Mars Rehearsal Tapes & Alt. Takes: NYC 1976-1978 3xLP

What a beautiful time to be a fan of MARS. I remember when I was discovering no wave, and trying to find anything by the band (physically or digitally) was like hen’s teeth. But once I heard them and GLENN BRANCA, my tastes for guitar noise were forever refined and I never felt the need to hear SONIC YOUTH again. In the last few years, we’ve seen a slew of archival releases from the group, but this release is the motherlode. Three LPs of demos, rehearsals, alternate takes, and more—truly for the most hardcore of MARS obsessive. The audio fidelity is far from pristine, but if you’re here for the noisiest of no wave, you probably aren’t a snooty audiophile. The evolution of the band is heard from originally making piano and acoustic guitar demos at home before quickly taking up electric instruments, writing a set of VELVETS-indebted songs, and playing one gig as CHINA. The mutation of the band from a minimal, arty proto-punk band to the harsh experimentalism of MARS starts here. The music becomes more abstract, rattling, industrial, and truly experimental—where the band is questioning the format of the standard rock’n’roll song as well the place and physical use of the instruments within them. MARS’ music sounds to me like taking rock music closer to the realm of painting or sculpture, using their instruments to create texture and color as opposed to melody or harmony. It’s here where we get to the real meat of the compilation, and the true endurance test for listeners. Listening to the multiple takes of the songs “Hairwaves” and “Helen Forsdale” reminded me of something like the massive STOOGES’ Funhouse Sessions, where the band is drilling down the song with minor variations, but you hear the song take shape and come to life. The drum-and-vocal-only take of “Puerto Rican Ghost” was interesting to hear separate from the avant guitar sounds they’re known for. What really captures the spirit of this record is the band doing a run through of “11,000 Volts,” after which they sound happy about the results and then immediately go back into the song again, finish it, and then hoot and holler with joy at the end of that one. It gives you an interesting two-fold perspective on the song from what you’re hearing as a listener and what they were hearing at the time as musicians. What part of the song did they nail that they didn’t before? What sounded different that time that they knew they got it? It’s documentation like this found on this record that truly makes it a treasure and dispels any notion of this music being random, but rather being vigorously rehearsed, instilling the craft and discipline the band had in creating such dissonant music.

Mars Mars Archives Volume 3: N.N. End LP

Collection of live recordings of the No York epitome. It’s live in a barely-produced way, not making favors for the listeners who have to get into both MARS and this recording quality. MARS was the type of No Wave band that focused a lot on guitars. It feels in general as though we were teleported into the body of a guitar—that is how loud it is. Instinctively primitive or thought-out compositions, I cannot tell, but it is as experimental as art, which makes people feel uncomfortable. So heads can be scratched to what the fuck is happening here, but all you need to focus on whether you enjoy it or not. It’s super noisy, chaotic, destructive, sometimes violent, sometimes dreamy guitar music. It’s dense but not fast, as repetitive as meditation while never getting boring. Songs sound like someone just recorded how rusty iron bars were drawn around on a rustic surface while some disturbed person was yelling in the back. Or a car was beaten with baseball bats while people had intercourse in it. But it is a record; therefore you can enjoy all these surreal soundscapes from the safety of your home, or be brave and take it out to anywhere with your portable listening device. The idea is that you are just as free as MARS, who here are collecting some of the extremes of being human and playing it through who knows what. You can study art and have some highbrow opinion of what they do, but really if you like noise and you think life is crazy, then take a try with this record.

Mars 78 LP

This retrospective release contains tracks from this band which was around during the No Wave scene, but the music is still pretty influential. By their slow churning sounds, you can hear where PUSSY GALORE, LIVE SKULL, and SWANS might be considered their offspring.