Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Mars Volta - Frances The Mute (Universal, 2005)

Heavy Prog


Country: US

Frances The Mute, The Mars Volta’s second studio album, never received the commercial success that De-loused in the Comatorium had. Nevertheless did the album receive good criticism and made it to a lot of ‘Best of ’-lists. Frances The Mute is De-loused in the Comatorium’s more experimental brother. The band took their music up to a whole new level; incorporating jazz, latin, psychedelia, ambient, dub into their previously blended progrock cocktail without losing emotion, melody, virtuosity and power. The chaotic outbursts are still omnipresent, creating fierce crescendo’s and powerfull choral-like structures.
To put it in another way: Frances The Mute is rooted more deeply into the progressive rock tradition than its predecessor, but Frances The Mute is also comparable to De-loused in the Comatorium, with its cryptic lyrics, polytonality and complex musical structures.

The album consists out of 5 major compositions of which 3 are divided into smaller tracks fused together.


1. Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus
* I. Sarcophagi
* II. Umbilical Syllables
* III. Facilis Descenus Averni
* IV. Con Safo
2. The Widow
3. L'Via L'Viaquez
4. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore
* I. Vade Mecum
* II. Pour Another Icepick
* III. Pisacis (Phra-Men-Ma)
* IV. Con Safo
5. Cassandra Gemini
* I. Tarantism
* II. Plant a Nail in the Naval Stream
* III. Faminepulse
* IV. Multiple Spouse Wounds
* V. Sarcophagi
Total playing time: 76:55

All music written by Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez.

Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus sets for a quiet start with a clean acoustic guitar intro joined by strings at 0:10 which give the intro a more open sound. This dreamy atmosphere is joined by Zavala’s vocals not much later which is then ruptured again by their famous chaotic, latin-infused, multi-layered progrock-sound. Drums might seem a bit monotone during the first song, but they get more varied as the album progresses.

Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez’s guitar sound takes on many forms: more reverbed/psychedelic presets get followed by a classic rock sound that instantly changes into a funky distorted guitar playing over the more chaotic sessions that often end into a fast-paced 220 bpm high gain guitar solo. Also expect more modest, mid-oriented guitar solo’s as interludes. Rodriguez-Lopez is a real musical chameleon who has progressed a lot due to De Facto and his more experimental solo excursions (he has released close to 10 albums in the past 2-3 years).

Every track ends with an ambient, sometimes psychedelic, synth-produced atmosphere that fades into the next song. At first it was very seductive to skip this piece and go directly to the next track. But after a few listens, you will notice that these ambient landscapes give the album an enormous amount of power: hard to get as these sections are, they keep you attentive and alert, they make you reflect about the previous song, they make you hunger for the next distorted outbreak.

Frances The Mute also features some fine guest musicians worth to mention. John Frusciante plays the first 2 guitar solo’s on L’Via L’Viaquez and Flea plays the trumpet on tracks #2 and #4 (great to hear these guys play in another context).


Frances The Mute is a worthy sequel to De-loused in the Comatorium. It features some of the best contemporary, widely-influenced progressive rock up-to-date. A must have. Highly recommended.



Post a Comment