The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
May 28, 2022
I fucking adore this album.

"Frances the Mute" was released as the follow-up to the Volta's hit 2003 album "Deloused in the Comatorium". Their previous album was seen as a landmark in the state of progressive rock. This time, however, everything was done in-house in terms of production, and Omar Rodriguez Lopez made sure to have all of his musicians record their parts separately with him, save some select parts. How did this unorthodox method of production work out? I'd say phenomenally, as this record sounds like a movie, and feels like one in a great way.

"Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" is my favorite opener ever. The hush bookend of 'Sarcophagi' hushily welcoming the listener to this journey as the group bursts down the fucking walls of the house with a groovy ass latin-funk-punk spiral into madness. The pit-pat verses of erractic, jazzy instrumentals followed by the crazed, delirious wails of Cedric's character "Vismund Cygnus" tell the story of a orphaned man. This man happens to be a prostitute looking for his birth family, who had been weeded out or killed by a cultish church. The b-side, 'Frances the Mute' explains that Cygnus was birthed as a rape from this tragedy from his mother, Frances. The chorus and bridge are intensely wrapped in chaotic, jazzy instruments as it transfer into this slow-build from a guitar. We come back to our chorus as it erupts from a 3-minute build and it spirals into fucking space for the final melody of the song: Con Safo.

"The Widow" is an amazing ballad of a night of Cygnus with a... client. The intense yet elegant instrumental feels almost cinematic.

"L'Via L'Viaquez" tells the story of Cygnus's aunt, a salsa rock song that feels sinister yet oddly elegant in the choruses. The booming, Spanish choruses are layered with Omar and John Frusciante's guitarwork that is extraordinary.

"Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is another ballad, that is horrifying and extremely sad. The song builds from croaking frogs into this cinematic, and soothingly eery ballad. This story tells of Cygnus's grandmother, who tried to tell people around him and his family of the sins of the church. The build into the final chorus of the song is intense and soul-crushing. The song fades out as radio frequencies echo a familiar tune; the movement of 'Con Safo' from the first track.

"Cassandra Gemini" explodes during this melody into a jazzy, funky punk intro as Cedric wails into a spoken-word pre-verse. The verses have this action-movie feel, as the instruments of the band warp into this spacey melody. The crescendo from the opening verses lead into my favorite part of the album. The journey into the chorus of Cassandra Gemini is absolutely fulfilling as the chorus booms, and in the second chorus flourishes. Cassandra Gemini evolves over time, as it layers the carnage that Cygnus unfolds as he says directly what happens to his family and those who destroyed it. Several movements of the song elevate from sinister, to psychadelic, to orchestral orgasm, to piano decimation, looping back into our original post-chorus and chorus. Cassandra Gemini and the rest of the album is an absolute fucking unit to undertake, and has quickly overtaken many musicians' work to become some of my favorite music.

RANKING (least to greatest):

5. The Widow (Great song, just not as amazing as the rest)
4. L 'Via L' Viaquez
3. Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore
2. Cygnus Vismund Cygnus
- Sarcophagi
- Con Safo
- Facilis Decensus Averni
- Umbilical Syllables
1. Cassandra Gemini
- Sarcophagi
- Plant a Nail in the Navel Stream
- Multiple Spouse Wounds
- Faminepulse

listen to it

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