The Mars Volta

Album Review: The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet

Six albums in, The Mars Volta’s fanbase knows what to expect with a new release: the opposite of what you think is coming. After progressing from jazz-fusion in their early releases, to utter madness with ‘The Bedlam in Goliath’, and then to their “acoustic” album ‘Octahedron’, sixth album ‘Noctourniquet’ is a whole other beast. And for those keeping up, Deantoni Parks plays drums this time around following the departure of Thomas Pridgen after two albums, and a brief touring stint with Dave Elitch.

Following on from the relatively quiet ‘Octahedron’, opener ‘The Whip Hand’ plays The Mars Volta’s new, ahem, hand – electronica. Not once did I ever expect to say “wait for the drop” about a Mars Volta song, but seriously, wait for the drop.

These electronica influences are the defining factor of ‘Noctourniquet.’ Just like ‘Bedlam’ dealt with being loud and ‘Frances The Mute’ is known for the length of its five sThe Mars Volta Noctourniquet Artworkongs, this new release keeps things somewhat brief (13 tracks and only just over an hour long) and features basslines that would sit comfortably alongside ‘Myxomatosis’ in a Radiohead set.

This makes it the most easily accessible Mars Volta record since their debut. Lead single ‘The Malkin Jewel’ has a reggae feel and a memorable chorus, while ‘Aegis’ has a hook that stays with you for days. ‘Zed and Two Noughts’ even sounds like it could be from that first album, with a familiar sounding verse and rapid snare drum blasts reminiscent of ‘Eriatarka.’ Except, this time, there are spacey synths all over the track cementing its place in the 2012 incarnation of the band.

Deantoni Parks’ mark is all over the album, with ‘Molochwalker’ serving as his shining moment. At three and a half minutes, it’s a brief pop-structured song, which completely belongs to Parks thanks to his manic snare rolls and total command of the rhythm section, aided as always by bassist Juan Alderete.

After the reserved ‘Octahedron’ the energy on display here is refreshing. While the experimentation on the last album was a drastic left turn for the band, the same could be said for any of their releases. The electronica comes as a complete surprises, along with the Radiohead comparisons, but the jazz-fusion remains; this is still music to salsa dance to, and still no one has any idea what Cedric Bixler-Zavala is singing about.

It will most likely be a while before we see ‘Noctournquet’ toured properly due to the recently announced At The Drive-In shows, but it will be interesting to see how these tracks are performed live, especially if any of their trademark jamming is included in any of the songs. The dreamy ‘In Absentia’, the only song over seven minutes long, would be an ideal place for it. While recent sets were dominated by new tracks, anyone who has seen the band before knows how their songs develop over time and with the album finally released, Omar and co. will undoubtedly be having some fun with the new tracks in their arsenal.

It is always hard to tell what place The Mars Volta are in as a band, but taken as it is, ‘Noctourniquet’ is a flawless, unique record that shows yet another side to the shapeless music project. Accessible, catchy, danceable, and breaking yet more new territory for a band who refuse to make the same album twice, ‘Noctourniquet’ is one of the albums you need to hear in 2012.

Rating – 10

     

About Scott Wilson

Having spent the last twenty years of his life telling his friends his opinion of the latest release by every band he has ever heard of, Scott is an enthusiastic journalist and keen writer. A fan of every genre of music, though his heart firmly belongs to rock, he has been spending far too much money on gigs and not enough on digs. Reachable by either email or Twitter where copious amounts of commentating and general excitement can also be found.

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