Review: The Renaissance of John Frusciante

Author’s note: Was published without sections on “Zone” and “Renoise Tracks 2009-2011” originally. Now included below.

I can say confidently, as anyone would who knows Frusciante’s history well, that Frusciante does what he wants and it usually turns out very well for him. The sky is the (questionable) limit. Quit the one of the world’s biggest rock bands of the last 25 years – twice – and he lived to tell the tale.

Though when Frusciante goes to tell a story it may be non-linear, upside down, rightside up again, essentially anything non-conventional. This is not to say that his solo work is not enjoyable – it is very much, at least in my view.  Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt is one of my favorite albums ever. I would also recommend To Record Only Water for Ten Days and The Empyrean. I have not finished Inside of Emptiness but I did like what I heard from it, I believe the track “Look On” to be one of his finest works. What people forget sometimes is that Klinghoffer was one of Frusciante’s most frequent collaborators before he joined John’s old band. Klinghoffer was featured on the albums Shadows Collide With People, the Will to Death, Inside of Emptiness, A Sphere in the Heart of Silence and both Ataxia albums.

A few months ago, we reported that John Frusciante was “no longer releasing music for the public”. In fact, I wrote that article. I became a little disheartened because I really enjoy his art and him as a person, but I respected his choice allegedly to not release music. Thankfully, Frusciante goes through a lot of phases. Which is great, I love that about him but you can expect him to say “I’m going to be an elephant from now on” and he’ll come to your next party as a rhinoceros . 2:10 am, I got the most exciting email in awhile. It was a long letter from John Frusciante from his email listing, announcing a triumphant return. In an excerpt from the letter, we see this:

“Even when you make music purely for the sake of doing it, as I do, it sometimes helps to have friends who’s ears and taste you have in the back of your head when you’re making it. But this can also put you in a straightjacket, just as aiming your music at the masses can.  Therefore, in Jan 2014, I decided to stop having an “audience” in this sense, and so I stopped finishing songs or sending what I was doing to friends, and started making a lot of songs at once rather than one song at a time. This freed up my mind so that I could make music purely to hear it and live with it, in order to grow in a different direction for a while. This was not a permanent decision. In fact, I’m already past that phase.

Excellent news, right? He also enclosed links to his Bandcamp and Soundcloud with new releases, about 20 songs spanning different genres. Here, we will discuss them and see how they hold up.

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4-Track Guitar Music (6 tracks, recorded in May 2010)
Download and listen here from Bandcamp

 

For fans of Frusciante’s acoustic and low fidelity works, this is something you would be interestedin , though it is not exactly Niandra Lades. As much as I love Niandra Lades, I actually like watching artists grow. Of course, bands and artists will always harbor old material that is dear to me but if they truly inspire me I like to see where the course of their artistry takes them. Many critics of Frusciante’s latest electronic directions tell him to simply “pick up a guitar”, well, he’s got a guitar here! But the percussion is from a drum machine. As the album cover implies, it is music that may best be listened to at a beach sometime between dawn to dusk. It gives the tracks a beautifully tarnished and retro-electro feel to it, led by melodic but anti-rock guitar soloing. 5 out of the 6 tracks are untitled, except for “Venice”, where Frusciante spends a lot of his time. To me, this is still “classic” Frusciante and I’ve come to really enjoy it. If one tried to summarize Frusciante’s solo work in a couple of songs, well, not saying this is the best candidate only because it is missing his vocals but it incorporates his iconic guitar work with electronic undertones, some of the biggest elements of his solo work. It’s free, I would at least say give this a listen, regardless of where you stand on Frusciante’s solo work. Frusciante quit the Chili Peppers, it’s time to accept that. He has plenty more to offer. This is a beautiful gift.

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Medre (Recorded in 2008)

Download and listen here from Bandcamp

A single track, it is easy to see the connection this track has to his last and self-titled album under Trickfinger. Both album artworks are derived from similar materials and both lie between acid house and electro. Some may be happy to hear this actually includes a very worthy guitar part over an electronic beats, but very drastically different than what was offered in 4-Track Guitar Music. The guitar here is more characteristic of, well, Stadium Arcadium in my book. I wish there was more offered in this collection because I am sure Frusciante has more from this time period. This is one of my favorite tracks from this collection. I am very interested personally in the intersection of electronic and guitars and this is a perfect example of how the two may compliment each other.

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Fight for Love (from the Casa de Mi Padre soundtrack, recorded in November 2013 with Omar Rodriguez of the Mars Volta)
Download and listen from Bandcamp

Rodriguez and Frusciante’s friendship is well documented and they have been involved in several different projects together. Naturally, they come together to cover a song for Casa di Mi Padre, the satirical Spanish language film starring Will Ferrell. Close to the original, it is purely instrumental and has electronic percussion. A good showcase of guitar work, it is something to listen to whilst in the middle of a desert, contemplating life.

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Zone (Acoustic version, from 2014’s Enclosure)

Download and listen from Bandcamp

A poignant rendition of a track from  his 2014 electronic album Enclosure, “Zone” with just guitar and vocalsThis track may be the most “accessible” if it was commercially released. I did not listen to all of Enclosure, but it was a solid effort by Frusciante and it is always interesting to see how artists re-interpret their own work and give alternative versions. I would hope to see a few more of these – either acoustically re-interpreting electronic music or vice versa.

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Renoise Tracks 2009-2011
Download and listen on Bandcamp

The biggest collection of songs from either of the Souncloud or Bandcamp releases and the most comprehensive in a sense. Some complained of 2015’s Trickfinger as underdeveloped and bare bones. Those tracks were made in 2007-2008 and it in the following years, 2009-2011 worked on these tracks and there is a supreme difference. With clips of audio from different media, it almost feels like a movie. It is awesome to see Frusciante progress like this and I can only imagine what his work sounds like today, the work he has been working on this year. He evolved a lot from Trickfinger to Renoise, what will the coming work sound like? Frusciante easily could become a hit in the underground electronic scene, he seems to take a lot of good element from those scenes and makes it exclusively his own.

John Frusciante is again on the rise. Is this Red Hot Chili Peppers? No, but it shouldn’t be. He wanted to evolve as an artist and he is achieving it. He will continue down this path and I’m very happy to see him go down it, as great as it would be for him to be in the Peppers (his “old band” as he referred in the letter). I’m sure the band feels the same about him. He gave them so much and he will continue an abundance of music. God bless John Frusciante, what a great Thanksgiving present to the world and us fans.

  • TheBreadster

    You have not covered the subliminal messages about bread… are you in denial?

    • Elias Fulmer

      Yes.

  • iLeonD

    It’s a shame they can’t work out some deal with the Chili Peppers where Anthony and Flea can write songs with the guy and he doesn’t have to tour ot participate further. He was so key to those songs when he was in the band. He could be the Robert Hunter to their Grateful Dead.

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