If you want _Comatorium_, part 2 or _Frances the Mute_, part 2, DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM. If you want furious and crazy riffs and jamming from the first second to the last, DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM. If you want music and lyrics that seem to suggest even the most conventional linear sense, DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM. Do I still have you after all these disclaimers? Proceed.
While I cannot really say that this piece is better or worse than their first two full-lengths, I can unabashedly say that MV have made another distinctive masterpiece. Some of the same elements as before are there, but in many cases simply better. The jazz fusion feel that they always had has been refined to near-perfection. I reviewed Omar’s self-titled piece that he did in the interim between _Mute_ and _Amputechture_, saying that he’s going for a John McLaughlin level of stellarity without quite reaching it. Darned if he doesn’t reach those empyrean heights here (check out the unjustly-maligned “Tetragrammaton” for the most fusiony rock has ever been). Jazz fusion esotericism and exploratoriness is all over this piece. If that’s too pretentious for you, stop here. If it sounds interesting, dig deeper.
The sound manipulation element that’s always been with them has been upped, too, thanks in large part to ATDI alum Pablo Hinojos-Gonzalez’s evocative contributions. This is all over the album, so I don’t have to point to any particular cases. Let’s just say it’s stranger than it’s been in some places and subtler than it’s been in others. Don’t care about the qualities of sound and electronics in MV’s sound? See ya.
MV are more tender and contemplative than they’ve ever been, too, which is likely a big turn-off to more market-driven fans. The album starts out very bluesy and slow with the drumless “Vicarious Atonement” (this is more than made up for by the Cobhamesque onslaught that Jon Theodore unleashes on the following “Tetragrammaton”). The album also ends on a slow and reflective sitar-tinged note with “El Ciervo Vulnerado.” I imagine hardcore MV fans could not be more thrilled with these slower pieces since they add another layer to the allure. Just like their previous heavy work, these songs offer lyrical soundscapes to be lost in, yet this time the soundscape is not so vicious. The gem of all these more reflective pieces is the heart-rending “Asilos Magdalena,” which has Omar and Cedric digging into their Mexican folk heritage more than ever before (and coming up with sentiments and feelings worthy of a Spanish-language Rimbaud). Sound all too wimpy? Adieu. Won’t be running into you at the Slipknot concert.
I have this dream that the “poppiest” of the songs here, “Viscera Eyes” will be released as a single and the whole world will sing along to the tune of “C’mon and give it to me/ Come on and die/ with your viscera eyes,” people playing air-guitar to the convoluted chromatic-scale fusion riff (and still somehow commercial!). Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen. MV is going to retain a passionate cult just like the best bands in the vicinity of its milieu (e.g. VDGG, Yes, ELP, King Crimson). Also like these bands, they are going to put out classic after classic while “critics” and poseurs alike will cry “too pretentious” and “songs too long,” blah, blah, blah. And they will retain their cult well into the future (I mean, I’m serious, Omar Rodriguez is only thirtyish and already one of the most intriguing composers this generation has to offer in any musical genre–can’t help but think he’s going to be something like the 21st century Heitor Villa-Lobos. I’m serious, give it half a century and get back to me.)
Because they take a hook, defamiliarize it, put it out there, and make you see music, art, and life in ways you’ve never seen them before (if you listen with an open mind). And they do it about every minute or two on this CD. Flavors of the month will come and go and critics will even praise them for doing entertaining things with the rock formula. Whatever. MV are looking both before and after rock while assuring their legacy amidst the most uncompromising auteurs in the history of music. They can take Villa-Lobos, Miles Davis, and Carmen Miranda and place it in the midst of a Black Flag mood and make you rock like mad. Tell me someone else who can do that right now and I’ll send you back to high school.
Then maybe you can learn a little something and prep yourself for the sort of brilliance that rushes through every undercurrent beneath this album. Because, really, when it comes down to it, I want you to own this album. The world would be such a better place if everyone could process the mind-boggling genius that is MV.