Ex-The Mars Volta Guitarist Plans Bi-Weekly Solo Albums Until Year’s End
Few musicians can claim to be as prolific as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the ex-guitarist of the post-hardcore group At the Drive-In and prog-rock legends The Mars Volta. Since beginning his music career over 20 years ago, Rodriguez-Lopez has amassed a cult following, primarily owing his success to The Mars Volta, which he founded alongside his friend and musical life partner, vocalist and lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. With his flagship band The Mars Volta, Rodriguez-Lopez found an avenue to explore disparate genres and methods of production, at times undergoing drastic and experimental techniques in producing albums; for example, the band’s critically-acclaimed 2005 album Frances the Mute was entirely written and produced by Rodriguez-Lopez, with each band member recording their parts separately – nobody except Rodriguez-Lopez ever heard any of the other members’ tracks until the entire album was a finished product.
Earlier this summer, Rodriguez-Lopez did an interview with Rolling Stone in which he announced that he would be stopping his work on solo albums, saying that following his mother’s passing in 2012 he no longer wanted to make music entirely on his own, preferring the creative process to be more of collaborative act than his previous work. In that same interview, Rodriguez-Lopez also announced that he would be releasing a new solo album every two weeks for the remainder of 2016.
Throughout Rodriguez-Lopez’s career, he has been constantly writing and recording music solo, amassing a Zappa-esque back-catalogue of music that has never been released to the public – until now. Rodriguez-Lopez hired a producer to go through this massive collection of songs and arrange them into coherent works, all of which are slated to be released by the end of this year.
The result is nothing short of incredible; Rodriguez-Lopez has so far released over 30 studio albums of his solo material, six of which were put out this year after the Rolling Stone announcement, and the care that went into mixing and remastering the tracks into proper LP’s with their own vibe and voice is both meticulous and at times inspiring in their level of detail. If nothing else, this current smattering of solo releases is a monument to the value of a good producer.
To be clear, no two of these albums sound completely alike; for that matter, they sound like they came from different artists altogether. Of the six released so far this year, two are more or less psych-rock albums of the same ilk that Rodriguez-Lopez made his name on with The Mars Volta – albeit without the 30 minute marathon tracks featured on Frances the Mute. Think Jack White with more hallucinatory lyrics and you’ve got a good idea of the general musical themes presented on the first release from this year, Sworn Virgins. The following LP, Corazones, also relies extensively on psychedelia, but using the framework of Latin jazz and American folk music with a distinct Southwest influence.
Subsequent albums released this year, namely Blind Worms, Pious Swine and Aranas En La Sombra, are decidedly more experimental in nature, incorporating much more of the Mars Volta aesthetic from their later years, in which they focused primarily on ways to more effectively incorporate a growing electronic influence on their progressive-rock roots.
Regardless of your musical taste, one of these LP’s has something on it to suit you, and even if they somehow don’t, no need to worry, there will be six more where those came from on their way before the New Year.