Straightforward. Subdued. Accessible. If Octahedron had been recorded by just about any other band, those words would never cross anyone’s mind. However, the Mars Volta has pushed the boundaries of their music and their mania time and again, leaving the expectation that each album will be a further exploration of psychedelic insanity. This album explores to be sure, but in a different way than they have previously.
After the very, very quiet first minute and a half, the largely acoustic opening track, “Since We’ve Been Wrong,” is practically radio-friendly. By the time they get around to “Cotopaxi,” the first song to enlist their signature bazillion notes per measure approach, the album is in its back stretch. While the wide musical expanses and dabbling in free jazz is missing on Octahedron, the album is, in the end, more human. Their esoteric ramblings aren’t altogether absent mind you, just significantly scaled back.
They have proven once again that their direction is as cryptic as Cedric’s lyrics. Compared to most, they’re still living in the prog rock ivory tower, but Octahedron reaches down and touches us in a way that is at once concrete yet fleeting.