Let Us Now Listen To The Discographies Of Various Musicians

Mike K

Bonus Review: The String Quartet Tribute To The Mars Volta

Vitamin String Quartet - The String Quartet Tribute To The Mars Volta (2005)

The Vitamin String Quartet are a group of studio musicians who release string-based instrumental tribute albums. A lot of string-based instrumental tribute albums. Although, of course, it seems it's not always the same group of musicians on every album. It's kind of a niche market, but apparently the albums are cheap to produce and get enough sales from curious fans (and/or people who want a classy way to have "Love Song" or "Nookie" played at their wedding reception), because there are over nine th three hundred of them.

Though the title doesn't reflect it, this album is actually a track for track cover of De-Loused In The Comatorium: I guess it came out just a little bit too early to incorporate any Frances The Mute material. The songs get a bit pared down, not just because they're arranged for cello, viola, stand up bass, and minimal percussion, but because they abridge some of the more Epic Rocking based cuts: The longest track here is a 7 minute take on "Cicatriz ESP", which was over 12 minutes long when recorded by The Mars Volta themselves, and overall this album is around 17 minutes shorter than De-Loused. This is actually sort of a strength of the album though - they manage to condense the most memorable parts of the longer tracks and still get the overall essence across. And oddly enough, as though to make up for it, the two shortest tracks on the original album get expanded just the slightest bit.

What I particularly like about this album is that the group find some creative ways to emulate some of the studio effects of the originals: hearing strings recreate the sound collage "freak out" section of "Eriatarka" is pretty impressive, as is when they briefly imitate the synth loop that opens "Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt". In general, the bombastic vocal melodies turn out to be surprisingly well-suited to cello, and the stand up bass emphasizes how jazz-influenced some of the rhythms can be.

There are a couple of downsides though: The percussion can be pretty tinny, especially when a little bit of programmed beats are used, and in general, because of how overstuffed with overdubs the original album was at times, I kind of wished there was a larger ensemble to provide a bit more energy and sonic detail. Still, it's a listenable, fairly intriguing album, especially considering it's basically a rushed, cash-in production.

Key Tracks: Eriatarka, Televators