After his mother's death, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez decided to honor his family matriarch through music. And so he did -- in the strangest possible fashion. 'Music for Mothers,' his debut LP as alter ego Eureka the Butcher, isn't an acoustic sob-fest or a collection of lyrical piano ballads; it's a stark, all-instrumental stew of electro-psych texture and ambient drizzle.

"This record is for my mom because she is the reason why I started playing the piano," Lopez says in the album's press release. "She told me that it was great that I wanted to play drums, but if I played the piano, I could create music and play to a room full of people by myself." As a former percussionist and keyboardist for experimental prog outfit the Mars Volta, Lopez has spent nearly a decade performing in the shadow of his eldest brother, Omar. With 'Music for Mothers,' he's finally making music on his own terms -- liberated from his family crest, even as he honors it.

Subverting expectations is the Rodriguez-Lopez way, and 'Music for Mothers' is indeed an unexpected change of pace: 36 minutes of glitchy electronic grooves that bear little resemblance to either the Mars Volta or Lopez' other band, funk-prog quintet Zechs Marquise. But the music is only surprising in context: With its gurgling synth-bass, jazzy asides and stuttering rhythmic flourishes (not to mention its grand, cinematic scope), these songs are very much the product of our current electronic era, drawing major influence from folks like Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing, not to mention the dubstep community.

Much of the album's first half feels overly familiar and numbingly repetitive -- particularly the disjointed rhythms of 'Here Comes Eureka B' and the flat-lining one-note buzz of 'Swag S---.' The album was largely written and recorded during tour breaks with his other bands -- and at times, it's easy to tell. Early on, 'Music for Mothers' has a tossed-off, thumb-twiddled vibe: always pleasantly funky, never really headed anywhere.

But Lopez eventually hits a sweet spot, showcasing the subtle nuances of his production personality. 'Sarah Monster' is a much-needed U-turn, introducing some forward motion into the textural sprawl via live percussion, a discernible chord progression and synthesizers that develop a proper melody. The final three tracks coil into a futuristic three-part electro-western journey, peaking with 'El Paso Research' -- an evocative swirl of tremolo guitars, delirious hi-hats and sequenced synth rainbows.

'Music for Mothers' works better as a heartfelt tribute than a collection of songs: Ultimately, Rodriguez-Lopez hasn't quite nailed down his own identity. But an interesting career is certainly gestating. Here's to an unpredictable future.

6 out of 10 rating

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