Ex-Mars Volta frontmen find new sounds

Former Mars Volta frontmen Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala

Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala were the masterminds behind The Mars Volta. The band broke up in January and two have formed new groups: Bosnian Rainbow and Zavalaz.

The Mars Volta broke up in January. And considering the last few albums, it’s probably for the best.

For a while, nothing beat the psychedelic, Spanish-tinged prog-rock. In high school, I couldn’t get enough of De-Loused in the Comatorium or Frances the Mute. I remember driving right past my house on a summer night, Volta blasting through my ’88 Acura speakers, not allowing myself to go home until I got through the few acts of Cassandra Gemini.

Led by the high-pitched Cedric Bixler Zavala and guitar virtuoso Omar Rodriguez Lopez, The Mars Volta split earlier this year when Omar wanted to tour and spend all of his time on a new band, Bosnian Rainbows.

Cedric and Omar have gone their separate ways for now, and Omar brings his incredible musicianship and absolute shredding to more low key, dark and beautiful music. Combined with the vocal talents of Terri Gender Bender, ex-Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks and keyboardist Nicci Kasper, they create a sound described as ethereal, yet direct.

The closest music that fits the description is Bat for Lashes, another band that features lush synthesizers, female vocals and layer after layer of atmospheric soundscape.

Cedric has gone his own way too, starting up a new band that couldn’t sound more different. He’s brought along the former Mars Volta bassist Juan Alderete to create a more groove-worthy, classic rock sound.

Ironically, both bands recently toured San Francisco within a week of each other. Zavalaz played Cafe Du Nord on June 21st and Bosnian Rainbows headlined a show at the Great American Music Hall last night, June 28.

I was lucky enough to catch Bosnian Rainbows live last night at the Great American Music Hall, for the second time in a handful of months (the first at The New Parish in Oakland). Lopez’s rapid-fire fingers and deep guitar grooves make him a performer that cannot be missed.

In Bosnian Rainbows, he plays the role of teammate and band member much more than band leader, likely because of the collaborative nature he has mentioned about this group. Omar was basically director of Mars Volta, which tended to mean dictator. The shredding takes a back seat, but is still prominent, and Lopez even lends his voice to a few tracks, something he never did live with the Volta.

Zavalaz, at least on the surface, is the weaker of the two. Cedric is talented, and his omnipresent whines and wild lyrics that thread in and out of Spanish and English lend better to a concept band like The Mars Volta than a straight rock outfit like Zavalaz. I’m eager to see the direction this band goes and whether the sum of the Volta parts is, or is not, greater than the whole.

Stream the entire Bosnian Rainbows on Bandcamp and stay tuned for recordings and more tour dates from Zavalaz.

Pre-Coachella Party: !!! + Zechs Marquise @ Detroit Bar

Nic Offer of !!! likes to dance

Marcel Rodriguez Lopez and Marfred Rodriguez Lopez of Zechs Marquise chop it up at Detroit Bar

The two bands playing Costs Mesa’s intimate, chic-grunge Detroit Bar Thursday night were big. Too big.

Too big for the stage they took, in sheer size, sound and force. Big enough to play Coachella too, to thousands of screaming fans. But on the Thursday night before Coachella weekend, I caught these two astounding bands up close…and for a lot less money.

The night started with instrumental mind-melting jams from Zechs Marquise, the buzzworthy El Paso, Texas prog-rock outfit that not only sounds like The Mars Volta’s little brother, but actually includes three of them. Marfred, Marcel and Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez play bass, drums and keys respectively, and happen to be the younger siblings of infamous Mars Volta guitarists Omar Rodriguez Lopez. (Drummer Marcel Rodriguez Lopez plays in the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group).

I discovered these guys when they opened for friends and Sargent House labelmates RX Bandits at The Glasshouse in Pomona a few months back. And while I was blown away then, Thursday’s set was insane. Grooving basslines meshed with frenetic guitar riffs, while Marcel was astoundingly able to keep up to constantly changing rhythms. No singing, but a great prog-rock fix when you’ve already mastered the entire Volta collection.

Next up was veteran psychedelic dance-funk !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk). The Sacramento-based band has been starting parties since 1996 and continues to put on an extremely energetic and fun live show. Lead singer Nic Offer handles most of the entertainment with his sexual dance moves that look a little like humping. By the second song, Offer was in the crowd singing face to face with all the fans. It was nuts.

!!! released a new album recently, entitled “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” Standout tracks are “AM/FM”, “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass”, and “Hollow”.

Zechs Marquise, formed in 2009, has been touring on their first full-length, “Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare.” A new record on the way. Expect your mind to be blown.

LIVE VIDEOS from both performances below:

Wild Orchid Children will blow your mind

WILD ORCHID CHILDREN spawned from the dust of the unofficial, no longer indefinite hiatus taken by early ’00s alternative/progressive rock/pop band Gatsbys American Dream.

They are one of many side projects started by Gastby members that has blossomed into far more than just a project. Or a side. The supergroup features Kirk Huffman (vocals), Kyle O’Quin (keys) and Ryan Van Wieringen (baritone guitar & percussion) from Gatsby’s American Dream, alongside three other guys rocking guitars, percussion and effects. (Wild Orchid Children doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia entry yet – it’s embedded under Side Projects within the page on Gatsby).

But let’s get to the point.

This bombastic album sounds like nothing you’ve heard before, while at the same bringing enough familiar noises and jams that associations to any modern indie/prog group are safe to make. Think Mars Volta-style mind-bending beats, with Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de La Rocha-esque vocals and Portugal. the Man instrumentation.

It’s BIG. And adventurous.

The second track, “Black Shiny FBI Shoes” clocks in a little over 18 minutes long, and a good portion of that comprises of an extended percussion jam. It’s no “Moby Dick” (Led Zeppelin) but it is damn good — changing tribal beats dance to the sound of noodling electric guitar, keeping your ears perked with curiosity about what comes next.

Kirk Huffman takes vocal duties here, but sings nothing like his normal self. He has got a very talented and unique singing style, but he throws any sense of melody out the window with Wild Orchid Children. He’s more screaming than singing, and the closest thing you could compare would be de La Rocha – if he were performing through a megaphone, that is.

Now this is no concept album like Volta’s “Frances The Mute” or Coheed and Cambria’s last four albums. It doesn’t always flow from one song to the next, like one big acid trip.

But you don’t have to be high to appreciate the talent going on here.

The sixpiece named its album after Christopher McCandless, the character played by Emile Hirsch in “Into the Wild”, who infamously begins to call himself Alexander Supertramp while living in the wilderness.

Rich with cultural references, the group takes its title very seriously…as you can see by the wilderness motif, intact with real wild animals on the album cover, according to the liner notes.

Now I must note here: this is the first album I have purchased in a really long time.

My appetite for music consumption continues to grow and I have a list of nearly 50 bands I’m slowly getting around to checking out. Normally I look for a T-shirt/CD combo deal or make my contribution to the band by paying for concert tickets.

But this was a worthwhile cost, even if I payed twice as much at Rhino Records in Claremont as I would have at Best Buy.

Take a listen at the madness that is Alexander Supertramp. I’ve embedded “Peyote Coyote”, which has apparent influence from Zeppelin to the Beach Boys, Black Keys, White Stripes and even some cowbell that reminds me of the Cypress Hill/Tom Morello song from the new Green Hornet movie, “Rise Up.” Oh and don’t forget the creep vocal effect that transforms Huffman’s voice into something from a Mars Volta song about a minute in.

Like what you hear? Gatsbys American Dream is making a comeback this year. While you wait for the new tunes, listen to Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground (featuring Huffman and O’Quin, amongst others), Search/Rescue, RedRedBlue, Keith Ledger, Zero Cool, Razia’s Shadow, Princess Dinosaur, Places and Numbers, TickTockMan, or any solo work from any of these madly prolific musical dudes.

Arcade Fire, Amazon MP3s, Warriors of Rock

By now, the entire world has heard the new Arcade Fire album, “The Suburbs.” OK, not everybody…but it came out August 3, so in the blogosphere it’s been pretty much forever.

And the seven-piece Canadian ensemble sold out Madison Square Garden in New York, two nights in a row. Rolling Stone has an excellent review of the show, which was also streamed live on YouTube last week . Now that’s a win for “indie” — if you can still call it that….and turns out you can. The critically acclaimed group is on Merge Records, an independent label, so the term indie stands.

The third Arcade Fire album is amazing. It hooks you in from the beginning with the title track “The Suburbs”, wrapping you into the story of a youth growing up Mormon in The Woodlands, Texas. The dramatic, over-the-top, and fast-paced  nature make Arcade Fire songs run smoothly, but after 13 tracks not much yearning is left.

Pitchfork gave the album an 8.6. So you know there’s something to what I’m saying. The band’s previous album “Neon Bible” got an 8.4, while the debut “Funeral” received a 9.7. This are impressive simply because anything above a 6 from this music blog pretty much means “does not suck.”

If you haven’t got your hands on this album yet, Amazon MP3s seems to be making progress in the digital download lifestyle by offering mp3 albums cheap for a 24-hour period. You can pick it up (well, down) for $7.99…still not bad at all.

In other rock news, I was shocked to hear one of my favorite artists, RX Bandits, have a track on the upcoming sixth installment of the Guitar Hero franchise. I caught drift via @sargenthouse, the label run by Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Guitar Hero 6, now being called “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” features “It’s Only Another Parsec…”, a groove-worthy track from RXB’s latest, “Mandala.” I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see RXB play its three albums in their entirety, back-to-back in September at the Troubadour from the 24th to the 26th.

I haven’t played guitar hero in a good long time, but judging by the list of other bands appearing on the game, the Long Beach-based experimental/formerly ska act is a standout amongst the likes of big names like Muse, Nine Inch Nails and The Rolling Stones. There are some indie staples like Silversun Pickups and Anberlin, but RXB don’t have nearly the same namesake. Way to go guys. You can check out the full tracklist for “Warriors of Rock” here if you’re curious.

I’ve uploaded “It’s Only Another Parsec…” to the box.net widget on the right of this blog for your utmost convenience!

As for the Arcade Fire’s new stuff, give it a listen on NPR if you want to try before you buy.

THIS WEEK IN MUSIC

rx bandits mandala

rx bandits' "mandala" is the best of the latest

I’m waiting for Rhino Records to call me with my copy of Portugal. The Man’s “The Satanic Satinist,” the new one everyone is talking about. I couldn’t find it at Target, Best Buy or Rhino last week! I’m a little in the dark, waiting for my own copy to give it a listen. Sure it’s good, though – “Church Mouth” is one of my favorite albums. And “Censored Colors” was good, but overlooked.

I just downloaded Grizzly Bear‘s new one, Veckatimest. I have to say, I’m not a fan. I’ve gotten about halfway through the album and I’m not sure what the fuss over this band is. They’ve got some good qualities, but overall I get very bored listening.

This SoCal beach-based band has been around for 14 years, and evolved from a second wave ska act to something with far too many labels to full encompass them (progressive, reggae, ska, rock, funk to name a few). I interviewed the guys when they came to Cal Poly last fall, and just caught them on their headlining tour with Dredg at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Killer, to say the least. Their sound gets more off the wall with each record, and for me, that tends to be a good thing. “Mandala” is no different. Gets better with each listen. UPDATE: check box widget on the sidebar to download a track from “Mandala”!

Now, something a bit disappointing was The Mars Volta’s new one, “Octahedron.” I expect a lot from this band, who is now on its fifth album and has a very strong cult-like following of prog rockers, scenesters and hipsters. “Octahedron” is so-so. It’s got a few cool tracks, like “Cotopaxi,” but is nothing new. It’s easy to forget. I still have got to claim “Frances The Mute” as my favorite. Closely followed by “De Loused” and a few tracks from “Amputechture,” like the 11-minute “Meccamputechture” Now that’s the Volta I know. “Octahedron” is sort of just there. Doesn’t do anything significant for me. Just a bit too mellow for this outlandish band, who I still can’t wait to see at Outside Lands in San Francisco in about a month.

Lastly, I just saw mega mashup DJ Girl Talk @ The Fox Theater in Pomona Friday night. Great, great venue. Three bars, space for 2,000, multiple rooftop lounges. Rad. I was unsure of going to see a DJ headline a show at a venue much larger than your typical LA club. While the free show only brought out maybe 1,000, Girl Talk got 40+ people dancing on stage with him his whole show, and got me and the rest of the crowd dancing. Mixing tracks from “Feed The Animals” (download it there…you pay what you want) and “Night Ripper” with an eclectic variety of other mainstream and classic hits and beats, Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk impressed. Not to mention, the guy plastic wraps his laptop so his sweat doesn’t get all over it.

Hit me up if you need some tracks. I’ve got the tuneage.