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Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante CD (album) cover

DISCO VOLANTE

Mr. Bungle

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.01 | 213 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars MR BUNGLE started out simply as the whacky project of a bunch of crazy high school students in Eureka, CA but against all odds managed to find its way into scoring a three album deal with Warner Bros mostly due to lead singer Mike Patton's involvement with Faith No More which scored big with a single that hit the top ten with "Epic." As the 80s ceded into the 90s, suddenly everything alternative was en vogue and MR BUNGLE emerged from nowhere to shocking the world with its avant-garde weirdness laced with ample doses of goofy absurdity. While once only associated with artists such as Frank Zappa, however he and his projects which were in tune with current trends and often reinvented his style to co-exist, MR BUNGLE unapologetically ignored contemporary the popular musical scene and in the contrary crafted some of the most unorthodox musical hybrids ever recorded.

The self-titled debut emerged in 1991 and immediately shocked the Faith No More fanbase since the album showcased Patton's true restless and creative nature that went well outside the commercial paradigms of alternative rock. The debut was eclectic but still used the BUNGLERS' eclectic mix of funk metal as the canvas to create upon. Inspired by funk and rock bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Camper Van Beethoven, Oingo Boingo and Bad Manners, the sextet decorated the funk metal paradigm the with added elements of jazzy brass sounds and ska rhythms. Astonishingly the band was allowed complete freedom to explore any avenue of desire, a trait so very rare in the music business of the era. And as extremely bizarre and unorthodox as the debut was, it was simply a warm up session for what came next.

As Faith No More continued its success throughout the early 90s, MR BUNGLE was cleverly crafting its sophomore extravaganza. DISCO VOLANTE (Italian for 'flying saucer'), a title that refers to the James Bond yacht in the film "Thunderball" emerged three years later in 1995 and took things into the stratosphere of experimental rock laced with the band's already established genre hopping eccentricities but this time the band exploited every possible sound, style and genre they could muster up and in the process, gone was the stabilizing factor of the funk ska rock infused with jazz and metal. DISCO VOLANTE was an avant-garde free-for-all and to this day remains one of the craziest albums ever to appear on a major record label. How these guys got away with all this freedom is the biggest mystery of all. Perhaps Warner Bros saw the potential of these albums catching on over time but for most who had warmed up to the debut album were left in a state of stupor as DISCO VOLANTE seemed like an entirely new mutant strain that infected this band from some far away planet.

While the genre hopping nerd factor had already been turned up to steaming on the debut album, DISCO VOLANTE was like a volcanic eruption of everything but the kitchen sink. The band basically brought to the table all the different sounds that the six members of Mike Patton (vocals, tape, ocarina, organ), Trey Spruance (guitar, organ, keyboards, electronics, biwa), Theobald Brooks Lengyel (woodwinds), Clinton McKinnon "Bär" (tenor sax, clarinet, drums, keyboards), Trevor Dunn (bass, viol) and Danny Heifetz (drums and percussion) were influenced by. Spruance for example was into lounge exotica, electro-acoustic, noise and Middle Eastern techno while Patton was fascinated by Italian folk, the space pop of Joe Meek, theatrical music and tangos. Dunn on the other hand was fascinated in deconstructing music and sewing it back together like a sonic Frankenstein. Due to the change of musical direction the horn section had been significantly reduced and therefore band member Theobald Brooks felt like his services were no longer needed and left the band shortly thereafter. Clinton McKinnon on the other hand simply adapted to the new expanding dramatic shifts.

DISCO VOLANTE is like being bombarded with a tornado of sounds, styles and schizophrenic freedom. The tracks are literally all over the music map ranging from sludge and death metal, psycho-jazz-metal, surf rock, Middle Eastern techno, mystique concrète, tango, exotica lounge, freeform jazz, sound collages and psychedelia. The album exemplifies the ultimate expression of DIY musical freedom except that it's all dressed up with high budget production, engineering and mixing which makes DISCO VOLANTE perhaps the most professionally recorded example of renegade rock since Frank Zappa's unique stamp on the 70s. The album is rich with different instruments as well. Guest musicians provide the extra touches of piano, bandoneon, cymbals, bongos, jew's harp, tabla, kanjira, sistrums, xylophone and glockenspiel. In addition to the influences aforementioned, there are many styles of ethnic music adding extra colorful textures ranging from African rhythms, Slavic folk as well as the more obvious Middle Eastern touches.

Everything about the album exudes a sort of retro feel from the 60s but in a demented alternative universe. Of all the sounds on board, only the death metal on "Merry Go Bye Bye" and the sludge metal of the introductory "Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead" borrow from the contemporary musical world. Tracks like "Chemical Marriage" seem like the result of am acid trip gone wrong where lounge exotica music and psychedelic rock of the 60s fuse whereas "Carry Stress in the Jaw" and "Platypus" engage in knotty over-the-top feats that tackle the most extreme examples of jazz-metal distorted into overly complex constructs simply for the sake of doing so. The lyrics retain the goofiness of the debut however the contrast of the lyrics and music adds to the more surreal nature of DISCO VOLANTE. "Violenza Domestica" is like a tango soundtrack to the alternative version of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" whereas the cleverly crafted electronic of "Desert Search For Techno Allah" provided the blueprint for the entire world of Spruance's future project Secret Chiefs 3.

Out of this amazing roller coaster ride through the demented sonic universe of MR BUNGLE, some of the tracks have proven a hard pill to swallow for even the most stalwart followers. "The Bends" is a sound collage that entertains 10 distinct sections, all completely unique and all exhibiting the most impenetrable displays of the avant-garde. Based on the the theme of the decompression sickness that describes the condition of ascending to the surface too quickly after diving underwater, the short snippets that last from one to two minutes exude the scariest sounds on the album yet retain a humorous twist with titles like " Duet For Guitar and Oxygen Tank" and "Love on the Event Horizon." By far the weirdest of the weird but an effective non-melodic respite from the otherwise melodic constructs that mostly keep the album from spiraling into a world where no mere mortal can comprehend what is going on. "Platypus" is a favorite as it the most jaggedly angular example of jazz and metal dancing side by side that i've ever heard and displays the most technical workouts of the album. It comes off a modern form of the Canterbury Scene with its whimsy and technical wizardry all fused together or even some sort of jazz-metal-in-opposition.

The biggest mind f.u.c.k. is saved for the ending. "Merry Go Bye Bye / Nothing" starts out as a catchy even kitsch example of exotica lounge music about existential universal quandaries but abruptly morphs into death metal with noisy electronics which revives the death metal antics that the band hadn't performed since its first demo along with the chaotic electronica that Spruance fortified his Faxed Head project with. The chaotic mix goes off like a nuclear bomb designed to disturb and perplex any adventurous soul still going for the DISCO VOLANTE journey. Once the album ends it doesn't really end at all. After a period of silence, it finishes things off with practice session snippets that erupt into an explosive pyroclastic flow of unhinged energy and potty mouthed profanities that link it to the debut. After a cacophonous roar of dissonant horns, the album leaves you in shock and you'll never be the same.

Everything about DISCO VOLANTE is designed to contrast expectations. It feels both retro and futuristic and seemingly unrelated genres play side by side like lions and lambs at a warehouse rave. The album exists in a paradigm stubbornly outside of the commercial music world of 1995 and the album exudes an alienating effect that is somewhat like a musical VPN that disguises its era, location of creation and true genius of the members who crafted it. This album is basically just plain nuts yet it enthralls the soul with captivating technical workouts and innocent childlike melodies that evoke the most primeval attractions to music while contorting it to create mind-numbing expansions of consciousness. Despite al the odds, this album exists and the six guys involved took full advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to create some of the least commercial music on the planet that strangely found an audience. Even more brilliant than the debut, DISCO VOLANTE showed quite clearly that MR BUNGLE was no one trick pony and had a seemingly bottomless wellspring of ideas and influences to mine. Disturbing and beautiful, this album is exquisitely unique and mind blowing. Easily one of my favorite albums of all time.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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