Analog Adventures: Frances the Mute

The Mars Volta

Frances the Mute


The Mars Volta were an American progressive rock band formed after hardcore legends At the Drive-In dismantled. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez formed the band at first as De Facto, but that quickly evolved into the Mars Volta. Their first album De-Loused in the Comatorium was a critical success.

The follow up to their first album, Frances the Mute demonstrated the bands versatility. The album is built around a story that follows a woman looking for her lost mother. The music segues together through ambient interludes that are best described as changing the radio station on an alien planet. The music is psychedelic in nature, blending 70’s hard rock a la Led Zeppelin, Cuban piano, and other sounds from the Latin American world. John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers fame also contributed guitar solos on L’Via L’Viaquez. 

The LP itself is a work of art. The cover art shows a man with a red bag on his head driving in a vintage car. The inside of the gate fold has more surreal photographs with similar scenery. The record is rather long at over 77 minutes, and requires three discs to hold all of the music. There are engineered skips at the end of each side to keep the ambiance between the tracks. When you flip the records over, the ambiance continues where the other side left off. The final side of the third disc has no music, but instead has a detailed etching of a root system of a tree. It is symmetrical and looks as if it were drawn using a Spirograph.

If you combined the screaming guitar and singing of Led Zeppelin, the song writing of early Genesis and King Crimson, Latin percussion and piano, you have the recipe for Frances the Mute. But be warned, this LP has soared in value since the initial release in 2005, so expect to pay a premium.


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Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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