Cryptomnesia – El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

**

OK, so I’ve been a Mars Volta fan for about 4 years now, and I still find them one of the most constantly inventive bands on the planet. I’ve been a huge Hella fan for nowhere near as long, about 6 or 7 months, but Zach Hill is a fecking god.

There had been rumours circulating that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (perm-sporting guitar genius from the Mars Volta) and Hill were collaborating on an album, and merely the mention of this made me dizzy with excitement. So when it was announced, I was like “HOLY FUCKING SHIT” and danced for joy. Then I saw the promo. Bad move.

The 50-second promo for Cryptomnesia (i saw it a month before I heard the actual album) consists of pictures of Omar, Cedric Bixler Zavala, Juan Alderete de la Pena (vocalist and bassist respectively of TMV), Zach, and Jonathan Hischke (the bassist/synth player from Hella), mashed with ridiculous coloured effects and patterns. It seems to say “I am Omar. I’m really fucking wierd. I am the Messiah. We rock, so buy this album.” And it looked pretentious. So, I thought well fuck that, excitement over.

However, when the album was leaked, I just had to try a listen, just hoping that perhaps the album wasn’t going to be as bad or as pretentious as I thought. “Tuberculoids” as a title for a track kind of ruins that idea. But, you know, it’s not that bad – Zach Hill’s fantastic spastic drumming is the canvas for Omar’s equally spastic guitar hammer-on solos. Cedric, however, sounds as moany and annoying as he does on Bedlam in Goliath. To be honest, listening to the song in its entirety is effectively pointless, as it’s one idea repeated over and over again for 4 and a half minutes.

Then again, Omar has been like this for a few years now. Gone are the days of the complicated post-hardcore delicious riffs of At the Drive In, gone are even the incredible jazz improvisations of early Mars Volta. Omar’s solo albums primarily consist of stuff like this, just stupid ideas that don’t fit in TMV tracks, that consist of effects that sound like they’ve just been shat out in a severe case of violent diarrhoea, pointlessly atonal guitar solos that sounds like Bad Moon Rising being played in an unfortunate hurricane. Slowly, this not necessarily pointless, but not palletable for release experimentation is seeping into the Mars Volta’s function, which is probably why members are leaving left, right and centre because Omar and Cedric are heading so far up their own arse, they fail to see the difference between great ideas and expendable experimentation only useful as an exercise to eliminate good and bad sounds rather than an excuse for totally annoying breakdowns.

However, that’s not to say that when you take away all the bullshit that Omar still doesn’t have it in him. The beats and riffs in Half Kleptos are groovy as hell (although it is extended far beyond what it should last, and the riff isn’t built upon whatsoever), and the title track’s opening riff (which kicks in after 55 seconds of a strange interview with a Jewish man) is one of the highlights of the album. The opening tracks blend in and out of each other through segues of bizarre noise. Now, I’m sure most hardcore TMV fans remember the infuriatingly bland sound collages at the end of Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus and the Widow, but the annoying noises actually serve a purpose on Cryptomnesia, and are actually quite entertaining.

Omar has always been able to surround himself with fantastic musicians, and Cryptomnesia is no exception – Zach Hill is on top form here, as is Omar and Alderete de la Pena. Eventually, the title track becomes bland and annoying as the same thing is repeated over and over again, as layer upon layer of stupid fucking annoying guitar riffs blind everything, and the sound is reduced to this annoying blur, an excuse for Omar to say “Hey look, I can play guitar really fucking good!”

The three tracks that follow, Hella-esque instrumental “They’re Coming to Get You Barbara” chaotic electronic-themed “Punky Humans” and “Shake is for 8th Graders”, which sounds like a Bedlam in Goliath outtake, are all mere exercises in technique. The irritating bass sound on Noir, the tiringly cliche Paper Cunts and it’s Beefheart-esque extension “Elderly Pair Beaten With Hammer” (the latter complete with atonal saxophone! You know, the thing that every Mars Volta fan hates when it pops up 8 minutes into a song that so far has managed to avoid any annoying noises?) become very, very annoying eventually. As for Warren Oates, it just sounds as though  it’s a roundup of all the annoying stuff we’ve heard on this album, tied in with a couple of highpoints, including Zach’s tasty beats and some pretty good riffs too.

The album ends quite abruptly with Fuck Your Mouth, a 23-second seemingly sampled piece, and then it’s over. 36 minutes of total noise and bullshit, and 36 minutes of tasty beats and riffs, mixed together to create some form of murky lake with gold hidden at the bottom. Such a shame that the water hides the gold from view, and smears it with its shit. Come on Omar, you are way too awesome to require an effects overload. I think it’s time you started making music again.

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2 Comments

  1. experimentak rock

  2. Zach Hill is a fecking god


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