When At The Drive-In flamed out in 2001 at the height of its popularity, who could have foreseen the dozens of projects that would spin off? While three-fifths of the group formed Sparta, which continued in the “post-hardcore” tradition, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López formed modern prog act The Mars Volta. But to list all or even half of the side projects Rodríguez-López has done since then would be a fool’s errand. Simply put, it’s a lot. His newest group is Bosnian Rainbows, which was born out of his solo work and his time producing catchy Mexican-punkers Le Butcherettes, whose Teri Gender Bender also fronts this band. Rodríguez-López has excitedly claimed that this is his return to an actual band format, as opposed to the “dictatorship” of his other projects. It’s this experimental quality that makes him such an admirable figure, though in the case of Bosnian Rainbows’ self-titled debut, this means giving up what he does best.
And that’s the most apparent realization of the new group: Those looking for Rodríguez-López’s usual sky-scraping guitar work should look elsewhere, as he mostly takes a backseat, atmospheric role. There are more keyboards than monster-sized riffs on this LP, with the keys acting as the real driving force of the band’s sound—less King Crimson, more The Cure. Bosnian Rainbows is a mix of dance-inspired beats, dark synthesizers, weird guitar warbles, and Gender Bender’s airy, yet somehow grounded vocals that all adds up to a strange blend of dreamy indie-pop.
Though the record doesn’t rock as much as it could, when it does, it’s a real treat. “Torn Maps” successfully blends all the synth-bass and percussive flourishes that are the core of the band’s sound, but it runs alongside the weird punk rhythm guitar that gave At The Drive-In such a unique edge. Single “Turtle Neck” starts with a staccato drum pattern, while simulated raindrops and vocal harmonies float up above, but halfway through, it switches gears to a pounding guitar workout that’s one of the album’s better moments.
Bosnian Rainbows combines a lot of elements together, but it sometimes feels that they’re not sure which way they want to go. There are laidback, layered slow jams that make up the bulk of the record, but the LP’s best moments come when it adds more guitar-driven material. If Rodríguez-López and company stick with it, they could really travel somewhere that’s simultaneously out of their comfort zone and yet still highlights their individual strengths. If it’s not just a one-off side project, it’s a promising debut.