John Frusciante – Outsides EP


johnfruscianteepEven as he toured with Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2007, John Frusciante, the band’s guitarist, hauled a synthesizer and a drum machine between hotel rooms. His mind was on making different music, though the road offered little time to dabble. So when the group took a two-year break, Frusciante never returned; his solo music became his sole occupation, his living room his studio, his machines his instruments.

Save for the 10-minute guitar solo that snakes through the first half of his latest EP, Outsides, the instrument does not define Frusciante’s work of the last five years. Progressive Synth Pop, as he calls his current music, is Frusciante’s take on abstract electronica, a genre unchained from rock-star convention and commercial expectation. Outsides defies both, and will, at the least, startle those expecting a guitar record or something echoing the Chili Peppers; Outsides is neither. It is indeed out there, in the “out” sense of free jazz, and in terms of a departure from what Frusciante wrote for more than 20 years. Here his tempos become trances, mismatched rhythms sync up and fall out, metallic loops and vocal snippets squeeze arcade-game beeps and hip-hop beats; if Frusciante’s 2012 Letur-Lefr EP hinted at this direction, Outsides confirms the course.

“What I’m hearing in my head is what’s coming out the speakers,” Frusciante recently told me in an interview for Billboard. He was referring to modern technology, which lured him from the band dynamic and allows him to compose and control grooves and beats “exactly conforming to my imagination.” Outsides, one might imagine, is not an easy listen. Every moment is abrupt, for better or worse, but intrigues and mesmerizes as easily as it exhausts the listener. Madness and clarity have always coexisted in Frusciante’s music, and Outsides foreshadows his next such venture: producing a hip-hop album for Wu-Tang Clan affiliates Black Knights, a collaboration he calls the “funnest” and “purest” of his life.

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