photo & text by nacrowe
what makes listening to FRANK ZAPPA engaging and pleasurable is the experience of just being swept away with the ECCENTRIC ORCHESTRATIONS, COMPLEX COMPOSITIONS and ODD SONIC JUXTAPOSITIONS that he came up with at varying points in his career. ZAPPA was a singular creative force and an absolute original, complete with OPAQUE, seemingly DADA-esque nonsensical lyrics that appeared designed to confound and challenge.
such is the case with the mostly instrumental HOT RATS (REPRISE, 1969) and its two most famous tracks, "PEACHES EN REGALIA" and "WILLIE THE PIMP," the latter being the only song with lyrics and an appearance by noted ZAPPA conspirator, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART. in the MULTI-LAYERED mix are references to LATIN rhythms and percussion, JAZZ-influenced guitar voicings and looping chord patterns as well as the requisite BLUES-based ROCK N ROLL song structures.
its difficult to come up with an apt analogue to compare this record to because there are none in ROCK N ROLL. you have to look outside to the world of JAZZ or modern CLASSICAL MUSIC with the likes of ORNETTE COLEMAN or IGOR STRAVINSKY, artists that defied convention and audience expectation. HOT RATS still very much sounds EXPERIMENTAL decades after its release in part dude to its multi-part composition and highly IDIOSYNCRATIC sense of ORCHESTRAL DYNAMICS.
like i said, HOT RATS is very much about going on an AURAL JOURNEY that feels almost CINEMATIC. it confounds audiences to this day and is most definitely worth revisiting or checking out for the first time. highly recommended.
photo & text by nacrowe
i dont even know where to start with TROUT MASK REPLICA (STRAIGHT, 1969) by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND. in an era, the 1960s, that was known for expanding the lyrical and sonic possibilities of ROCK N ROLL, this record stands alone for its experimental embrace of idiosyncratic sonic textures and rhythms, not to mention a complete discarding of traditional arrangements and recognizable song structures.
i put this record up against LOU REED's METAL MACHINE MUSIC (RCA, 1975) as records that are more about the process than the end result. whereas METAL MACHINE MUSIC is an exercise in dissonance, discordance and complete sonic disarray in the vein of STRAVINSKY or PENDERECKI, TROUT MASK REPLICA is steeped in the BLUES, yet utterly warped. this was done partly by BEEFHEART having his musicians record on multiple instruments they were not familiar with. it is a record composed by BLUES musicians intimately familiar with the form, yet not "biased" by the traditions and techniques of their instrument. the fact that the record even comes off coherent is really a testament to their musicality, despite its seeming naïveté.
i almost feel that the nearest analogue to TROUT MASK REPLICA is not even music, but OUTSIDER ART. people like HENRI JULIEN FELIX ROUSSEAU or HENRY DARGER who impulsively manipulated their canvases based on pure instinct, without resorting to the techniques and artificial prejudices of the public or educators. despite their naïveté, what shines through is a purity of intent.
everytime i hear TROUT MASK REPLICA i am challenged to rethink the purpose of basic melodic elements and how limited our collective musical imaginations really are by what we listen to in the WESTERN TRADITION. for me this record is a line in the sand to expand my musical horizons and challenge myself to experience alternate forms from other cultures, traditions and musical communities.
if this dude was able to subvert BLUES in such a profound manner, there must be a world of truly alternative soundscapes out there just waiting to be discovered and cherished.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
if you do anything creative (not that i am claiming to be such), there will come a point at which you feel like you've cornered yourself into a pattern and can't get out of self-imposed rut. during my teaching career this was something i was aware of an constantly attempting to shift from, even though the smart thing to do would have been to codify my plans and never experiement or stray away from that which worked before. sadly most successful educators i came across in the field did the later and not the former, which is partly why i am still so down on the profession.
maybe i blame CAPTAIN BEEFHEART. he is the ultimate tinkerer and was a gifted multi-instrumentalist/composer that is renowned for his solo recordings and vague association with FRANK ZAPPA and his merry band of musical freaks back in the 1960s and 70s. the dude was attuned to what was going on in the FREE JAZZ and AVANT-GARDE worlds as well as the then-current BLUES-based BRITISH INVASION-influenced music of the time. but he was unconventional. he was constantly messing with the formula. on his renowned TROUT MASK REPLICA (STRAIGHT RECORDS, 1969), which quite honestly is required listening for any music fan of any genre, he had his band play instruments they weren't familiar with in order to garner an "unbiased sound." in my family calling anyone "unbiased," whether they be a politician or critic, means they are unbiased by previous knowledge or in other words, completely clueless.
i like to think that i strive for an unbiased opinion as much as possible diving into things i wasn't trained or schooled in, such as photo manipulation or video editing. when i was teaching i would have a skillset i was attempting to impart and would attempt to think of new ways that would benefit my students as well as me intellectually. remember, i taught in unfamiliar places such as MYANMAR, VENEZUELA, ALBANIA and JAPAN and i know from feedback over the years that that my former students enjoyed teaching me about their culture. to me those experiences are invaluable but would not have been possible without accepting and giving in to my ignorance.
to that i thank and blame CAPTAIN BEEFHEART. his music as well as its production was unique and no doubt influenced countless musicians since such as JOHN FRUSCIANTE, DEVO, PJ HARVEY, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, SONIC YOUTH, PRIMUS, THE RESIDENTS, MARS VOLTA, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY and FAUST among many, many other freaks.
artwork by nacrowe
click HERE for a recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO where explore the cultural, political and musical legacy of FRANK ZAPPA.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
artwork by nacrowe
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 4PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC will celebrate the cultural and musical legacy of FRANK ZAPPA.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.