indulgent on there side, besides if you dont like it why are you even commenting on this.

WaterBox Sat 12/30/2006 05:51PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Let us view this not only as music but a new and revolutionizing way of perceving and creating art. Also, a specific cord or arrangement should not be judged completly on the technicality , but how the sounds unite and combine to make up what it does. It would be completly foolish to think technicality is more. I truely believe these artist are the best thing of this generation. It makes me proud of being part of this generation. But...I hope everyone realizes this is not something new. Remember Yes ELP
Most important, never forget classical music. I hope some of you more mature and abstract minds out there know what i'm talking about. Oh yea, I love the mars volta too and think all four records are works of art. Although, I do believe that Frances the mute on Frances the Mute is the
greatest piece of art till date brought to us by TMV. Last but not least, John Theodore did record Amp. so I dont know what dude is talkin about drums not so good on Amp. Also, John left to work on another project with Zack De La Rocha........WaterBox is.....