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I actually managed to nab one of the RSD LP versions of this album a few weeks ago so I’ve had a chance to get reasonably familiar with it already. Basically what we have here is one of those “super groups”, this time consisting of a Mars Volta, a Minuteman and at the helm there’s guitarist and lead Triclop Christian Beaulieu! Oh, there’s a Sleepy Sun doing some singing on some of the songs, too.
The Mars Volta in question, Mr Cedric Bixler, is on sticks duty this time round, leading the band around some jerky Latin polyrhythms with fluid ease and a few imaginative touches that show that he’s got more strings to his bow than just an incredibly high-pitched voice. Mike Watt holds down the bass in a confident, workmanlike manner without ever going too showy (although there’s a sweet bit of soloing in ‘Khamsin’ and his tones are fantastic - the top and bottom of the neck sound like different instruments entirely!), and there’s a lot of surging 12-string thrumming filling out the sound. On the tracks which Cedric sings on (they’re split about 50/50 with Kate Bush soundalike Rachel Fannan) I do get a bit of a Volta-lite feeling in places, but it’s hard not to take Latin rhythms and a voice that distinctive and think of anything else, I guess.
All these songs have great churning little grooves and they’re packed with melody so it’s actually a far more accessible proposition than I expected from these musicians, and the hard-driving rhythms blend with the smooth melodic tones very effectively. If this was some new band and I didn’t know who any of these guys were I’d be super impressed. As it is I’m just kind of relieved they’ve pulled it off without embarrassing themselves because I had a bad feeling about this one.
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