Spin #72 : The Mars Volta : Amputechture
SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #72
Welcome to our 72nd Sunday drop from the R'nR with Rylo collection! We have collected a wide range of records over the years that we love and want our children to experience as they grow. I like the convenience of a CD in the car or streaming Spotify, but nothing beats purchasing a record and holding the artwork as you drop the stylus onto the outer groove of the LP. There is something magical about owning the album and listening to it all the way through is how the artist intended their craft to be heard. I've delved back into the world of my favourite band, The Mars Volta and selected their third album from the box set (La Realidad De Los Suenos - The Reality of Dreams), called 'Amputechture'. This album had a lot to live up to after the success of 'De-loused in the Comatorium' and 'Frances the Mute' and I believe that they succeeded. By venturing into even more of an evolutionary sound on 'Amputechture', The Mars Volta have never been shy to give us the albums we need at the time we needed them.
I remember listening to this album using my Sennheiser headphones and was blown away by the production quality and level of detail on this pressing. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is meticulous when it comes to quality, and I was hearing sounds that I had never realised before on CD. For this reason, I will be listening to this album through headphones and also on our loungeroom set-up out loud for our children. The tension builds as you listen to this album and even though it didn't have a large concept compared to their earlier records, I still feel that there a selection of short stories being told in relation to religion.
ALBUMS OF NOTE (2006): Modern Times - Bob Dylan, 3121 - Prince, Ghostface Killah - Fishscale, Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam, The Black Parade - My Chemical Romance, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - The Arctic Monkeys, Donuts - J Dilla, The Sufferer and the Witness - Rise Against, Black Holes and Revelations - Muse, Lights & Sounds - Yellowcard, Alright, Still - Lily Allen, FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin TImberlake, 10,000Days - Tool, A Matter of Life and Death - Iron Maiden, Educated Horses - Rob Zombie, Sacrament - Lamb Of God, Eyes Open - Snowpatrol, Meds - Placebo, Danity Kane - Danity Kane
Image: Cedric and Omar (really difficult to find images of other band members), Isaiah Ikey Owens, Jon Theodore, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, John Frusciante, Pablo Hinojos-Gonzalez, Adrian Terrazasgonzales and John Peter Alderete. Saxophone played by Sara Christina Gross on Meccamputechture
Who has a copy of 'Amputechture' ready to spin? The answer should be 'all of you' because this album is a must for everyone's collection. Sit back and relax and get ready as we #dropthestylus on this '00s classic!
Feeling the pulsing slowness pour through the speakers on opening track, 'VICARIOUS ATONEMENT' and initially feels like they've recruited Carlos Santana into their talented band. I didn't know what the title of this song was referencing until I researched this Sunday spin but apparently it is "based on the idea that God accepts an act of atonement that is not performed by the offender, but by another in his stead, even if the act is not adequate to the offense". There is a purposeful arrangement and slowness to this track, and I love the vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala because he has such variation in what he is trying to bring across to the listener. There is always so much going on across an album by The Mars Volta that songs like this might get overlooked, even if they slip in some hectic sounds that remind me of 'Sahara' by jazz pianist, McCoy Tyner. The style they've selected for the gatefold lyrics tends to play tricks on your eyes and the longer that you stare at them, they start to elongate or seem to split from the middle. Have you ever put a mirror between a word on a piece of paper to create a mirrored image? Well, that is the effect it has on your eyes, and you get a bit freaked out because you are following along to the music and at the same time thinking that you are losing your mind.
Although, there isn't really a larger scale story across this album like their first two studio albums, the first two songs have a direct link to belief in God. That is evident with the title, 'TETRAGRAMMATON' which translates to God in the Hebrew bible. Occultist, Aleister Crowley also thought that no one should utter the word or think about the word due to the power it has. I found this quote online, "Such a word should, in fact, be so potent that man cannot hear it and live. Such a word was indeed the lost Tetragrammaton. It is said at the utterance of this name the Universe crashes into dissolution. Let the Magician earnestly seek this Lost Word, for its pronunciation is synonymous with the accomplishment of the Great work". Maybe this was the inspiration that provided the framework for their next album, 'The Bedlam In Goliath' which we dropped as our Sunday Spin #12 - Click here to read. It is the longest song on the album with a run time of 16:41 and our son asked whilst it was playing if this was the same song as it sounds all mixed up. I had to explain to him that they are very talented musicians and sometimes they show off their abilities over a long song. I like the lyrics of, "Unwrap my corpse and let it thaw. In the eye of the needle, I can't get out. They'll check my wrist, I'll fake a pulse. I'm not the human you thought I was. If you pet the night, Sixth pentacle dice. If you role the seven, St. Michaels dies. They'll be no ransom, don't shut my mouth. I scald the answer you're afraid of". There is a lot of riffing and horns to bring this one to an end but you'll notice that the stylus doesn't return back to the cradle or stop playing music. The Mars Volta have added a looped groove or locked groove to end each side which continues the music until you are able to swap the LP.
Before this next song comes on, we have had to tuck our daughter into her cot for a nap. She will be slowly stopping her day naps as she gets older and we get to celebrate her 2nd birthday next weekend. Hopefully the weather stays nice and we can take the party to a local park and let them play. We weren't able to give her a big party for her 1st birthday, so Night Kat Kiz and I promised that we would do something nice for her 2nd birthday. I was playing other albums through spotify this morning in the kitchen and a couple of The Mars Volta's newer songs came on the playlist. Instantly, both our children liked the Samba style and started dancing whilst eating their breaky. Both of them are not shy about dancing and usually when we are at the supermarket or out at a restaurant, they will hear music and start grooving. They both are very musical and that is a big part of why I am continuing to write this blog. I want them to read about their past in the future what they were doing all those years ago and what music they enjoyed. So far, they have both loved what they have heard from this band and there has only been a few songs that they haven't understood what was going on. Pretty good for a 4-year-old and 1 year old to already know so many types of music. If The Mars Volta end up touring Australia again, I will make sure to go and see if our eldest will want to join.
A song that is titled after killing worms is up next in 'VERMICIDE'. I was interested to hear that the original artwork was rejected by the band and eventually chose art by Jeff Jordan. It has become so iconic for the band over their merchandise and other albums to recognise Jeff Jordan's artwork and link the two that it's difficult to think 'Amputechture' having another cover now. I'm sure if they went with Storm Thorgersons original artwork, I would have loved it just as much, but I've looked into Jordan's website and in the future when I have a music room, I will be buying and framing some. Check out his site by clicking here and check out the artwork that never was selected by clicking here. Both artists have given a lot to The Mars Volta, and I feel are always thought provoking. This is one of the shorter songs on the album and acts as a nice buffer or link between the two longer tracks on LP1. As I am listening to this right now, our son is playing 'keepy uppy' with balloons that he brought home from daycare. Night Kat Kiz and our son are laughing and enjoying the moment in a world where there always seems to be an unfair amount of sadness.
The flowing soundscape of 'MECCAMPUTECHTURE' comes on next to complete LP1 and is an added play on words of the album title. It is a combination of Mecca - Amputate - Technology and Architecture. I'm not sure of the background but it is another track that is making reference to religion and the opening lyrics stick in my head every time I listen. "Amputechture came, Philistine praise. Bottomless pit of empty names. Incarcerated habits poured from the palms, severing the breast, Nursing all the young". The opening saxophone on this track combined with the boss hitting of drummer, Jon Theodore is the combination of sounds you didn't realise that you needed in your life. A lot of fans have stopped following artists over the years because they don't like the direction that they tend to go in as time passes. I know that fans of the first two albums seem to write off anything after 'Frances The Mute' and I feel sad for them because they are missing out on a LOT of good music. I compare the artists albums to my life and think that 2 years ago we didn't have our daughter and 5 years ago, we didn't have our son. How much have Night Kat Kiz and I changed as people during that time and if we were making music, probably wouldn't be releasing the same style either. Enjoy the albums for the time that they release them and look back on the older stuff with admiration. When I listen to 'Amputechture', I know that I was going through year 12 in high school and although I love this music, I wouldn't want to be re-living school again. Listening to this album is the closest I will get to time traveling back to year 12 and I'm ok with that. I like being married and a parent to two wonderfully energetic children. The chorus on this track is catchy as and they have really amped up the sound manipulation across this album to great effect. "Everyone stabs all the time, Persuasion deflowers your sympathy. Everybody has chosen to help the shovels that bury me". LP1 comes to an end and I forgot to mention the labels have a combination of four faces put together. Similar to if you cut out four faces from a magazine and put them all together.
Time to swap LP1 for LP2 and play the sounds of Spanish vocals on 'ASILOS MAGDALENA', which refers to the Magdalen Asylums. People believed that a woman who was a prostitute, suffering from mental health issues, having children out of wedlock or a victim of demonic possession were - "Fallen". This also included labelling them as Witches across the ages and I like the song but not the crimes and hatred those poor women suffered. This track changes up the whole feeling of the album at the halfway point by stripping it all back and using an acoustic guitar to create the intimacy. Towards the end of the track, it becomes a hell of a lot creepier through the headphones because it sounds as though Cedric is possessed, as the vocals are severely manipulated by, what feels like, demonic forces. Listen through headphones loudly if you dare.
Up next is a track that was released as a single from the album called, 'VISCERA EYES'. It starts off with the riffing of Omar and Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist) and the bass of Alderete is special. The combination of Spanish and English really links the previous song and also the direction they want to take this album. You can't help by rocking out as Cedric pleads, "Don't let me, don't let me go. There is a venom in numerical lies. Your convalescent thorns are but a crown of maggots. They rot the shakes inside that third glass eye. Come on and give it to me". Is this song a window into your soul? Well if it's not then the sexy bass work will make you re-think that. You'll know it when you hear it and it concludes with some of the most singable lyrics on this album, "Wait! I've seen the ark shake from your pneumonic tongue. But the braille that you weave of itself it shall read aloud, yes it will, I said, She's falling, she's still falling but no one wants to come. She's crawling, she's still crawling on your burial ground". The combination of lyrics with increasing instruments to pad out the ending is one of the highlights on this album. Side C comes to an ended (well a locked groove) and it's time to flip over LP2 for the colossal next track called, 'DAY OF THE BAPHOMETS'.
I like how the bass solo on this song is pretty much all first take by Alderete and it shows just how talented he is as a musician. This is my favourite track on the album and the start makes you think, "Everything is all good here, this track is not crazy".....before you get hit with the one-two punch of the Baphomet! Our son was having a good time putting Paw Patrol stickers on us and lost a bit of interest in the album sadly. I'll show him this album again as he gets older and appreciates the musicianship. I found a quote by Cedric talking about the influence on this track, "I wanted to make a song that was like the movie, The Believers, where this cabal stole kids and did some occult shit with them. But I wanted it to be like, 'what if the people you hire to do jobs you don't wanna do rise up one day and then pull some shit like that?' Like it was the guerrilla warfare, them taking over - wouldn't that be some fucked up shit? And the music just lent itself to that - the big intro, the bass solo, and all of the ruckus that occurs". I think the collaboration between everyone involved is so fluid that you can't compare their style to many other bands because they are the trend setters.
Across this track there are moments where I thought I was listening to 'Deloused in the Comotorium' or 'Frances the Mute' again. It was a shame that Theodore was told to leave the band during the tour cycle of this album - apparently his mood whilst playing live just brought the rest of the band down. Maybe it was because he was exhausted from using all his energy behind the kit? We won't ever know the truth unfortunately but just as you think this song is coming to an end, you'd be wrong. Cedric then comes in after the different style of drumming with "I am the reason for your missing child. They might be home, but there's no trace. Under your pillow, I have left a spine. Oh the things we do when you're away. I saw a message that you wrote in the sand, dismembered hints that carve away" - Just love every moment of this one. Let me know what you feel after you listen to this track in the comments below or on our social pages.
'EL CIERVO VULNERADO' loosely translates to 'The Shepherd who was wounded' and instantly brings the album back down from the dizzying heights of the tracks prior. I like that this album feels like a loop that returns to the slowness and gives the musicians a chance to catch their breath. One thing I thought they should have done was remove the closed/locked groove of Side D, in order to let the album finish. We made the most of the sunshine today by kicking the footy at a local field and was pleased that they had smaller footy posts for the kids. Still not understanding how to play and all the rules but having a bit of time out in the sun and laughing is always nice.
The stylus hits the locked groove and that brings us to the end of the third studio album, 'Amputechture' by The Mars Volta and I really hope they extend their current tour to include Australia. That would be a 'drop everything' moment to get tickets. I enjoy how they have progressed and grown over the years and their calmness across their latest album ' Self-titled'. I will be travelling next week and excited for the next couple of weeks Sunday drops. I won't spoil the surprise and make sure you take part in our MWSP on our social pages.
“People like Jeff Buckley, the Mars Volta and Bjork made me listen to music differently. You learn the voice is an instrument you can do crazy things with” – Kimbra
Until our next Spin, be Kind to prog rock fans from El Paso and be Kind to your Wax!
SPEED PLAYED AT
FRANCES THE MUTE (2004)
BEDLAM IN GOLIATH (2008)
QUE DIOS TE MALDIGA MI CORAZON (2023)
DAY OF THE BAPHOMETS
RATING OUT OF 5
WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE
2 x BLACK LP IN GATEFOLD SLEEVE, LYRICS INCLUDED AND ARTWORK BY JEFF JORDAN. BOTH LPS HAVE LOCKED GROOVES THAT CONTINUE THE SONGS UNTIL YOU FLIP THEM OVER
"How long must we fold our hands? Our guts are burning wheels again. Get a match that will make you thin, Come clean with the antidote. After all we came undone, A pair of sluts with hosts that fall. One day we will pay your debt, Our centipedes will pick the dead" ~ Day of the Baphomets - Side D
LP / SIDE
DAY OF THE BAPHOMETS
EL CIERVO VULNERADO
The Mars Volta on stage during 2006