Zechs Marquise

Getting Paid

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At the Drive-In/Mars Volta guitarist and musical auteur Omar Rodriguez-Lopez doesn't contribute to this sophomore album by the band led by his brothers -- Manfred on bass and drummer/keyboardist Marcel (other brother Rikardo joined after this recording was complete) -- but he green lit it for his label. The predominantly instrumental set is a jittery and expertly produced collection of prog/space rock featuring bubbly keyboards, hyperactive tempos, and clattering, occasionally funky percussion. The songs range from five-seven minutes, but they are packed with changes, layered instruments, and enough ideas to extend them a lot longer. That the quartet checks those impulses is one of the most impressive aspects of this collection, along with the musician's obvious talent and near boundless creativity. Influences range from '60s and '70s era King Crimson/Pink Floyd/Gentle Giant to Bitches Brew period Miles Davis, and the blacksploitation cinema from which the cover art was derived. The notes explain that the songs were written from percussion parts sliced and diced by Marcel, with each member gradually adding more instrumentation in a Frankenstein-styled process that, all things considered, sounds remarkably organic. Tracks change tempos and mood often, but nothing seems random or as pretentious as prog typically gets. Rather, the results comprise sprawling but controlled music that challenges the listener without taking itself too seriously; unusual considering such over the top song titles as "Everlasting Beacon of Light" and "The Heat, the Drought, the Thirst, and the Insanity." It sounds great, too, with room for the instruments to enter and leave the mix while maintaining plenty of space, so nothing feels cluttered or forced. When the band hits a killer riff, as on "Crushin' It," stun guitar hovers over the proceedings as the licks quicken with Zappa-like efficiency. By the time the nervous, driving "Mega Slap" closes the 50-minute album, the average listener is already exhausted from the near overabundance of ideas. Thankfully, it's all played with an energy and focus that will impress even the most die-hard fan of '70s prog who claim "they just don't make ‘em like that anymore".

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