Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Frank Zappa - Dance Me This CD (album) cover


Frank Zappa


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars This is a bitter-sweet album from Frank Zappa. It is poignant in that, according to the liner notes, this "is the last album Frank Zappa completed before his death". It is sweet because, even twenty- two years after his all-too-early death, we still have "new" Frank Zappa music. Unlike many other artists whose posthumous releases have been pieced together decades after their demise from left overs, out-takes and unfinished sessions, Frank was well aware of his fate for some time, and created a number of finished albums for his family to publish for years to come.

Also of note, the opening track has an all too brief (only 10 to 15 seconds long) guitar solo from Frank himself, and again from the liner notes: "As far as we know that was the last time he played guitar". This title track is actually the closest thing to a rock song on the album. Although completely sequenced on his Synclavier (with assistance from Todd Yvega) , Frank has created a piece similar to those that he often used to open his shows, a light vamp with space for solos. This space in this case is mostly filled with the eerie sound of a trio of Tuvan throatsingers, who appear in a number of tracks on this album.

The second track, "Pachuco Gavotte"' while played on the Synclavier, has the feel of Zappa's classic "Black Page", and sounds somewhat organic.

The centerpiece of the album is the half-hour long, six-part exploration, "Wolf Harbor". This is an amazing work, an extension of the work of Edgard Varese, whom Zappa has quoted and imitated often through the years. While Varese was limited to analog tape effect to create his unearthly sounds, Zappa has, of course, his Synclavier to expand the palette extensively. Although Zappa was known for musical excess, here he uses restraint to give the percussion and sounds room to come to life.

The closing track, "Calculus"' is notable as it contains a process invented by Yvega dubbed by Frank as "burglar music". Burglar music uses an algorithm to take a number of short sequences and play each one concurrently at different time intervals. This Yvega would use to give possible intruders the impression that someone was in the studio working. On "Calculus" the track was finished with the Tuvans singing over the results. The track is actually astounding.

I will admit that this album is not for everyone. The album is adventurous, sublime, and also beautiful, but the experimental nature may scare some listeners away. Scaring listeners away was never a deterrence to the incredible Mr. Zappa.

Report this review (#1443161)
Posted Tuesday, July 21, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album is fantastic. It might be Frank Zappa's best Synclavier produced album, I'm not kidding. This album is the last album Frank finished before his passing in late 1993, and the chronological follow-up to Civilization Phaze III, which was released in 1994. While CPIII was a blast of new sounds and directions, Dance Me This is completely different from anything Zappa released before. This doesn't sound like his previous Synclavier compositions. Having said that, the opening title track sounds like the 78 band with Bozzio, O'Hearn, and Tommy Mars jumped into the Synclavier machine and some Tulvan throat singers joined. The great thing about this track is we get to hear one last imaginary guitar solo from the man himself, however brief it is. From here on out, the album is like jumping into another world. I'm not going to lie, I did not "get" this album the first time I listened to it, but the album definitely reveals its beauty upon further listening sessions.

We are immediately brought into Pachuco Gavotte, and I'm not good at describing what these tunes sound like, but this one is crazy, and it leads right into the mammoth 28 minute composition Wolf Harbor, which is broken up into 5 parts, which are indiscernible from one another. First time I heard this, I thought it was one long drone, but I was not in the right mind set for this music at the time (and there is not really much "droning" going on.) I have gotten into World Music a lot in the last few years, and I've come to realize this piece (and the whole album really) is Frank's journey into exploring "world music" and other exotic sounds. There are elements of tribal, alien, earthy, ambient, and cosmic sounds all mixed together on Wolf Harbor, not to mention some weird sound effects. This is possibly the most intriguing piece of music I've ever heard from Frank Zappa, and that's saying something. Again, words are hard to describe this music, but it is relaxing, yet still challenging to the listener; you just might not want to listen to this while cruising down the highway, save it for a late evening with the lights off, or a cloudy/rainy/overcast day.

The second half of the album is a treat. The throat singers return on Goat Polo, and they are a main feature of this piece; and the music is very fast now, with a symphonic theme on top, lots of violin and flute. The throat singers are a very strange, but cool addition to the Frank Zappa world/canon. Rykoniki is a short piece, sort of sounds like Zappa's Envelopes piece, but has a different vibe overall, and I hear lots of tribal sounding instruments.

Piano is, well, a piano piece. Of course it's not a real person playing a piano, but man, Zappa really got the Synclavier to sound exactly like a real piano (Seriously, if you didn't know, you'd think it was someone playing the piano). Some drums and other instruments do come in a bit later on. A very avant-garde piece.

The last tune, Calculus, is once again, a move into a world unlike anything I've ever heard. The coolest stuff from the throat singers is on this tune. This one messes with time signatures pretty much the whole time, as well as constant tempo shifts, and even plain messing with the beat. This tune, along with the title track, are maybe the album's most "accessible" tracks, if you want to call them that. They're the most fun anyway.

This is not for a beginner of Zappa's music, but it is something that is progressive, forward-thinking, other-worldly, and rewarding for patient listeners. Frank was always about pushing his music into new directions, and he did so until the end of his life. He was always ahead of his time. This album make you wonder what he would have done next, where he would be in the 21st Century. Dance Me This was completed in 1993, and even with 22 years before it finally got released in 2015, it is still far ahead of its time. This album deserves 5 stars.

Report this review (#1673480)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars One of the most diverse discographies out there is the one that was produced by Frank Zappa. I don't think any other artist out there could write r&b music one day, lead a jazz ensemble another day, write a comedic satire the next, play a rousing guitar solo later that night, produce a rock record, and write ballets and contemporary classical music a few minutes later. Is it any wonder that with an artist can have so many fans with differing opinions and preferences can bring them all together, at least the true fans? Zappa amazes me the way he could change from one extreme to another without even batting an eye, and he could do it all so well. That is the thing that amazes me most about him.

The last album that Zappa completed before his untimely death in 1993 was 'Dance Me This'. However, it was several years later, in 2015, that it was finally officially released by The Zappa Family Trust. Many fans knew about this album and that it was his last long before it was releases, and I think most of them knew that it was a synclavier album, as that was his instrument of choice in his latter years, because he felt he could manipulate the sounds the way he wanted to and in ways that were proven to be difficult for most human musicians to play organically. That is why several of the tracks on 'Dance Me This' were actually older tracks that he had composed years before, but never felt comfortable enough about their performances to release them on an album. Or they were just unfinished and the synclavier made it possible for him to finish them the was he wanted. Anyway, his last completed album was this one.

Those that are familiar with Zappa's music know that a lot of his music is very complex and challenging. Tricky meters, contrasting lines, odd performance demands and so on made them hard to play and perform. Those interested in Dance Me This should know this up front because these tracks are quite tricky. There is no locker room humor here, all of the humor is musically based, and will slide right by most listeners, myself included. But, I think most people can appreciate how genius the work is, whether they find it hard to listen to or not.

Zappa is the main performer on this album, playing the synclavier. The only other performers are 3 Tuvan throat singers. Zappa was very intrigued with their vocal style. The Tuvans are a group of nomadic Asians that live in southern Siberia who are known for being able to sing two notes at once. Zappa invited them to his house and included them in some of the tracks on this album. Their names were Anatoli Kuular, Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, and Kongar-of Ondar. Todd Yvenga is also credited on the album for algorithm and synclavier asistancy. Mats Oberg also play keyboards on the album but is uncredited.

The album starts with 'Dance Me This' which features the throat singers and a nice jazzy instrumental performance, all done on the synclavier. By now, this instrument sounds like a full band, not a cheap sound like previously. This is the only track with a guitar solo in the middle, and it is reportedly the last time Zappa would pick up a guitar, or at least the last time it was recorded. Dweezil just happened to have recording equipement set up when Frank picked up the guitar and recorded it, and then overlayed it onto the track. The track is short and quite accessible compared to most of the other tracks on here. 'Panchuco Gavotte' is the next track, and is quite evident now that the music is all from the synclavier. The beat is a tricky, yet almost reggae style beat, but it sounds as if several different meters are at play here among the instruments.

The next five tracks are actually parts of a cohesive work called 'Wolf Harbor'. This track was part of a vision of Franks for a staged presentation made for modern dance. It is inspired by an actual place called Wolf Harbor located in the Mississippi. The section of Wolf River that flows here became a slackwater harbor which separates Mud Island from the Memphis mainland. Because of a man made diversion, the riverbed was lowered and the wetland was basically ruined. By 1970, pollution and sewage was so bad in the river, causing a group of scientists to call the river around Memphis 'dead'. In the performance of 'Wolf Harbor', Frank envisioned groups of dancers standing side by side holding long rolled out lengths of black trash bags and wave them to signify the dark and muddy waters of the sludgy harbor.

The music in the 'Wolf Harbor' suite is dark and ominous, just as you would imagine the river. The instrumental and percussion that is so complex in these tracks are all done with the synclavier, though it sounds quite realistic. The music is what you expect when you think of the complex classical music of Zappa, very avant-garde and strange to most ears. It's definitely not accessible by any means, but I find it very intriguing, and the sound on this album is some of the best of any of Zappa's synclavier albums. What may seem to most as random percussive noises and occasional musical tones are actually carefully composed sounds put together to produce a fascinating work of art. Zappa's Varese influences are quite obvious in this work. While the first movement is more 'musical' as far as tones go, the 2nd part is much more percussive using what seems like an unlimited amount of percussive effects. Part 3 goes back to tonal sounds and also increases the use of sound effects, mostly watery effects and occasional twangy sting plucking and bowing. There's more percussion and bass in Part 4 with a more minimal feel, but in Part 5, the percussion comes in small, rapid fire doses with a drone that ebbs and flows around it all.

In 'Goat Polo', Zappa uses the vocals of the Tuvan singers by taking their tones and manipulating them into a tune of sorts. It is named after an actual sport where goat carcasses are used to score goals while the players ride horses. The music is a bit more coherent and melodic, but it is by no means more accessible. 'Rykoniki' uses fast moving notes to create a melody with strange intervals. 'Piano' is a longer track using the synclavier to mimic a piano. Again the music is avant-garde, so there is no traditional melody, but the twinkling piano notes give a nice break to the otherwise heavy avant tracks. Utilizing 20th Century modal systems like 12 tone scales, FZ constructed an impressive and pensive piece. 'Calculus' is the closer for the album. It features Todd Yvega doing a demo of tempo mapping by using the Tuvan throat singers in an a cappella performance, then creating a new piece. Todd used a simple rhythm track with bass and algorithmically assisted violin pizzicato for Frank to use as a demo, hoping that he would used one of his own more complex synclavier pieces. However, the next day when Frank played the demo, he liked it so much that he used the demo. It's really quite a cool sounding track, taking the vocals that don't use rhythm and adjusting it all according to the implied rhythm of the original source material and making it actually somewhat accessible.

Frank's last album is a testament to his genius vision, and shows his real musicianship. The album is his best synclavier album as it was seeming that he was getting to be quite adept at using it. Of course, it would always be wonderful to hear how it would all sound if played by organic instruments, but I think this is one case, since it is Zappa's last complete album, where maybe it's best to leave it the way it is. That is how he wanted the public to hear it.

Report this review (#2249006)
Posted Friday, September 6, 2019 | Review Permalink

FRANK ZAPPA Dance Me This ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of FRANK ZAPPA Dance Me This

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.