John Frusciante – PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone

Opening with an ominous discord of piano and screeching and reverse vocals, the tone of ‘PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone’ is set up immediately. The album flickers between lo-fi synthesizers, guitars, and the more experimental side of Frusciante’s vocal career. “Bike” is the first major surprise, feeling more at home on a Captain Beefheart record than the former Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist’s. The song then, without warning, snaps into a double time madness (imagine the change in “Sit Down Stand Up” by Radiohead and you’re pretty close) before changing yet again into one last groove, topping it all off with this album’s equivalent of a ‘stadium song’.

“Ratiug” comes in with a slick drumbeat, and quickly moves into standard Frusciante territory with signature harmonies à la “The Will To Death”. This is definitely circa 2004/5 John, but with an added texture that’s difficult to put your finger on. The last 2 minutes of this song are my favourites of the album, with a surprise performance from none other than Wu Tang affiliate Kinetic 9 MCing the song to a chilled close.

Influences of artists like Burial show on the instrumental “Guitar”. The LFO synth dropping at 0:56 shows that even John Frusciante’s not above a little dubstep, which makes the following track “Mistakes” make you smile even more. It’s a classic synth pop song straight from the 80s with elements of this album creeping in, encapsulating the great mix of avant-garde electronica and pop on which John prides himself.

Aphex Twin is what springs to mind by the time you get to “Sam” – a long build-up of drum rolls, cutting out to foreboding, lengthy guitar sounds and building up to a thunderous “Come To Daddy” style beat, with associated chaos. “Sum” ends the album – if you discount the Japanese bonus track “Walls and Doors” – on a mellow note, albeit spliced with some over the top drum fills and sharp filters, leaving the listener on a tight R’N’B groove not unlike New York duo Ratatat.

Red Hot Chili Peppers had an opportunity after Frusciante’s departure to fully utilise their new band set up and breathe new life into what turned out to be an adequate follow-up to ‘Stadium Arcadium’, but sadly nothing more. Frusciante instead chose a more unconventional route which really has paid off. His solo career since leaving Red Hot Chili Peppers has seen him venture into music for film, further collaborations with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and far more experimental sounds than he could ever produce with anyone else. While definitely not for everyone John’s definitely found his place, if he was ever searching. ‘PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone’ blends the avant-garde with expertly executed pop music in a way that I’ve not heard since Frank Zappa.