Given that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, mastermind of The Mars Volta’s experimental brainfuck prog, releases a random solo album every other month, it’s only fair that his bandmate, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, should earn his moment of indulgent side-project glory.
And the open-tuned, acoustic-raga punk-prog found on Anywhere is the very definition of “indulgent side-project.” Recorded in only two days, the music feels raw and unfinished, even as it pushes skyward — all 40 minutes blurring together into a droning-yet-thrilling swirl that puts Valhalla-aiming textural muscle before traditional hooks and verse-chorus structures; and in typical side-project style, Zavala (known for his wailing high notes and commanding frontman presence) relishes the opportunity to explore new shades as a musician. Singing on only three of the album’s seven tracks, he focuses on channeling his inner John Bonham: His dense, tom-tom-heavy beats on Anywhere are so impressive, you’ll almost wonder what drove him to singing in the first place.
Anywhere has its soggy stretches, particularly on the aimless “Shaman Mantra,” which relies too heavily on guitarist Christian Eric Beaulieu’s endless chordal drones, swimming in its own heady bong-water twice as long as it needs to. But Anywhere’s brand of indulgence is mostly epic, adding up to way more than the sum of its parts: Bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges) adds a layer of subtle melodic sophistication throughout with his agile fretless lines; vocalist Rachel Fannan is transfixing on “Dead Golden West,” her ghostly harmonies echoing into space over the band’s exotic churn. Meanwhile, whether he’s singing divine gibberish (“Khamsin”), pummeling his kit in whiplash seizures (the 13/8 surge of “Pyramid Mirrors”), or both (the show-stopping title track), Zavala remains an unmistakable musical wrecking ball.