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Fred Frith - Freedom In Fragments CD (album) cover


Fred Frith



3.09 | 4 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Putting the name of legendary avant-garde guitarist and composer Fred Frith on this collection of post-modern chamber pieces is a little disingenuous. Yes, he wrote all the music here, but Frith himself doesn't appear anywhere on the CD, which was recorded years later by the Rova Saxophone Quartet of San Francisco.

Intrepid fans of the HENRY COW/SLAPP HAPPY school of Rock in Opposition might have an inkling of what to expect. But casual listeners need to be forewarned: this is the outer limits of musical improvisation, performed entirely on four honking, dribbling, droning saxophones, and without question an acquired taste for even the most daring pair of ears.

Needless to say the album can be more than a little baffling at first exposure, especially for anyone needing the reassurance of a steady rhythm or recognizable melody. Sometimes it's possible to discern what sounds like an actual composition ("Water Under the Bridge" is the closest thing here to a genuine song), but mostly you'll find a daunting free-form cacophony of burps, blips and atonal freakouts, all of it sounding totally spontaneous but in truth never losing sight of the larger structure behind the whole work.

My advice to curious newcomers is to keep an open mind (and ear), and eventually the dissonance will give way to at least a semblance of order. Better yet, approach it with a sense of humor. Let's face it: the saxophone can be a silly-sounding musical instrument, and these guys (ace players, all of them) aren't afraid of allowing a little comic relief into what could easily have been a dry academic exercise.

They certainly know how to coax the weirdest noises out of their horns: toe-tapping one moment, and the next not unlike finding yourself trapped in small cage with a flock of retarded geese. At its best (and it definitely has its moments) the music evokes the imaginary soundtrack to an experimental East European art film (I was reminded of the disturbing, dreamlike stop-motion animations of Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer). But for easier reference, consider that one of the tracks (with the Dr. Seuss-like title "T Square Park Lark") was dedicated to FRANK ZAPPA, clearly a kindred spirit of sorts.

The end result can be oddly effective, if heard in the proper (i.e. unbiased) frame of mind. The album is often graceful, occasionally just plain noisy, and altogether bizarre enough to easily recommend itself in a forum (like this one) celebrating the sometimes willfully un-commercial corners of modern music.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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