Frank Zappa's pioneering work on the Synclavier gave him the freedom to hear works that he considered too challenging for live musicians to perform, though Ensemble Modern worked hard enough to be able to play several of his works for the instrument in concert before his death in 1993. Since the technology behind the Synclavier was evolving along with Zappa's music, approximately doubling its processing and memory capacity every two years, it gave the composer greater tools to work with to realize his compositions. Feeding the Monkies at Ma Maison was compiled for an LP by Zappa prior to his death, but never mastered and released, though some of the music on this CD was further edited and eventually issued in altered and brief form. During his lifetime, Zappa often revised his compositions, especially his works for Synclavier, which grew in complexity as he utilized the instrument, incorporating nearly impossible percussion parts and abstract themes that suggested a blend of 20th century classical music and dark, eerie film music. "Buffalo Voice" was cut substantially in length prior to its appearance on Civilization Phaze III, this longer edit is just as valuable, where one can hear snippets of his orchestrations that sound as if they have roots in his writing for 200 Motels, while adding the effects of a violin played to sound like a buzzing fly and daughter Moon Unit Zappa's spoken voice. The eerie choir of speed-manipulated voices is central to "Secular Humanism," while "Worms from Hell" is an example of Zappa as the mad scientist in his studio lab, bringing to life a musical experiment that no one could have created. Both "Feeding the Monkies at Ma Maison" and "Samba Funk" are previously unissued in any form, the former a 20-minute masterpiece and the latter the most accessible of these sessions. While Frank Zappa's music for Synclavier may be too challenging for the casual fan of his music, serious listeners will find much to enjoy in this new treasury from his massive personal library of performances.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden