Octahedron (album)


Octahedron (album)
Octahedron
Studio album by The Mars Volta
Released June 23, 2009
Recorded August 2008 at 99 Sutton Street in Brooklyn, New York[1]
Genre Progressive rock, experimental rock
Length 50:03
Label Warner Bros.
Mercury
Producer Omar Rodríguez-López
The Mars Volta chronology
The Bedlam in Goliath
(2008)
Octahedron
(2009)
Singles from Octahedron
  1. "Cotopaxi"
    Released: June 15, 2009
  2. "Since We've Been Wrong"
    Released: June 26, 2009
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
Drowned In Sound (7/10)[3]
Pitchfork Media (6.0/10)[4]
Planet Sound (7/10)[5]
PopMatters (6/10)[6]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[7]
The Scotsman 3/5 stars[8]
Spin 3.5/5 stars[9]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars[10]

Octahedron is the fifth full-length studio album by American progressive rock band The Mars Volta, released on June 23, 2009.[11][12] The album was released by Warner Bros. Records in North America and Mercury Records worldwide. It debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200 Album chart with sales of 29,980 in its first week of release.[13]

Regarding the release, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala states that the band "wanted to make the opposite of all the records we've done. All along we've threatened people that we'd make a pop record, and now we have."[14]

Contents

Development

Omar Rodríguez-López was working on Octahedron at the same time as The Bedlam in Goliath, as is typical for Rodriguez to be working on two or three projects simultaneously. Yet as Bedlam turned into a "nightmare of a record to make" Rodriguez was unable to sustain both projects and devoted his attention on Bedlam.[15]

Rodriguez had discussed the band's next album (then untitled) as early as January 2008, the month that The Bedlam in Goliath was released,[16][17] claiming "I consider it to be our acoustic album." Cedric Bixler-Zavala has also spoken of the album as "acoustic" and "mellow," yet stated: "We know how people can be so linear in their way of thinking, so when they hear the new album, they're going to say, 'This is not an acoustic album! There's electricity throughout it!' But it's our version. That's what our band does -- celebrate mutations. It's our version of what we consider an acoustic album."[18]

The album was recorded in three weeks during the month of August 2008, in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to recording, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez asked both saxophonist Adrián Terrazas-González and rhythm-guitarist/sound manipulator Paul Hinojos to leave the band. The Mars Volta's official website states that both "did so amicably."[19] Regarding their departure, percussionist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez noted that: "it's like we got a whole new band. It's two less members — we got to play differently."[20]

Rodriguez has stated that he believes Octahedron will be the final album he records in his typical "gun-in-your-face mentality" where he would give musicians their parts without giving them any knowledge of how they fit into the greater song.[15]

Themes

Similar to the band's third studio album, Amputechture, the album does not contain a single unifying narrative. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala notes that the album is "not really" a concept album: "I thought it was going to be but never really got around to writing about anything in particular. Just a lot of instant song composing and regular themes that I wouldn't even want to elaborate on [...] kidnappings, vanishings, 'what if' scenarios about how to get Republicans out of the White House if they'd got in." [14]

In another interview Cedric elaborated on the kidnapping/vanishing themes, saying "Lyrically, I wanted to incorporate elements of traditional songs. So that it would sound like our world had these handed down, traditional songs that were to do with real random vanishings and kidnappings. That is a big part of Latin culture. People get kidnapped all the time. I wanted to cover everything. Right from the exhilarating feeling you get when you put the ransom note down, the adrenaline rush when you realise a loved one has been taken from you, followed by that bleak, dismal area of not knowing what to do. Especially if you don't come from money. We had two friends that we knew from Texas who just randomly vanished. We've never known whether they just took off or if they met foul play. I found it an interesting subject matter to tackle. I wanted the lyrics to instil that bleak feeling you can get from living somewhere like El Paso. Even though I haven't lived at home for ages, it's still with me. The stories that come from across the border still hit home really hard. I just wanted to have a soundtrack for that really."[21]

In an interview with Revolver, Cedric discussed the theme of "Teflon": "I had been writing the lyrics and sort of testing the waters of how much I could say if McCain had won the election. I don't usually write anything about things like that. I think 'Teflon' is my favorite because it kind of has that slacker attitude of someone who doesn't vote but at the same time is giving a fuck. I think a lot of people could maybe understand that." In this same interview, it was pointed out that the introduction of "Halo of Nembutals" contains a sample of a Jeremy Michael Ward recording, dating back to 2003.[22]

The song "With Twilight as My Guide" appears to take place during the Salem Witch Trials, which is revealed through an interview with opera singer Renée Fleming, who covered the song on her album Dark Hope: "I was especially fascinated by the Mars Volta song, 'With Twilight As My Guide', which is operatic in its scale and musical complexity. I was however a bit concerned about the text, specifically the reference to 'devil daughters'. I said, 'As much as I love this song, I really can't sing it for that reason.' Peter Mensch offered to contact Cedric Bixler-Zavala and asked if the text could be changed, since the overall meaning of the song wasn't completely clear anyway. Cedric responded, "Sure, she can change it. I would just like it to be known that in no way is the lyric supposed to paint women in a bad light... The song feels like it was written during the Salem Witch Trials, and it sarcastically takes the religious right wing slang of how all women were treated. Our last album, Bedlam in Goliath, was one huge metaphor for the way women are treated in Islamic society (honor killings, etc) not just a story about a ouija board... it's meant to make you question the way things are."[23]

Promotion

On April 22, 2009, the album's first single, "Cotopaxi," was played as the "hottest record in the world" for that day on the Zane Lowe BBC Radio One show.[24]

An e-mail sent to people who had signed up to The Mars Volta's newsletter on May 16 confirmed details of the album and provided a link streaming four songs ("Since We've Been Wrong," "Cotopaxi," "With Twilight as My Guide," and "Desperate Graves") upon inserting one of the band's four previous studio albums into the disc tray of the user's computer. The promotion also provided a chance to win a pair of tickets to their show at the ICA, London on June 18[25] and a link to pre-order the digipack, limited edition of the album exclusive to HMV.[26] Also, an interactive website was launched, which featured "Since We've Been Wrong" and "Cotopaxi", as well as their lyrics, and several pictures of Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala.[27]

Vinyl release

The 2x12" LP was pressed on white vinyl and was limited to 5,000 copies for the United States on Rodriguez Lopez Productions.[28] The first 500 orders of the vinyl album included a limited vinyl slipmat.[29]


Track listing

All songs by Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

No. Title Length
1. "Since We've Been Wrong"   7:22
2. "Teflon"   5:06
3. "Halo of Nembutals"   5:32
4. "With Twilight as My Guide"   7:54
5. "Cotopaxi"   3:40
6. "Desperate Graves"   4:58
7. "Copernicus"   7:24
8. "Luciforms"   8:22

Song title origins

  • Teflon is a brand name for PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), which is used in non-stick pans, and is a nickname given to persons, particularly in politics, to whom criticism does not seem to stick.
  • Nembutal is a trade name for pentobarbital, which is a long-acting barbiturate used as a sedative. The drug is commonly used in suicides; and is also used in executions in the United States and The People's Republic of China.
  • Cotopaxi is a volcano in the Andes Mountains within Ecuador. The volcano is known for its high peak; its last major eruption was in 1877, and a minor one occurred in 1904.
  • Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who re-introduced the heliocentric model in the 16th century, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe.

Charts

Chart (2009) Peak
position
Billboard 200[13] 12
Norwegian Albums Chart[30] 20
Finnish Albums Chart[31] 27
Swedish Albums Chart 51
UK Albums Chart[32] 64

Personnel

References

  1. ^ Page 7 of the album's booklet
  2. ^ Allmusic review
  3. ^ Drowned In Sound review
  4. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  5. ^ Planet Sound review
  6. ^ PopMatters review
  7. ^ Rolling Stone review
  8. ^ The Scotsman review
  9. ^ Spin review
  10. ^ Sputnikmusic review
  11. ^ The Mars Volta to release new album, Octahedron in June, side-project album in May: Cryptomnesia News @ onethirtybpm.com
  12. ^ Octahedron news @ pitchfork.com
  13. ^ a b July 2009 archives @ keelyskorner.com
  14. ^ a b Blood-Royale, Frederick. Artist 'n' Artist: Frederick Blood-Royale meets The Mars Volta drownedinsound.com. 2009-06-08. Retrieved on 2009-07-02.
  15. ^ a b http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/archives/2009/06/interview_omar.php
  16. ^ New Mars Volta album in July: News @ abc.net.au
  17. ^ New Mars Volta album in June: News @ stereokill.net
  18. ^ Mars Volta on New Album: "It's Mellow": News @ spin.com
  19. ^ The Mars Volta Biography themarsvolta.com. 2009. Retrieved on 2009-07-02.
  20. ^ Lentz, Andrew.All In The Mars Volta Familia drummagazine.com. September 2009. Retrieved on 2010-02-06.
  21. ^ The Mars Volta Chat To I Like Music | interviews | ilikemusic.com
  22. ^ forum.thecomatorium.com
  23. ^ Soprano Renée Fleming gets an indie makeover | Music | guardian.co.uk
  24. ^ Hottest Record - The Mars Volta - Coxtopaxi @ bbc.co.uk
  25. ^ Octahedron @ zaphod.uk.vvhp.net
  26. ^ Octahedron digipak preorder @ hmv.com
  27. ^ Intotheoctahedron.com
  28. ^ formspring.me/sargenthouse Retrieved on 2010-01-19.
  29. ^ Octahedron now available for pre-order on vinyl invisible-movement.net. 2009-07-05. Retrieved on 2009-11-23.
  30. ^ VG Lista lista.vg.no. 2009-07. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. (Norwegian)
  31. ^ Suomen virallinen lista (Finnish)
  32. ^ Top 100 Albums Chart :: Chart Week Ending Date 04/07/09 theofficialcharts.com. 2009. Retrieved on 2009-07-01.

External links


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