Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fred Frith - Gravity (1981)

A friend of mine turned me on to Henry Cow a few months ago; I was immediately hooked. While doing some reading on them (as I do whenever I find a band I connect with, I have to instantly know everything about them; locations, times, most importantly band members and their backgrounds).

Thus enters Fred Frith- guitarist extraordinaire. After Henry Cow's first record, Frith recorded an album called Guitar Solos, at the time considered a landmark album because of his use of prepared guitars, the method in which items (screwdrivers in the case of Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo) are placed between the fretboard and strings. Frith would basically throw a capo on the guitar while adding a bridge at some random spot, in effect giving him two guitars in one. He then placed alligator clips all over the frets, making an infinite number of possibilities and sounds.

Here on Gravity, Frith's first record since Henry Cow broke up, he crafts a fully realized record, utilizing the Swedish band Samla Mammas Manna and American band The Muffins as his backing bands. What I hear is a wonderful pastiche, incorporating every type of music/rhythm/instruments/technology available at the time. Called an "avant-garde dance album" because it actually swings at the same time it confounds the listener; it's a must have for any music collector that considers themselves on this side of "weird". Local notes: Frith now resides here in Oakland and teaches music composition over at Mills College.

This version has some bonus tracks, as it's the re-issued version from 1991...


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