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.

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