Former longtime guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Frusciante has already established himself as a musical force to be reckoned with in his own right — an identity further solidified by his eleventh studio album, “PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone.”
Released on Sept. 25, “PBX” is Frusciante’s first foray into what he describes as “progressive synth pop.” On the album he sings, plays guitar and engineers a host of synthesizers, samplers and drum machines — a shift in instrumentation toward the electronic and a distinct departure from his past works. The track “Ratiug,” for instance, features the vocals of Wu-Tang Clan affiliate and rapper Kinetic 9 and is testament to Frusciante’s ever-evolving approach to making music, confusing as it may seem at times.
An experiment in instrumentation, “PBX” also exhibits a contradictory and, at times, clashing production. As a performer, Frusciante employs both harmonious and dissonant chord choices and opts for an irregular rhythm, creating an overall sound that is erratic to say the least. As producer, he defiantly favors lo-fi recording techniques in the mixing and mastering processes. The end result? If you’re looking for an album that sounds like the Chili Peppers, listen to a Chili Peppers album. If you’re looking for an electronica record with a certain esoteric, visceral quality, you’re in luck. Even if it’s not as accessible to non-fans as some of Frusciante’s earlier solo albums, “PBX” delivers 36 minutes of lush soundscapes and jarring performances that will keep listeners baffled and bewildered, which is exactly what he intended — I think.
Casey Gould is a member of the class of 2014.