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The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1006 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Rain Man
Prog Reviewer
5 stars At first listen, it just sounds like a complete mess and is all over the place, though bit by bit it begins to make more sense....

1st listen - Widow single (edit) clicks. 2-5 listens - Cygnus apart from the last 2 mins clicks. 6-10 listens - Miranda - (now I realise the true genius of it). 11-15 listens - L'Via L'viaquez -(brilliant). 15-20 listens - getting there with Cassandra Gemini but its still pretty tough

The bits such as the last 3 minutes of the widow and 2 mins of Cygnus along with various other parts of the album can only really be described as 'awkward' listening. When the later minutes of Widow were playing my Mum actually thought the CD was jamming! To be fair it does sound that way. I do wonder what Omar and Cedric think of these parts, as they must have a reason why they are included. Obviously no one could understand their music more than them so they must see something in these parts which make them special enough to have included them on the album. In saying that, what I thought were 4 awkward minutes in the beginning of Miranda, I now realise that it really does act as a superb build up till the trumpets slowly come in. The uses of the trumpets are what makes Miranda such a cold and chilling track and adds to the atmosphere of the album as a whole.

Like any good album you really can't judge it until you've listened to it a lot. I really didn't like this album for starter especially as it is meant to be listened to in one sitting. At 76 minutes long, I think the sheer length of it played mind tricks on me and instead of properly listening to the music, I was thinking of how long it was. As you keep listening to it, time gradually becomes insignificant and when that stage is reached you can truly appreciate the album because it will start to make sense, so you're focusing less on the time and more on the music.

This album is to deloused as deloused is to relationship of command (At the Drive-in) because from relationship to de-loused, they really did take their music to another level and now they've managed one step further. Whether they make the next step with their next album remains to be seen, where that step is I don't think they even know! But one thing is for sure they have the talent to be timeless.

One thing I really like about this album is the concept that it is never ending, it can just loop forever because the end of the last track Cassandra, turns into the intro for Cygnus. This album also shows how singer Cedric really has moved away from ATDI even further because there are virtually no 'shouty' bits at all. In fact Frances shows what an amazing singer he really is. He hits notes which most people could only dream of reaching, for example the "oh yeah" s during Cygnus or the "bring me to my knees towards the beginning of Cassandra. Overall his pure and unique vocals add a great deal to the album.

However the key to this album which holds it together is not Cedric's unique vocals, Omar's exquisite guitar playing or John's mental drumming - but it's the infectious baselines which set the tone for the whole album. While Omar, Cedric, John along with the other contributors go off into their own little worlds in the album, the base line is the constant throughout each song and brings it all together. In particular Omar's guitar playing seems to dance round the baselines not knowing which way he's going to go next.

To explain what their album is like compared to other prog albums I'll put it in to context by using the analogy of running. First of all I'll explain how much music in general can be related to running. Anyone can run a mile, maybe at different times, but they can still run it. Just like pop music, its east to understand. However longer runs require more training and you have to build up to it. This is like progressive music because you need to listen to it lots in order to understand it or to appreciate it to its full potential. To put this into context of this Mars Volta album is like a 3 hour long run. A 3 hour long run can take many shapes and forms. The MV album is like a mix of urban and rural landscapes. The urban bits are the straight forward road running bits, or the parts of the albums which are the easiest to understand. However they are still hilly sections in this part to keep it challenging. Then there is the rural parts which are the parts are the rough trails which take longer because it is more technical. This represent those 'awkward' moments of the album.

To sum up Frances the mute is a never ending journey through a musical landscape. A tough 3 hour long run may sound completely unthinkable to some people, but if you do the training its nothing short of brilliance........just like Frances the Mute!

The Rain Man | 5/5 |


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