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

FRANCES THE MUTE

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

4.06 | 888 ratings

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Insin
4 stars The short version: I love this album but there's just so much random noise on it.

The Mars Volta has crafted a diverse, eclectic album with Frances the Mute. From the half-hour epic Cassandra to the catchy, almost radio-friendly The Widow; from Latin, jazz, and traces of funk and hardcore, FtM covers all aspects of a memorable prog album.

There is one major flaw with this album: the sheer amount of random noise present. Sometimes placed at the ends of songs, where it is easy to skip, but more often embedded at their beginnings or middles, it seems to have no musical function except making the entrance to the actual song structure better and more dramatic. For instance, if Cassandra did not have the ten minutes of noodling, the buildup back into the final chorus would not be nearly as powerful and satisfying. Contrarily, the noise ruins Miranda the Ghost That Just Isn't Holy Anymore. It would have made a great short track, similar to The Widow, but they managed to drag it out to almost fourteen minutes and the original song seems to get lost amid all the samples and whatnot. And then, of course, the noise is annoying to listen to on its own. It makes the songs perhaps not more atmospheric but definitely a little creepy, adding a mystique that shifts TMV even farther from the mainstream than they already were.

Cygnus? Vismund Cygnus manages to escape the curse of the noise to a degree, though the very end is full of the stuff. Still, I would cite this as Frances's standout track. After a quiet intro, Cygnus launches headfirst into a chaotic, urgent beginning, screeching to a halt and then building back up from a quiet middle to an energetic close. The buildup is done well, without the aid of random noise and instead based on a musical idea. FtM would be getting a certain five if the rest of the songs followed this idea? Another thing about Cygnus is that it starts with the same acoustic segment that ends the album? something that is simple but genius.

There's a great album hidden amid all the bursts of the random noise, and it's worth hearing. FtM blends various genres and influences into a chaotic but effective, enjoyable sophomore album, certainly living up to Deloused, with more long songs, more innovation, and more prog.

Insin | 4/5 |

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