When Omar Rodriguez-Lopez recently parted ways with prog-rock experimentalists the Mars Volta, fans were understandably baffled. As Volta's guitarist, composer, producer and overall sonic dictator, Lopez already had free reign to create whatever style of nutso music he desired. But the Lopez of 2013 isn't the Lopez of Volta past -- the one who obsessively dissected and tinkered with every musical nuance of his expansive songs, the one who blindly led his "bandmates" through isolated overdub sessions (playing to click tracks, herded in and out of the studio like sheep).

The whole point of Bosnian Rainbows, Lopez' new band, is that it isn't Lopez' band at all. Their self-titled debut is lean, balanced, forceful -- the sound of a tight-knit unit (Lopez, vocalist Teri Gender Bender, keyboardist Nicci Kasper, drummer Deantoni Parks) founding a democracy based on gothic art-rock. (Lopez is no longer "Little Hitler"; more like "Little Ben Franklin.")

'Bosnian Rainbows' is defined by that sonic equality. Gender Bender is a sultry vampiress: oozing spooky sexuality, conjuring images of a possessed Kate Bush, stretching out her melodies in elongated sighs and breathy whispers. Kasper and Parks form a hypnotic rhythm section, balancing New Wave synth-bass with funky, syncopated drum grooves. Meanwhile, Lopez displays admirable restraint -- but no less of his trademark mysticism: His "solo" on the slow-churning 'Worthless' consists of a handful of decaying notes drifting into oblivion -- expressing more emotion than a thousand orgiastic squalls.

The songs may be less complex from a technical standpoint, but their unorthodox contortions still startle and provoke: 'Morning Sickness' shifts jarringly from funky pulses to a spook-house half-time crawl; 'Turtle Neck' morphs from a blissful New Wave atmosphere to a volcanic post-punk eruption, complete with one of Lopez' trademark noise-prog seizures. The sound is swathed in the moody, spacious sprawl of the early, early '80s -- a time when New Wave and art-rock and post-punk were in full flight, a bizarre, cross-pollinated era in which Robert Fripp could produce a Daryl Hall album. There really isn't a weak track here, and the best (the spastic 'Morning Sickness,' the shape-shifting 'Turtle Neck,' the epic 'Mother, Father, Set Us Free') are nearly transcendent.

Lopez has never made music with such ease and graciousness. And -- for the first time ever -- he couldn't have made it alone. As 'Bosnian Rainbows' proves, there's an elegant beauty in submission.

8 out of 10 diffuser.fm rating