Sunday, March 24, 2013

John Frusciante - PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone - Review

After tremendous success, worldwide recognition, and 10 solo albums, John Frusciante has stated that he has lost interest in traditional song writing. Luckily, this statement did not mean that he stopped making music. What do you do after you pretty much have done it all ? I guess you can quit and retire early in some beach town or you can do something completely different. You can reach new horizons and push your own limits, and that’s exactly what Frusciante has done with his latest album PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone.  Proclaimed as synths pop by Frusciante himself, PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is an experimental electronic record written and mastered by one guitarist.

While Frusciante previously had electronic elements in some of his work, including A Sphere in the Heart of Silence on which he has collaborate with Josh Klinghoffer (Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dothacker), PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is Frusciante’s first electronic LP.

Over two minutes long opening track “Intro/Sabam” is an instrumental piece composed of a broken melodies that develop into a complex electronic tune supported by evolving beats and repeating delayed loops. This intro sets the mood of what you are about to hear letting you know that a lot will be going on in this album.

As “Intro/Sabam” breaks off without really concluding itself, second track “Hear Say” unfolds. Faded vocals are overpowered by multidirectional melodies and harmonies. When listening to this track I find my mind jumping in an attempt to focus. As the music dominates, I fail and let my mind be trapped in what I’m hearing without clearly understanding it.

Third song “Bike” offers clear vocals that range on a wide scale. This song starts off slowly but one minute in, it speeds up. It continues on upbeat notes with a lot of musical and vocal deviations. Halfway through the track the melody changes drastically. “Bike” is not an easy one to grasp without listing to it several times.

“Ratiug” is one of my favorite track on the album. It offers some sort of comfort as it starts off sounding in Fruscainte’s fashion that I’m used to from listening to his other albums countless number of times. This familiarity, however, doesn’t come from music. It comes from lyrics and vocals. Then there is a rapping part that comes in unexpectedly and dissolves the familiarity previously created. But at this point I am tuned into this song and I begin to really enjoy this mix of new and old Frusciante’s sound.

The fifth track “Guitar” is another instrumental song. Layered and mastered well it serves as a good midpoint of the album.

The second half of PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone starts with a major melody and high vocals. Sixth track ”Mistakes” is perhaps less diverse musically and somewhat easier to comprehend.  At the same time, the vocal range creates some complexity. At some parts, I find it hard to believe that all of the singing is done by only one person. Frusciante really pushes his voice on this track creating a lot of emotions.

“Uprane” is fast and deviant. The melodies and harmonies change rapidly and so do the vocals. This is one of the most compound songs on the album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard more emotionally overwhelming electronic song than “Uprane”.

The sixth track “Sam” sounds like an attempt to disturb your ears and mind, not in a bad way. There is a strong psychedelic feel to this track. The synths shoot pretty heavy and Frusciante’s voice is harsh and intense. The main melody is supported by strong beats somewhat dissolving it. If no other track on PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone moves you, “Sam” probably will.

The last song “Sum” is milder than the rest of the album. High-pitched voice rolls over diverse beats in a harmonious way and concludes this experiment leaving you wonder what just hit you.

The entire album has a feel of disorientation. PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is heavily layered and complex. The melodies and harmonies change rapidly and every track progresses in numerous directions. It sounds like various songs were disassembled and then glued together in a chaotic manner. PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is not an easily accessible album and you need to be somewhat musically open-minded to appreciate it for what it is. In order to enjoy PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone, you need to put aside Frusciante’s other albums, especially The Empyrean. His new work is too different to be compared to anything he has done before. Frusciante creates concepts and models for implementing them and they all are significantly different from one another.  This album is sporadic and intense. It is Fruscainte’s long time coming death as a traditional songwriter and it is his rebirth as an experimental musician who dares to alter rules.

“PBX refers to an internal communication system.

A funicular involves two trams connected by a cable, one going up while the other goes down.

Intaglio is a technique in sculpture where one works on the opposite side of the image.

Zone refers to a state of mind wherein the rest of the world seemingly disappears, and nothing matters but the union of one’s immediate surroundings with one’s feelings.

These four words linked together go far to describing my creative process.” - JF

PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is a hazy look into Fruscainte’s mastermind.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Words of Smiths

Author: Various
Language: English
Pages: 122
Price: Rs.200
Publisher: All About Books Global

ISBN Number: 9788192569017

A different city and a weirdly good weather- missing my siblings- my fellow guitars- but books are not doubt cool companions. A friend from another metro texted sometime back- “food for your brainy strings- inside “Words of Smiths”- presented by Wizkonect”.- Thus, I ignored some of my best buys of the month and picked up my review copy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution

Salman Ahmad was born into a fairly charmed life: the son of a manager at Pakistan International Airlines, he travelled all over the world as a child, and migrated with his family to Tappan, New York, at the age of 12, where he discovered the world of concerts, liberal values, cross-cultural camaraderie and his own passion for music-making. So when he was sent back to Lahore in 1982 to pursue medical studies, the shock of dislocation was compounded by the shock of censorship and conservatism in an increasingly insular society. When the young Ahmad’s precious guitar is broken by a member of the self-proclaimed moral police, his destiny is sealed. He too becomes radicalized, but instead of retreating into bigotry and hatred, he accepts as his personal jihad the spreading of love and understanding, through the power of music.
Today, Salman Ahmad is known as Pakistan’s first real rock star, a musician who brought a message of hope to a politically complex part of the world with the bands Vital Signs and Junoon, and an ambassador for cultural relations whose work has dealt with repairing the divides between Islam and the West, and Pakistan and India. Rock and Roll Jihad, his memoir of his personal journey so far, is an inspiring account by a compassionate messenger of peace.
The book starts out a little awkwardly, peppered with too many parenthetical explanations – take this single line for an example, “Salman mian [young man], you want to become a mirasi [low-class musician]? Your parents have high expectations of you and you want to waste the rest of your life playing this tuntunna [gizmo]?” But as the greater ambition of this memoir – to be a reconciliatory and celebratory bridge between divides – becomes clear, this is forgiven for how helpful it might be for a young, international audience. Told in an easygoing style, brushes with glamour – like taking Mick Jagger to see dancing girls – and brushes with politics – like being banned by the government, and losing band members to ego clashes and religious fanaticism – sit comfortably with an abidingly deep spirituality.

Rock and Roll Jihad is recommended regardless of whether one is a fan of Salman Ahmad’s music – although the accompanying 12-track CD offers a bonus to anyone who is. Best suited for teenage readers, who might see in Ahmad a wonderful example of how rebellion and anger can be galvanized to heal, this simply-worded, tactfully passionate memoir is a stirring read.
Ahmad’s jihad is a beautiful one – inspired by the poets of the past and the peacemakers of the present, he sees himself and his work as a necessary voice in the greater struggle against forces of ignorance, prejudice and restriction. This book, peacefully narrated and with no hint of the ugly anger that colours the work of many activists, succeeds in spreading a message both in support of greater global harmony, and in encouraging the young to take heart as they pursue their dreams. Like all truly enlightened people, Ahmad leads by example.

Born And Raised - Music By John Mayer
 John Mayer has redeemed himself with his new album.  Let’s be honest, we all know he’s talented and well – he knows he’s talented.  However, Born and Raised wipes away arrogance and shows a simple, more humble side of the star singer who's had his share of trouble and embarrassment.

With the bluegrass/country sound and strong lyrics, Mayer’s new album is number one on the iTunes album chart.  It’s no surprise why – Mayer escaped the city and the public eye to write his album so he could truly concentrate on his lyrics and compositions.  The lyrics in this album are moving and expose a vulnerable side of Mayer.

The first single on the album that I listen to was “Queen of California.” and although the liked the new sound I wasn't too impressed with the song itself. The song is very simple and over all light and airy. I wasn't expecting the rest of the album to be outstanding. But songs like "Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey" and the title track itself turned that around pretty quickly. The resemblance to Dylan was welcome (acoustic guitar and the harp, come on, can you NOT compare with Dylan?) and the fact that he still managed to sound himself was impressive.

“Shadow Days” is another great track about new beginnings. He really shows off his guitar skills in this song and the melody is full of soul. And if that doesn't impress you, "Something Like Olivia" is almost guaranteed to succeed.

Mayer went under the knife sometime during the recording of Born and Raised - granuloma - and you can definitely hear the strain in his voice. But somehow, it fits into the whole sound and feel of the album. Lucky coincidence? Fate? Who can tell?.

Born And Raised is not Mayer's best album. That crown might just always remain with Continuum. But you wouldn't be too far from the truth to tout this as the second best.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Omar Rodriguez Lopez & John Frusciante


         In case you don’t know either of them, both Omar Rodriguez and John Frusciante are undisputed geniuses. Criminally underrated musicians, Lopez and Frusciante have been close friends since the first half of the 2000s when Frusciante guested on a Mars Volta record – Omar’s own band. The EP is not a collection of tracks. It is a proper sequence of sounds. And by golly, what sounds they are. The EP from the first track 4:17 am to the last, 5:45 am is like an acid trip. Incredibly visual and suggestive with moments of panic but ultimately, one of the most beautiful things you’ll come across. Here’s an excerpt from an interview Omar gave on this EP:
On many of your solo records you actually have John Frusciante, formerly of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performing the guitar parts, I'm curious as to how that relationship came about?

We met at a club years ago, one of my band's De Facto was playing, and John was a fan of De Facto so he was there, and I just met this guy in the crowd and we started talking about Louis Benoit films and I said that I didn't know anybody else who liked Louis Benoit and he was like "Oh yeah you should come over to my house and we'll watch some" and I was like "Oh yea let's do that, have you got such and such, cool I haven't seen that, let's do it." So I went round his house and he had a bunch of guitars and he was like "Oh yeah I play in this group Red Hot Chilli Peppers" so it was kinda like that. I personally didn't know anything about the Chilli Peppers besides obviously just knowing the name because they were one of the biggest groups around, but I didn't know obviously what any of them looked like or what their songs were besides that bridge down town song (Under The Bridge) and so it was nice you know, it was nice for him and it was nice for me.

It was a true friendship that started over a love for Louis Benoit and then we started playing some music together as you would with another person who loves music and then eventually you realise that one of your closest friends is quite literally a musical genius so you just try to pick up as much as you can from that person and make sure that you are having a good time and that results in records together when you can. He is also a go-to person because I can write a lot of things that I can't even play, I write things that I hear in my head and can't play sometimes so it's nice to have a master musician, and also a lot of the times hearing the thoughts I had in my head become a tangible reality, or even just seeing him do it, then all of a sudden I'm able to do it. So that works out good too because I'm a very visual person, I don’t have any musical training or theory or anything, it's more like when I tried skateboarding when I was a kid, if I watched somebody do it I could do it, "Oh, that's how you do an ollie? What are you doing with your back leg there, ohhh ok," so it's the same when somebody plays guitar and they can play something or find their way around something and I can look at their hand then I get it and I can do it. *laughs*

It’s really interesting that you didn’t know anything about him when you guys met, that’s a cool little twist, people probably wouldn’t have thought it went down that way.

Yea it was great, and like I said it was De Facto so it was like a small, two hundred person club and the fact that he was coming from a band that big and even knew who De Facto was just shows his interest in everything music related and everything that happens with records and *laughs*, when I first went to his house I took him a copy of the first Mars Volta EP because he liked De Facto and I said “here this is this brand new thing that we’re doing and we’re gonna be giving all our energy to” and the next time I visited him a couple of nights later he was like “Yea man that’s so cool on the record how you do this and this” and I realised as we were having the conversation that he had learned and memorised and was able to play the entire EP from front to back, all the parts.

Wow, that’s amazing.

*laughs* I know right? He was getting excited about things, and he knows all this theory so he was like “Oh, it’s great how you put that seventh over the third and the five” and all that kinda talk and he’s playing it for me so slowly I’m realising he learnt this whole thing that I wrote then broke it down in his mind which is really impressive.

Notable tracks: 0=2 and VTA.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scar Tissue - Anthony Kiedis's Story

One song, one book – one man’s incredible story. Scar Tissue is a book that brings you the stories of underdogs and an overdose of all that’s cool about rock ‘n roll. Anthony Kiedis, the frontman of arguably the biggest rock band in the world right now, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, writes about his life and his music.
Of course, rock ‘n roll is never short of a healthy dose of sex and a not-so-healthy dose of drug abuse. So reader’s discretion is advised.
The most damning indictment of the book is that there is literally no narrative structure here; Kiedis does not impose any sort of dramatic development on his story, so unless one is familiar with the outlines of Chili Pepper history, this is just one really, really, really long picaresque. And I use that word in its strongest pejorative sense: this is 465 pages of “this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; oh, and then this happened; did I mention that this happened? No? Anyways, then this happened; then this happened…” and on and on seemingly add infinitude.
Which is too bad: the Chili Peppers’ story could make for fascinating reading. They let their freak flag fly and eventually the music-buying public wandered over, trying to figure out what these guys were up to. They never really compromised their music, with even their poppiest tunes (except for the execrable One Hot Minute) slanted just slightly off-kilter to what the rest of the mainstream was doing. And the personalities in the band are, to put it mildly, eccentric: Kiedis is the beautiful, rapping, flowing, sex god, drug addict, front man; bassist Flea is the manic musician, the kind of guy who would probably be terribly unsettling to sit beside on the subway, but who, by all accounts, has a heart of gold; current (and former… it’s a long story) guitarist John Frusciante is a drug-damaged artiste; and Chad Smith, the drummer (of course) is the odd one out, the guy who doesn’t seem to fit in so well. Very little of this comes through in Scar Tissue; for example, Smith, who has been drumming for the band for more than fifteen years is barely mentioned, and almost no interactions between Kiedis and Smith are recounted, other than a drunken near-brawl in a hotel.
The story of the band really needs to be told by an outsider. Kiedis’ account (and yes, I understand that it is an autobiography, but come on) is too relentlessly solipsistic: other people function so tangentially to the story that they end up being props. One of the more chilling moments in reading the book is realizing that the overdose death of Hillel Slovak (the Chili Peppers’ original guitarist), who Kiedis refers to as his best friend and “soul mate”, prompts approximately a page of reflection from Kiedis. That’s it. After that, it’s on to further bouts of drug-taking, startlingly dysfunctional relationships with women and occasional musings on sobriety. More than anything this is the story of a raging drug addict who happens to be in a successful band. Unfortunately, the drug addict’s story (and, really, eventually they’re all the same) can’t sustain itself for the length of the book: it just becomes monotonous.
Scar Tissue is obviously not for everyone. In fact it’s probably not even for the casual fan of the band. It’s designed exclusively for the passionate fans and so it’s very hard to judge the value of this book since the entire consumer market is made up of people who will obviously highly of the book. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re as big a RHCP fan as I am, you will not regret grabbing a copy of this.