Warner Bros. 2012
The Mars Volta‘s past eclectic noodlings and hyperactive genre clash has rarely lent itself to introspection. Often an exhausting gauntlet of chops and indulgent creativity; the group were never one to stick to complimentary colors—instead opting for the whole palette.
Recent output however has seen the band pare away their youthful recklessness and place higher emphasis on melody. The adventurous “Noctourniquet” is an opus that very much continues down this path. As overall scale is toned down, the band instead widen their scope on what restraint can achieve.
While still prevalent, the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mentality doesn’t define them like it did previously. Rather, through a healthy dose of dated synth work and a considerable amount of forward-thinking prog; the group have electrofied their sound to admittedly mixed results.
Fans of the bands nascent albums may cry foul at the relative lack of sonic eccentricity; while previous detractors may deem the tighter focus and slower pace a welcome addition. Songs like “Imago” meander forth with chittering ambiance and choppy drums. While a track like “Molochwalker” wouldn’t sound out of place on 2005′s exuberant “Frances The Mute“.
Such disparity on a track-by-track basis is a revealing trait. Both of these songs run next to each other in the running order and their disjointed momentum is likely indicative of the troubled birthing process of the effort as a whole. Essentially put together over a period of years, amid alleged arguments between the groups key members, “Noctourniquet” is flush with rich atmosphere, yet lacking in solid ground.
It regularly comes off as a collection of ideas distanced by scattered sessions. Always a bit too top heavy thanks to uneven portions of individual input. While some truly beautiful melodies do emerge and the inherent electronic alterations are appreciated; it continually feels like there is more space and mood than actual content and composition.
Such shortcomings do suggest that “Noctourniquet“, as enlightening and enjoyable at times as it may be, is by no means an essential The Mars Volta album. Still, there’s a lot to be said about an outfit who will leave a botched strum (see the end of “Trinkets Pale Of Moon“) in plain sight to preserve their artistic integrity.
In a world where electronics have made everything overly-processed, The Mars Volta have turned the tables. For better or worse, they have used technology to make themselves more human.
Click the stars to rate this album.