John Frusciante

PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone

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AllMusic Review by

The ever-winding path of John Frusciante's solo career is a confusing one to say the least. Light years away from his contributions to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a guitar slinger from the school of Hendrix, Frusciante's solo albums have been visceral, howling affairs dealing with raw nerves and dark places in the human spirit. Now with both PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone and the Letur-Lefr EP that came just before it, his music becomes an unfiltered mesh of every conceivable style, sometimes to the point of incoherence. Recorded throughout 2011, the album was the result of Frusciante's dream to create electronic music, but seems like more of a synthesis of a multitude of different directions, sometimes branching out in all of these directions at once. "Ratiug" is one of the tracks more easily recognizable as a traditional rock song, but it's still a dizzying mixed bag. Moody alt-rock chord progressions and multi-tracked vocals float over collage-style drumbeats. A sample of the snare hit introduction from Joy Division's "Disorder" is easily picked out, but less familiar sampled drum breaks make way for lazy horn sections and eventually a freestyle routine by MC Kinetic 9 rounds out the confusing song over a bed of synth strings. This kind of experimentation runs wild throughout the album, with every song a collision of rudimentary electronics, gritty drum'n'bass rhythm tracks, and even a little dubstep wobble thrown in for good measure before quickly jumping ship to the next sound. "Sam" begins with a nauseating duo of rhythmless live drums and stuttering vocal samples, breaking into a burst of distorted jungle rhythms thick with metal guitars, melding Atari Teenage Riot with Negativland with Soundgarden. A song like "Mistakes" moves so frantically from out-of-the-box keyboard sounds and by-the-book electro sounds to a mishmash of rock guitar and prog histrionics it threatens to come off as parody. The thing is, there's no doubt that Frusciante is sincere in his expression with this incredibly warped music. There's no easy explanation for these sounds, no context for a lot of the choices he makes with the rapid-fire style changes and jarring production choices that come one after another after another on almost every song here. Instead of sounding indulgent, or even busy, the field of sound Frusciante creates sounds strangely uniform in its complete insanity. Much like the schizophrenic landscape of a record like Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, PBX FIZ creates a language of its own out of the chaos, and by the end, we have a few hints at what kind of deeper message lies beneath the confusion. Frusciante's specific breed of acid house-inspired electro dabbling with roots in alternative radio rock circa 1995 is going to prove too challenging for most listeners, and even fans of his strange language might have a hard time peeling back the layers.

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