Bosnian Rainbows are the interesting new alternative rock project from Omar Rodríguez-López, founder of The Mars Volta. He had announced The Mars Volta would take a hiatus so that Omar can focus on this new project. He pulled his resources, bringing in Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes on vocals, and keeping drummer Deantoni Parks who played with Omar in The Mars Volta and Nicci Kasper on keyboards, who has worked with Parks on various projects, Kudo and Dark Angels. The Mars Volta hiatus turned into an official break-up four months later, with singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala making a public statement about his departure: “I tried my hardest to keep it going, but Bosnian Rainbows was what we all got instead.” A rift in the large cult fan-base of The Mars Volta and mixed reviews from fans about the new direction Omar has taken with Bosnian Rainbows can be found all over the internet. Even as a distant outsider, it’s easy to tell there is more to this story.
At face value, the Bosnian Rainbows’ sound is fresh and futuristic sounding. They are electronically focused, with Omar’s guitar pushed down in the mix, and the personality of Teri Gender Bender shining through, slightly resembling Geddy Lee of Rush. On the opening track ,“Eli,” an ominous bass line leads us through the spastic guitars as the song builds behind Teri wailing out “Why do you smile at me?” Off the bat, a truly strange quality is recognized. It takes a few listens to process, but there are slivers of genius present. “Worthless” makes use of glitch production, an effect largely present in the rap, techno and EDM movements but relatively unused in alternative rock music. Kudos. Up next, “Dig Right in Me” uses the same type of effect with Omar’s reverb-laden guitar riffs coming through strong enough to cut through the wall of noise created by Teri, Deantoni and Nicci.
Strong songwriting reigns throughout the majority of tracks on the album. “The Eye Fell in Love” offers tight, melodic vocals broken by spooky sounding chord changes. The band plays with both minimalism and noise invasions throughout each tune. The album features a few surprising breakdowns, like the one on “The Eye..,” in which an unaccompanied, dissonant, note by note guitar riff keeps the song alive. Bosnian Rainbows are expanding the limits of the alternative rock genre in a real Omar Rodriguez-Lopez fashion, which of course is now expected of him. This time, Teri Gender Bender’s vocals encapsulate the listening experience, causing the music to drip with sexiness and angst.
“Morning Sickness” comes across as one of the strongest songs on the album. Teri’s uncharacteristically light vocals are interrupted by a traveling riff and the introduction of a sudden mood change mid-way through. The first release by the band was “Torn Maps,” posted on the band’s SoundCloud page. Shimmering synthesizers are an odd feaure in the chorus. Teri sings “can we hold hands, I promise you they are clean;” a very modern line, indeed. “Turtle Neck” is also a very strong track, and one of the albums longest, and has an amazing shimmering delay effect on the vocal track towards the end. On “Always on the Run” we find Teri with the raw punk energy we would have expected from the front woman of Le Bucherettes.
These eleven tracks from Bosnian Rainbows have enough depth to spearhead a career for the band. They have a very well-defined identity for a new group, which can be attributed to the fact that their musical bond precedes the conception of Bosnian Rainbows by a number of years. For example, Teri Gender Bender’s band’s (Le Bucherette’s) first album, Sin Sin Sin, was produced by Omar back in 2011. Omar is listed as a bassist in the band. Also, on The Mars Volta’s last tour, Le Bucherette’s opened for them. Another example is that Nicci Kasper and Deantoni Parks’ have had a standing partnership as a writing duo for years. The finished Bosnian Rainbows product is worthy of a second and third listen. It may take a few listens for the music to make any sense. Practice patience and reap the benefit. Say what you want about The Mar Volta break-up, but Omar Rodríguez-López has proven himself capable of expanding his horizons in a totally fresh and interesting way. This a creation deserves attention on a musical level and should be respected as an achievement.