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Frank Zappa - Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger CD (album) cover

BOULEZ CONDUCTS ZAPPA: THE PERFECT STRANGER

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.52 | 124 ratings

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Harold Needle
4 stars Consider this one a contemporary music release. This record consists of chamber pieces conducted by Pierre Boulez (as the title sugests) as well as Synclavier compositions performed by Zappa himself (disguised as The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort). Right off the bat, let me acknowledge that this is one of the most (if not THE most) unsettling Zappa records. The mixture of slow-paced, contemporary chamber compositions with inhumane Synclavier pieces creates an exceptionally dark and creepy dynamics, and it works really, really well for me. Although, it is worth mentioning, that this record actually is supposed to have a comedic side to it as well (as portrayed by each track's backstory, written on the inner booklet). So, in actuality, this one is rather a mixed bag of emotions and moods, although the sinister tones are much more present here. Also, let me say that the cover paiting by Donald Roller Wilson is fantastic as well.

Let's start off with the chamber part of the album. The title piece, "The Perfect Stranger" was commissioned by Boulez himself, and it is excelent. Very mature, contemporary writing with strong hints of Edgard Varèse's influences. As it usually is with Zappa, there is also a lot of attention for the percussional elements. Great composition. "Naval Aviation in Art?" is a short, eerie piece, also featured on "Orchestral Favourites" and "Läther". It's played well, although I prefer the other version - seems a bit more tense than this one. "Dupree's Paradise" is one of the brightest highlights here, with a combination of neo-classical and modern spices all over. Intricate, dynamic and diverse, simply magnificent.

Now, as for the The Barking Pumpkin section of the record: "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress" is one of the most uncanny Zappa pieces I know. The atmosphere is both very magical and unsettling. The rhytm is quite fluid, which I like a lot. It is also complex to the point of being seemingly impossible to play (though it was proven not true by Ensamble Modern on "The Yellow Shark" album). Love this track to death. "Outside Now, Again" is a recreation of one of Zappa's guitar solos from "Joe's Garage Acts II & III". It's the least interesting track on the album, with repetitive rhythm and seemingly never-ending, synthetic solo. I consider this one a filler. "Love Story" is short and quirky, supposedly depicting "and eldery Republican couple attempting sex while break-dancing". Yup, pretty accurate. The closer, "Jonestown" is a pure nightmare fuel, regarding the infamous Jonestown mass- suicide in 1978. Deeply disturbing.

Overall, a very unique and exceptional record in Zappa catalogue. I consider this one as one of his greatest and most mature works. Also, definitely a huge hightlight in his 80's (mostly mediocre) discography. 4,5 VERY SOLID stars.

Harold Needle | 4/5 |

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