A Beginner's Guide to Antemasque

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Monday night at Fitzgerald's, Antemasque will make their Houston debut. It's the third live show ever from the latest off shoot brand of experimental rock music from guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the duo which masterminded legendary and now defunct Texas bands At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta.

New band, new look, new style. That's always the MO of those two madmen, who have played on more albums under different band names than most people can keep up with. Luckily, a new band marks a new gateway, and it's the perfect time for beginners to dive on in. The only problem is that, aside from Antemasque's new self-titled album, where do you start?

This guide only represents six of the two's most important releases leading up to Antemasque, but it should serve as a decent introduction to anyone with interest. Where you go after this is up to you, but these are the absolute best places to start.

At the Drive-In, Relationship of Command (2000) The first and perhaps most famous band Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala played in is still held in high regard by just about everyone on the face of the earth. At the Drive-In's music was abrasive and experimental in the realm of post-hardcore punk, but ended up being the least polarizing music the two ever participated in.

The band is still highly influential and well-regarded today, and it's no surprise when you listen to this album. Refused may have snagged the title The Shape of Punk to Come, but this album was an even bigger indicator of where punk would end up in the '00s. Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala abandoned that sound soon after, but Antemasque seems to be their return to this style of music, albeit far more mature and quieter.

De Facto, Legende du Scorpion a Quatre Queus (2001) De Facto represents and interesting detour for the pair, and while it might not be essential for Antemasque beginners, it's highly recommended listening all the same. It sounds almost nothing like anything else Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala have done before or since, with a thick, classic dub sound, but still represented a turning point towards artistic freedom for them.

For anyone who expected the two to stick to the At the Drive-In formula forever, De Facto represented the ultimate "fuck you" to that notion. It's still a vital record today, even if it didn't predict their eventual direction.

The Mars Volta, Deloused in the Comatorium (2003) This was the first album-length release from Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez after leaving At the Drive-In and man, it still packs a punch even 11 years later. They stormed out of the gate, taking over MTV with a brand of psych-prog punk that had never really even been heard before.

While the band would go on to do a lot of other great things, this album remains the most accessible and definitive statement of purpose from them. Many elements from this one have definitely carried over into Antemasque, including the blend of punk and psych rock.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Solar Gambling (2009) On his own, Rodriguez-Lopez has released somewhere around a million solo albums, and it would be impossible for any beginner to even approach penetrating them at this point. Instead, just stick to the cream of the crop, especially this fantastic release from 2009.

It's closer to Mars Volta material than most, though with more subdued vocals by Rodriguez-Lopez's then-girlfriend and collaborator, pop singer Ximena Sarinana. Note that Rodriguez-Lopez also put out his own decent sampler of his solo work with a "greatest hits" compilation, Telesterion, which would be a fine place to start as well.

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Anywhere, Anywhere (2012) While Anywhere isn't quite essential listening on its own, it contributes a great deal to understanding Bixler-Zavala's direction, and how his approach has changed over the years. The hippie/psych-rock to be found on Anywhere's debut album is much closer to Bixler-Zavala's later solo band Zavalaz and eventually the larger part of his contributions to Antemasque's debut album.

Antemasque may have a punk edge to their sound, but it definitely shows that Bixler-Zavala was paying attention during the Anywhere songwriting sessions too.

Bosnian Rainbows, Bosnian Rainbows (2013) After breaking up the Mars Volta, Rodriguez-Lopez's first stop was this New Wave band which shows his more stripped down, catchy approach to songwriting these days. It's a great album all on its own, but one can't help but hear the eventual role Rodriguez-Lopez would play in Antemasque a year later when listening to this one.

They'll be returning for a second round next year sometime apparently, and I personally can't wait. In the meantime, Antemasque will do just fine to satiate anyone's yearning for a Rodriguez-Lopez production.


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