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:

New Music Friday

 

Amazon MP3, which has been making waves with its music download deals, steals and collaborations is offering 100 albums for free right now!

Check em out RIGHT HERE.

The cool part is that not all 100 mp3 albums suck. In fact, there’s some pretty good stuff to be found. For free!

This is what I “purchased” for $0.00:

The following items were ordered:

Animal [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Miike Snow
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Saddle Creek sampler 2008-2009 [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sargent House Sampler [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Frenchkiss Records Super Sampler [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sample This Sh*t [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Digital Bang: The 2010 Sub Pop Sampler For Amazon [MP3 Download] $0.00
By: Various Artists
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

I haven’t listened to any of it yet, but judging by the buzz I’ve heard of Miike (two “i”s) Snow and the bands I do know on these indie labels, I should have some good findings to report.

(RX Bandits – Sargent House, The Faint, Bright Eyes – Saddle Creek, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes – Sub Pop, and Local Natives – Frenchkiss)

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.