Over this past week, if you happened to be walking in Los Angeles’ Grand Park, you might have come across a strange cube. If you happened to enter said strange cube, you might have been able to hear some music. This initially vague art promotion quickly became a lot more interesting when a familiar name became attached to it: The Mars Volta.
“But wait,” I hear you say, “Didn’t The Mars Volta break up a while ago?” Yes, they did, intrepid reader! The progressive art-rock band helmed by former At the Drive-In members Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala managed a full decade of spacey arrangements, mind-bending lyrical trips, and stage-destroying freakouts before officially calling it a day in 2012. Now, a full decade later, the band has returned with their first new music since their initial break, ‘Blacklight Shine’.
Far more funky and straightforward than much of the band’s experimental back catalogue, ‘Blacklight Shine’ is heavy on the Latin influence, including hand percussion, samba rhythms, and Spanish lyrics. These are all signatures of the band’s sound, but it’s usually paired with heavy effects, angular guitar rhythms, and pulverising changes. ‘Blacklight Shine’ has exactly zero of those elements.
That could come off as either strange or refreshing or disappointing, depending on your level of fandom and what you might usually come to The Mars Volta to hear. It’s a pleasant surprise to hear the band return with something that sounds, for lack of a better phrase, a lot more easily digestible than the dense workouts and spidery clashes that typically make up their songs.
It almost sounds like a completely different band – if you’ve dedicated yourself to the cult of Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala, it might be hard to recognise either in ‘Blacklight Shine’. But both have been exploring different textures as styles as of late, Rodríguez-López with Bosnian Rainbows and Bixler-Zavala with Anywhere. The Mars Volta evidently doesn’t have to be a heady prog-rock outfit if the central duo don’t want it to be.
That’s perfectly fine, because ‘Blacklight Shine’ is a groovy, intoxicating, and remarkably fun return to the trippy world of The Mars Volta. No matter what the two prolific musicians end up doing outside of their more famous collaborations, it’s always a joy when Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala come back together to make music.
Check out the video for ‘Blacklight Shine’ down below.