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New music ramble: John Frusciante – Letur-Lefr EP

20/07/2012

John Frusciante has traditionally been a quiet guy when it comes to his solo music. He’ll do the odd interview here and there but never endulges in details or letting the fans know absolutely everything, letting the music do the talking for itself. Even that has now changed in the 2010s where easy access to information and social networking has become the norm, and John has been spending time giving fans an insight to where he stands now over at his new, shiny blog. A new album, the delightfully titled PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone, is coming out this September and it’s preceded by the Letur-Lefr EP, released a few days ago. It doesn’t take long to realise that Letur-Lefr is the audio representation of those lengthy blog entries explaining what went on during the recording process for PBX: the aural component to prepare the listener for what’s coming up. Frusciante has taken a big leap somewhere else and anyone waiting for new guitar magic from him is likely to be disappointed this year. John has not only switched his guitars to electronic programming but he’s gone and completely overhauled the way he approaches writing songs.

The five songs on Letur-Lefr largely abandon the idea of compositions made out of beginnings, choruses and ends; instead, they’re parts and excerpts woven together, sometimes seamlessly and sometimes abruptly. Songs change their shapes frequently and a tune that started out as one thing may have ended up to be something completely different through a series of transitions. Sometimes it’s exciting like with the opener “In Your Eyes” that transitions wildly throughout its length in the most delightful way, and sometimes it can be disappointing as how everyone who was enamoured with the clip of “In My Light” released earlier on can attest to after realising how that overwhelmingly gorgeous piece of music is only about 30 seconds of a song that bears no similarity to the rest of it. Frusciante has approached electronics before – both in solo with the drum machines of “To Record Only Water for Ten Days” as well as with his Josh Klinghoffer collaboration project “A Sphere in the Heart of Silence” – but those were still very song-based projects. On Letur-Lefr the division into five separate official entities feels almost arbitrary at places. Frusciante himself largely keeps quiet, only using his voice in select parts and even dedicating sizeable parts of the EP to guest stars – rappers, in fact, as Frusciante even takes the role of a hip hop producer on “FM”. The closest thing one can find to his famous guitar stylings is on the interlude-esque “Glowe”, the album’s tightest composition that clocks in about a minute and a half.

As a stand-alone piece of work Letur-Lefr is probably never going to be one of Frusciante’s most important works. It’s good but not that good, nor does it form any sort of exciting and special unit like some EPs do – as Frusciante himself said, Letur-Lefr is largely five random songs that were used as practice before beginning the work on the actual album. It is, however, an ideal starter to whet your appetite for PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. The direction is interesting, what Frusciante does with it is exciting and the whole route is promising, with snippets here and there filled with immense potential. If PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is a tightly designed, cohesive unit that builds on the excellent pieces shown here, we’re in for a major treat. Letur-Lefr is essentially a companion piece to PBX, even if released in a reverse-chronological order – a teaser for the fans. That’s not to undermine its strengths – when the 15 minutes that Letur-Lefr takes from start to finish are over, it feels like a painfully short period to spend time with Frusciante’s new groove.


In Your Eyes

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