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Aural Pleasure Review

The Mars Volta: 'Noctourniquet'

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The Mars Volta is back. Back from a three-year hiatus, back from the bad Ouija trip of two albums too full of concept, and back to where they left off with the eerily melodic and sculpted chaos of 2006's Amputechture. Absent longtime collaborator and Chili Pepper John Frusciante, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López have crafted a dizzy and gently exploratory set of progressive rock songs infused throughout with improvisational jazz drumming and murky pop-informed melodies. This album is not a new direction, per se, but it does demonstrate that they have learned some temperance and are the better for it, particularly on "The Malkin Jewel" and "Lapochka." Other standout tracks include the uncharacteristically sultry "Trinkets Pale of Moon" and space-punk opener "The Whip Hand." Call their output prog-rock, psychedelic jazz-fusion, or experimental hard rock; The Mars Volta have made, and reaffirm here, a niche for themselves as guardians of a contemporary surrealism. Noctourniquet is a cathartic listen that offers new textural complexities and thought-provoking idiosyncrasies with each spin. Grab it however you can — you just might find it a perfect companion to the fertile fury of spring.

★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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