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.