If you thought John Frusciante had ceased to make music then you are very much in the wrong. While what he does won’t register on most people’s radars he seems more dedicated to the craft than ever. Outsides is his third record in just over a year. Granted this is one of two EP treats, but given the gap between 2009’s excellent The Empyrean and 2012’s Letur-Lefur this is something of a splurge.
With each new piece of music he creates Frusciante details his process and mind-set for it. What he is acting out now he isn’t part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers are his own personal thought-experiments. The time spent with his chum Omar Rodriquez Lopez has clearly left an impression as he is still pushing forward with the synth and electronica mayhem heard on PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. This time his aim is to focus more on each note and each beat which would explain the over-bearing electronic drums.
Compared to the two other collections for this era of John’s music this is a relatively calm affair. ‘Same’ is a 10 minute opener which fuses pulsating bass and synth with a rip roaring solo. After 10 minutes however it is clear that John himself is bored by such a long stint – evidenced in the disfiguring of the notes in the fret burning solo. ‘Breathiac’ is enough to put anyone off but can be appreciated when taken as the soundtrack to a silent, French made, science-fiction film.
The real payoff with Outsides however comes on ‘Shelf‘ where the lessons of the previous two tracks are learnt to create one of the best tracks of this year so far, mixing his gifted guitaring with his new penchant for a synth beat. It also includes the only vocals on the EP with the line “All that is here will be sunlight” and four more lines which can mean whatever you want them to mean, proving less is sometimes more.
This experimentation or music theory which Frusciante tries to explore might be a new world for him, and for the fans who have heard all his music (the drowning cat wail of drug addiction on Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, the dreamy delight of the six albums in six months era, the mind-blowing concept-joy of The Empyrean) but to the newcomer or the Chili Pepper fans it will sound like Aphex Twin on crack, unforgiving and unwelcoming.
There lies the worry, John is now such a private man it’s hard to know where his head is at, but if he keeps pushing boundaries in a healthy frame of mind then we will surely still be served up the treats every once in a while – even if it is a little unconventional.