Friday, April 24, 2009

Album of the Year? Very Possible!

While Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s new project may be a “grupo nuevo,” if you’re not a fan of his previous work with The Mars Volta, odds are you’re not going to fall in love with Cryptomnesia. The debut release from El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, is the first of a trilogy of releases from this new project, and kicks things off with a manic explosion. Those who have already come to love The Mars Volta and Omar’s solo projects however, can add another prog filled, free jazz, psychedelic, and warped classic into their collection, as these fellas have done it again. Never a stranger to constant creativity, Omar (guitarist/composer/multi-instrumentalist/genius) has been releasing music at a frantic pace since the demise of At The Drive-In, and in no way has that affected the quality or integrity of his music. El Grupo Nuevo is comprised of himself, Zach Hill (drums) of Hella/Team Sleep fame, Jonathan Hischke (synth bass) of Hella, and The Mars Volta’s own Cedric Bixlar Zavala (vocals) and Juan Alderete de la Pena (bass). The idea of combining two of the most spastic hard rocking bands of this era is a phenomenal idea to many, and a growing headache to others. Fear not though, this album is still very much accessible (relatively) and should be widely embraced by fans of both bands. As you may imagine, this isn’t music to drift off to sleep to, but rather abrasive, well calculated, experimental rock designed to kick ass and blow minds.


The album roars out the gate with “Tuberculoids,” and the explosive Latin tinged guitar freak-outs that we have all come to know and love. This time around however, the drumming is just as elastic and shifting as the guitars. All this gigantic mess of sound manages to not become self-indulgent, as let’s face it, many thought it would. The songs are still concise while madly twisting back and forth. Zavala’s singing is beautiful with soaring melodies and the usual indecipherable cryptic lyricism. “Half Kleptos” is the most accessible and “commercial” song on the album, maybe even something radio could embrace if they wanted to take a chance for once. The song gives the vibe of a rundown old carnival with a creepy and funky mist in the air. The time signatures stay fairly normal for these two bands, but it’s not without its share of virtuosity from the two respective bassists. Zavala sings a memorable hook consisting of “Girl you ain’t better than the germs I spread/now I only gotta fix the fucking shape I’m in” with full rock star swagger and infectious repetition. If this shape needs fixing, please let it stay broken.
The title track clocks in at just over six minutes, the longest on the album, a sign this isn’t just another Mars Volta album. Lopez’s guitar work is like a raging hurricane; the eye of the storm demolishing all in its path as it spreads and feeds. Hill’s drumming surges through the wreckage with incredible compliment and out of this world precision. This is the kind of rhythm that will make anyone a believer as he delivers an all out assault on his drum kit. Zavala’s vocals warp in and out with processed effects, and you have to give the man some credit for even attempting to sing a melody to most of these records. “They’re Coming To Get You, Barbara,” is an instrumental voyage complete with synth tinkering and digital noise manipulation that bursts with heavy stomping riffs that come and go with no warning. Imagine what it might be like on an alien ship…during a rave, and this is what I expect to be playing. There is so much music to hear within these songs, that the album will feel brand new even after multiple listens.

“Puny Humans” is about as spastic as they come, and Zavala’s lyrics seem to express it best, “I won’t get tourettes if you won’t get tourettes.” Hill’s drumming seems to topple over itself in a barrage of indestructible rhythms. Sharp angular guitar and plodding bass all surge together for this rapid attack on your perception. The song shifts directly into “Shake is For 8th Graders, even incorporating the same vocal lines. Hill manages to steal the show from Lopez on this one, as he crashes about with sincere and extreme drumming. Zavala’s vocals are the closest thing to his former At The Drive-In style heard since their demise, which serves as a welcome mixture of days past and what is still certain to come.

“Noir” twitches with synth created electrical energy to begin, and is unlike the rest of the album in the fact that it’s not an instant outburst of sound, but rather builds slowly with rigid guitar movements and wide open bass waves that lead into the hypnotizing bridge section before the storm finally hits, and in full force. “Paper Cunts,” may not contain everyone’s favorite title, but the song more than makes up to those who might be offended. Zavala is able to sing an extremely catchy melody that will engrain itself in your memory over a never ending stampede of math fueled drum fills and futuristic guitar freak-outs that continue to scream virtuoso with every note. This track blends right into “Elderly Pair Beaten With Hammers,” complete with a waltz like melody from Zavala. The vocals are brief however as the other four members of the band storm into hyperspace as if they’ve been playing together for ages. “Warren Oates” segues right in without missing a step, in what is essentially just an extended leg of the previous track. This is intelligent, ballsy, and simply incredible musicianship. Zavala’s vocals come back in after about a minute and a half of the new song, with one of those hypnotic falsetto melodies that he’s engaged in so many times with The Mars Volta, leaving your mind spinning and salivating for more. The intensity is kicked into full gear, and one can only imagine what this could do if they ever decide to tour. The vulgarly titled closer “Fuck Your Mouth” is simply a 24 second thank you for all those that have made the journey, and are “still listening at this point.” Having played this album nonstop for several weeks now, I know that I’ll be listening for a very long time to come.

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