Let Us Now Listen To The Discographies Of Various Musicians

Mike K

The Mars Volta: Introduction and Tremulant


The Mars Volta is a Progressive Rock band from El Paso, Texas (curently based in Mexico) formed in 2001.

Now that I've copy-pasted directly from their works page, I'll qualify the "progressive rock" part of that sentence a little bit: vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez were originally in emo / post-hardcore * band At The Drive-In. ATDI broke up partially due to Creative Differences in 2001, and the members quickly splintered off into the bands Sparta and The Mars Volta. Members Jim Ward, Paul Hinojos, and Tony Hajjar wanted to head in more an Alternative Rock direction, while Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala wanted to go more progressive - so essentially Sparta started out sounding like a somewhat more commercial At The Drive-In, whereas The Mars Volta were initially kind of like At The Drive-In with their artier moments turned Up to Eleven. What I'm getting at is that, while The Mars Volta are undeniably progressive rock, there are still sometimes traces of the punk, hardcore, and emo influences At The Drive-In had lurking around.

Oh, also their lyrics are somewhat infamous as being inscrutable, and most of their full length releases are concept albums of some kind, although I don't really plan on getting into either aspect here.

Tremulant (EP) (2001)

As it came just a year after the break up of At The Drive-In, it only makes sense that my "At The Drive-In except artier" argument would hold the most water here. This is especially true of opening track "Cut That City": Aside from a 2 minute electronically treated intro, it's the most succinct track on the album, and seems like it would sort of fit in on At The Drive-In's Relationship Of Command. Even so, there are a lot of elements to it that have subsequently become The Mars Volta trademarks: trippy vocal effects, keyboards, Word Salad Lyrics, and, well, lengthy electronically treated intros and outros. All of which are even more prevalent in the other tracks.

Overall this may or not get the coveted * asterisks of recommendation in the end, but it does make sense as a good entry point, if you can actually find it: It's little less full of their Epic Rocking tendencies than their full albums tend to be (though "Eunuch Provocateur is 9 minutes long), but still displays the passionate vocals, epic riffs, and tight rhythm section that are a big part of what makes their music appealing.

Key Tracks: Concertina *