Artists run a great risk for attempting to expand the boundaries of musical expression. Much of the argument regarding The Mars Voltaâ€šÃ„Ã´s newest offering Frances the Mute will be polarized along the relevance of this boundary expansion. The unfortunate casualty of this debate is a wondrously powerful piece of music. The album starts and ends with the same sublime piece of plucked acoustic guitar. After the intro, the band launches into the frantic shredding of â€šÃ„ÃºCygnusâ€šÃ„Â¶. Vismund Cygnusâ€šÃ„Ã¹ which sounds impossibly heavier then previous Volta outings, even in spite of the fact that the guitars have less distortion on them. The track morphs after the halfway point into a jazzy breakdown that builds patiently through an understated guitar solo into a fantastic crescendo of fast bass and violins. The songâ€šÃ„Ã´s parts then strip away one by one until thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s nothing left except simple ambient tones and a modulating loop of notes. The dissonance gives way straight into the somber ballad â€šÃ„ÃºThe Widow.â€šÃ„Ã¹
The closing notes of which slow to a crawl and are then accompanied by an avalanche of methodically processed noise bleeding into the Spanish flavored rock of â€šÃ„ÃºLâ€šÃ„Ã´via Lâ€šÃ„Ã´Viaquez.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Perhaps the strongest moment of the album comes in the next track â€šÃ„ÃºMiranda That Ghost Just Isnâ€šÃ„Ã´t Holy Anymoreâ€šÃ„Ã¹ with guitarist/songwriter Omar Rodriguez-Lopez playing a beautiful flanged arpeggio against the best parts of singer/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s upper vocal register. This gives way to the tremendous epic “Cassandra Geminni.” Clocking in at over a half hour total the song is a marvel of craftsmanship. It embodies all the elements The Mars Volta fight to perfect: spastic rock, joyous funk, ethereal experimentation and otherworldly visionary prowess.