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The Mars Volta - Tremulant EP CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.30 | 126 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars It's fairly well known that THE MARS VOLTA emerged from the ashes of the post-hardcore band At The Drive-In that imploded because of the relentless nature of lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez' collective boredom with the status quo of the simplicity of the music they were playing. The two had more ambitious visions and wanted to engage in more experimental approaches. The rift caused the band to fall apart right as they were about to break. Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez- Lopez continued with another side project called De Facto which would evolve into what would become known as THE MARS VOLTA. The other members of At The Drive-In went on to form Sparta. This is also the only VOLTA release to feature founding member Eva Gardiner on bass.

Before the full-length debut "De-Loused In The Comatorium" in 2003, this El Paso, TX based band which has seen numerous lineup changes released a single EP in 2002 titled THE TREMULANT, which has the dictionary definition as a device on an organ by which the wind stream is made to fluctuate in intensity producing a tremolo effect but in reality, the title actually refers to a concept story of "De-Loused In The Comatorium" referring to TREMULANTS which are creatures that dwell inside the mind of the main character Cerpin Taxt. Likewise this reference also portends the title of the first official album that would emerge with a different cast of musicians, a better production job and was the album to put THE MARS VOLTA on the map as a wild and energetic new talent. But the word TREMULANT does seem to suggest the band's musical approach as well even literally.

THE TREMULANT EP effectively serves as the bridge between the post-hardcore sounds of At The Drive-In and the newly created more experimental progressive rock THE MARS VOLTA sound that would be perfected on the following two albums. This short just shy of 20 minute EP contains only three tracks but like the best punk infused albums that display ample quantities of energetic passionate angst as well as pent up frustration, manages to pack in an album's worth of ideas in a condensed version. Many of the traits that would become THE MARS VOLTA classic sound have debuted here as well, those being the punk inspired guitar riffs mixed with abstract and surreal bouts of psychedelia along with progressive complexities and experimental weirdness.

"Cut That City" begins with a rather head scratching minute and a half of gurgling noise and an irregular heart beat type percussive drive before finally bursting into the more familiar guitar driven riffage and frenetic oddly timed drumming patterns the band has become known for although at this point the band was still detoxing from its post-hardcore days and delivers faster tempos than the full-length albums. Likewise Bixler-Zavala's vocals, while always sounding a little goofy, really come off as left field on this one as his all over the map style is even more unhinged than on future releases.

"Concertina" is more of a classic VOLTA track of the future with a nice mix of Rodriguez-Lopez' jittery guitar arpeggios dancing along in clean echoey fashion with Bixler-Zavala delivering his goofy yelp to keep the melodic flow going while the bass and drums provide a slightly off-kilter rhythm section. While only rumored, this track is supposedly a stab at former At The Drive-In member Ben Rodriguez who is claimed to have not been very nice to be polite and is perhaps a release of tension regarding the conflicts that led to the band's untimely demise. This track also displays some of those killer idiosyncratic guitar licks that sound unlike any other. Rodriguez-Lopez at this point had developed a very unique stylistic approach that mixes Latin music with heavy rock and some jazzy touches to boot.

"Eunuch Provocateur" is the meatiest track on board and also the longest just shy of the nine minute mark and also prognosticates the classic VOLTA sound on "De-Loused" with an incessant post-hardcore drive mixed up with progressive time signatures and psychedelic sound effects whizzing by. The track also is the most experimental and creative with not only unexpected twists and turns and deviations but also some stellar backwards vocals that are really saying nothing more than lyrics from children's songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" as well as "did mommy or daddy ever have to spank you?"

For a short little sucker this one really packs a punch and although not as well produced or well composed as "De-Loused" or "Frances The Mute," this one is a nice little slice of rawness that reminds the fans just where the band emerged from and the perfect little transition statement that the band was free to unshackle the chains and take the music to new levels that were unthinkable in At The Drive-In. Except for the annoying one and a half minutes of nonsensical gurgly noise that unfortunately begins this EP, this is actually a really good collection of three tracks that shows THE MARS VOLTA already having their full powers in tact. While the production is a little rough around the edges by the later standards, this one was remastered and released digitally with two bonus tracks, but personally i prefer this straight forward, no nonsense unique little slice of renegade post-hardcore that just wanted to get a little weird.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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