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15
Dec 18

Omargeddon #5: Cryptomnesia

FTPost a comment • 24 views

This is the cover art for the album Cryptomnesia by the artist El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Rodriguez Lopez Productions, or the graphic artist(s). (for the picture description as per fair use terms).Most Omar Rodriguez-Lopez albums are released under his name, but there a few variations: El Trío de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quartet, the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet, and when touring, the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, (though Woman Gives Birth to Tomato! was also released under this name). And then there’s El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the least literal and most tongue-in-cheek of them all.

Omar’s “new group” consisted of himself, Juan Alderete, Zach Hill, Jonathan Hischke, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. He may just as well have called it “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Mars Volta!” and in many ways, it’s the Volta album everyone was expecting but didn’t get with “acoustic pop album” Octahedron, released the same year. Cedric admitted it himself, noting “if anyone’s bummed that Octahedron is too simple or too pop, they can buy [this] album and it’ll take them right back to that [heavier] kind of sound. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever worked on. It’s pretty much a Mars Volta record, just without Thomas [Pridgen], Ikey [Owens], and Marcel [Rodriguez-Lopez].”

When I listen to Cryptomnesia, which is fairly often, I feel like I’m snuggled in a beloved, decade-old Fair Isle knit jumper covered with intricate, brightly coloured patterns. Unfortunately, it’s also very itchy in places, to the point where I have to rip it off and stash it away for a while. And then I remember how pretty and warm it is, so I eventually come back to it.

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4
Nov 18

Omargeddon #4: Weekly Mansions

FT1 comment • 82 views


I’ve been stuck in a funk of late. Sadly, not a George Clinton-flavoured funk, but a stank, stuck funk of my own making. My compulsive need to trace the original sources for all the revised riffs, beats, and samples that crop up in later Omar Rodriguez-Lopez projects has proved a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be fairly difficult. And yet, I deluded myself into thinking it would all fall into place. It is, but at a frustratingly glacial pace, and I’m growing resigned to the fact that my attempt to construct an orderly timeline is a fool’s errand.

This is the album that made me want to track this path in the first place. Released in late 2016 on the Ipecac Recordings label as part of Omar’s 24-album back catalog catch-up, Weekly Mansions feels both soothingly familiar and brand-new. Many of the albums in this series can (sort of) be easily identified as a complete album remixed and reimagined; this feels like a bridge linking the more guitar-driven and distortion-fuzzed earlier releases via a silky thread of instrumental segues and sound manipulation. If this were an aural equivalent to a magic eye poster, I’d gaze into it crosseyed, hoping for an optical illusion of The Mars Volta to appear.

Dubbed “an eclectic exploration of neo-electro-dance”, it’s a totally guitar-free collaboration between Omar and his brother Marcel (aka Eureka The Butcher), which positively heaves with bleepy joy. I would fervently press it into the hands of all my friends, were a physical edition available. Such is my deep and abiding love for it that I rate it as highly as I do Old Money, and I do not say that lightly.

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26
Aug 18

Omargeddon #3: Octopus Kool Aid

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It would be inaccurate to say Octopus Kool Aid passed me by, but by the time I learned of its existence, I was too depressed about The Mars Volta’s breakup and too ready to blame this album for causing it. It’s only been recently that I’ve taken the time to appreciate its impact on Omar’s music.

Octopus Kool Aid features lyrics and vocals by Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes, and working with her on this album reawakened Omar’s appreciation for true collaboration. Somewhere along the line, they formed Bosnian Rainbows. Omar decided to put The Mars Volta on hiatus to focus on recording and touring with his shiny new side project. This royally cheesed off Cedric Bixler-Zavala; the two of them snipped bitchily at one another via social media, which was both unfortunate and deeply awkward. TMV’s hiatus became an official break-up in early 2013, and there didn’t appear to be any going back. Cedric’s subtweet “What am I suppose [sic] to do be some progressive house wife that’s cool with watching their partner go fuck other bands? We owe it 2 fans to tour” makes me cringe-laugh, but it’s clear that he felt betrayed personally and on behalf of Volta fans.

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25
Jul 18

Omargeddon #2: Tychozorente

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Last week at work, while creating the dashboard reports for this month’s round of governance boards, I was struck by the idea of creating an Omar Rodriguez-Lopez music matrix. The upper left quadrant would be jazz/experimental, the upper right rock, the lower left electronic/dance, and the lower right pop. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all ORL genres (salsa is missing, to name but one), but using a simplistic visual to map out albums will help me catalogue them, as well as guide me in selecting what to review next.

If Old Money sits in the uppermost right quadrant, its opposite on the lower left would be Tychozorente. They’re both early doors albums, and near polar opposites. It’s his first solo record with nary a guitar present and is also notable because elements of it appear frequently in his later material. The overall vibe is reminiscent of At The Drive-In dub side project De Facto, with a twist of pop via vocalist/lyricist Ximena Sariñana Rivera. Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty mixed bag. The tracks that work are like sweet psychedelic swirls of cotton candy, but they’re surrounded by clunky spoken word pieces that disturb the flow of the album experience.

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17
Jul 18

Omargeddon #1: Old Money

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Old Money is like a crazy quilt with no immediately discernible pattern upon first inspection. There’s so much happening, it’s impossible to take it on all at once. The riff-squares are stitched together with your typical rhythm section, plus woodwinds, plenty of added effects, and some more unusual rock instruments, such as clavinet, wurlitzer, and theremin. As in much of Omar’s early solo work, however, the guitar is the star. It’s the seminal ORL sound – ORL Original Recipe, if you will.

And you should, because Old Money’s rock-out guitar A swirls tauntingly around guitar B’s wah-wah, creating an ecstatic hurricane of beautiful noise to become swept into. Although it’s not his first solo release, it was the first I ever heard and feels like the most appropropriate place to start, and listening to it feels like coming home for me. It was nearly a follow up to The Mars Volta’s Amputechture and in many ways feels like homework for The Bedlam In Goliath. I’m reminded of those heady days of new fandom, that first flush of obsessive love. Though it would be inaccurate to say that it’s the gold standard by which all other releases are measured, it does serve as a kind of guitar-oriented litmus test, and I sometimes categorise other albums based on how Old Money-esque they sound.

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9
Jul 18

Omargeddon

FT6 comments • 172 views

I came late to The Mars Volta, becoming a fan after my friend Glynnis sent me ripped copies of De-loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute. I’d been looking for new music, and as I’d gotten her into my favourite band, The White Stripes (RIP), it seemed appropriate to check out the band she’d been raving about for ages.

I was vaguely aware that “progressive rock” existed as a genre, but apart from Pink Floyd or maybe Rush, I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to sound like, other than it probably wasn’t for me and that The Mars Volta was grouped into this genre. They did not sound like Pink Floyd, or Rush, or indeed like any other band I’d ever heard before. They sounded like everything at once, when it wasn’t so quiet you could hardly hear it. They sounded like the ravings of a mystic spouting the mysteries of the universe solved, if you could only crack the code. They sounded like despair laced with hope layered over a bedrock of blistering guitar, insane drumming, steady and yet somehow confusing bass, and thrilling, rollicking keys. They sounded like the band I never knew I was waiting all my life for. I was hooked from that first sirenny riff from De-loused, and fell particularly hard for the enigmatic and visceral lyrics, and vocals I didn’t think were humanly possible.

In a way, I was glad to arrive late to the party because it meant I still had Amputechture and The Bedlam in Goliath to discover. I listened to the shit out of them, amazed that yes, even after several dozen plays I was still decoding the lyrics and still dissecting the strata of sound. I bought my own copies of them all and must confess that sometimes I do miss CDs, because having the lyrics to hand is very necessary. First, because I genuinely can’t understand a good deal of them until I’ve seen then written down and, contrary to Jarvis Cocker’s instructions, often read the lyrics whilst listening to the recordings. Second, because I am in love with the delphic, weird, often silly, sometimes disgusting but also beautiful imagery, and want to study the lyrics and work out how they fit the greater narrative. Coupled with Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s powerful, heartwrenching vocals, it’s a recipe for continual revelation.

I couldn’t get enough, and was both happy and overwhelmed when I learned that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez had released solo albums as well. By the time I’d realised Old Money existed, he’d already released seven albums. If ORL was a writer, he’d have published 15 books, all of them 700 page tomes. I have a lot to catch up on, I thought, and tried to keep up via my haphazard collection of CDs, digital downloads and streaming from the (now defunct) ORL Productions website. It was not enough, especially in light of the fact that he was releasing four or five albums a year. And then The Mars Volta disbanded in a heartbreakingly acrimonious rift, and I was determined to hear everything I could in an attempt to keep them alive in my heart and in my ears.

He slowed down a bit around that time, or so I thought, releasing only one album in 2013 and then nothing at at all (apart from a Bosnian Rainbows album, the band that effectively broke up TMV, and Antemasque, the one that kind of reunited them) until 2016, when he released 12 albums with Ipecac Recordings and another 12 the following year, clearing his back catalogue.

At the moment, I think I have heard most of them at least a few times, but I’m still far from caught up. With a discography this big, it’s hard to figure out what I want to listen to. “I’m in the mood for some ORL” is all very well and good, but which ORL? Which are the instrumental albums? Which are the jazzy albums? Which are the synthpop albums? Which are the Spanish language albums? Which is the one that sounds more like Jack White than Boarding House Reach does? Which is the one that is literally a collection of random sounds? Furthermore, I’m sure this track is a reworking of previous material, but of what and from which album? This track is definitely on another album but with a different name. Defining the ORL sound is impossible, but it may be possible to catalogue the albums, in a fashion.

Happily, it’s relatively easy to access most of them – all the Ipecac Recordings releases are available on Spotify, and YouTube and Bandcamp fill in most (and possibly all) of the remaining gaps. Finding reviews, on the other hand, isn’t quite so easy, especially for the older and less easily accessible albums. So I’ve decided to review every ORL solo release (as per Discog’s list) that I can access, to help me catalogue them, to understand why I love them, and to possibly win over a few new fans. Maybe by the time I finish, The Mars Volta will have confirmed their reunion, complete with a triple-album release and world tour starting with a week’s residency in London. I can dream!

12
Dec 17

TFTACOXS* – December 12: M&S Chestnut Roast Wrap

FT + WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDAR1 comment • 106 views

59faebb31c327e00013f411f_marks-and-spencer-vegan-plant-basedIf buying sandwiches from a pharmacy seemed alien to me, I wonder what I would have thought about department stores selling them. I learned what Marks and Sparks was on the same tram journey back from Meadowhall that I learned what aubergine was (it was being used to describe a pair of unpurchased trousers, rejected for their colour). I had already learned that pants meant undies, and trousers indeed pants. Piece of cake, this English.

Nowadays, I solely consider M&S Simply Food, indeed. Thanks to their taunting adverts and fancy scran, I tend to think of their lunches as a tiny treat yo’self indulgence. Their first vegan wobs offering is a wrap – red pepper tortilla filled with carrots, spinach and chestnut/mixed grains, with grape & cranberry chutney to glue it all together.

Ewan wasn’t overly impressed with the textured tortilla, and found the contents unevenly distributed with many too-carroty bites, overall rating it disappointing. That wasn’t a problem with my wrap, but it was pretty small and not very filling. I did like the use of chestnuts – very xmassy – but I found it a bit too virtuous and not quite within the spirit of the xmas sanger.

9
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 9: Boots Parsnip Fritter and Butternut Squash

FT + WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDAR2 comments • 139 views

My first ever taste of a Boots sanger was in Sheffield nearly twenty years ago. I was still learning which shops sold lunch goods convenient to my work, and seem to recall being mildly surprised you could get sandwiches from Boots, although I don’t know why. I suppose I was still noticing the differences between Wisconsin equivalents as I’d only recently been installed permanently in the UK, and I couldn’t think of any pharmacies in Wisconsin that also sold lunchtime meal deals.

38035199655_9283a98b2b_zI was particularly grateful for an option that wasn’t the usual cheese or egg based offer, the Mexican bean wrap. I think this may be the first time I’d ever seen Mexican-stuff-in-a-tortilla called a wrap rather than a burrito (or used as sandwich bread: whoa), but I was happy to sample something new. I was sadly disappointed – it was cold and bland. Nonetheless, I was grateful that it existed when I was lacking in lunchtime veg options. Upon reflection, the thought of a cold burrito makes me want to gag, so it’s really no wonder I didn’t dig the bean wrap and still don’t.

The fact that there are no less than eight vegan xmas sandwiches sampled for the calendar makes me very happy indeed, although I haven’t had the chance to try them all (yet). I haven’t had cause to settle for half frozen disappointment-flavoured lunch in a long time, so I’m very surprised to find that the Boots offering is my favourite so far.

It’s sweet but not overly so, the shredded parsnip matching well with the butternut squash. There’s chutney – just enough, not too gloopy, and a pretty decent granary bread to rival Pret’s. It also helps that it’s £2.75 or £3.39 in the meal deal. I had some of those baked crisps and juice which would have been £2.30 more – huzzah, the meal deal pays off!

Ewan also rates this highly, commenting on the competing textures and flavours. However the curse of the too cold Boots fridge struck Kat, who missed out on the full sanger potential, noting that it was ENCASED IN ICE.

21
Mar 15

Breakfast bang-bang: cereal/bagel

FT + Pumpkin Publog3 comments • 357 views

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Leslie Knope: Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?
Ron Swanson: People are idiots, Leslie.

Michael Bluth: What have we always said is the most important thing?
George-Michael Bluth: Breakfast?
Michael Bluth: Family.
George-Michael Bluth: Oh right, family. I thought you meant of the things we eat.

I almost never have breakfast on weekdays. Given the choice between even five extra minutes of delicious, nourishing sleep or some toast, I’ll always go for the sleep. When I get to work, I’m straight onto the coffee and now my brain considers this a meal.

Weekends are different. Weekends are for doing not-work things like ignoring the housework, failing to reply to personal emails and thinking really hard about going outside for a lovely walk. Therefore I end up going out to breakfast most weekends and am always on the lookout for somewhere new and interesting.

Louis CK introduced me to the glory of the bang-bang: going for a meal at one restaurant and then immediately going to another for a second full meal. This idea is insane; the episode of Louie featuring the Indian/Diner bang-bang was impossible and therefore hilarious. Lou’s a big dude but there’s no way he could have managed to eat that mountain of food. A breakfast bang-bang, on the other hand, is achievable and only slightly gluttonous.

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23
Jun 14

Game of Thrones S04E10: The Children

FT + The Brown Wedge4 comments • 330 views

Well, friends – here we are at the end of the series. Most of the loose ends have been tied  up, and  I take back last week’s grumble regarding frustrating cliff-hangers. For the most part, I’ve been vastly impressed by the showrunners’ interpretation of A Song of Ice and Fire, particularly their ability to condense hundreds of pages, axe dozens of characters, change fairly significant details and still remain totally loyal to the best parts of the plot. I still find this show highly problematic and wish some things had been done differently, but I don’t think it’s necessary or wise to flog a dead Dothraki horse. The Children provided resolution to the major story arcs, sent nearly everyone across their own personal Rubicons, and looked frigging impressive while doing so.

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