The last year was a rather ambitious one for John Frusciante. Over the course of a year, he released six solo records; five under his name and one as Ataxia, which was a collaboration with Fugazi's Brendan Canty. Five of these six records are part of a six-album package deal, released once a month. That's an amazing amount of music, of course--but surprisingly, there's been very little filler or lesser material among them. (Expect a full rundown briefly.) A Sphere In The Heart of Silence is the fifth of these records, and unlike the other releases, it's quite a bit different.
Where previous records consisted of stripped-down, lo-fi recordings with a basic guitar/drum accompaniment, this record is an astonishing experiment that's decidedly more piano and synthesizer based. It's also credited to both Frusciante and his longtime musical companion Josh Klinghoffer. It's amazing, though, that it's taken so long for Frusciante to remember that a. he is a member of a red-hot band that makes great funk-rock music and b. he has a very, very soulful voice. For the first time in this series, he's actually made music that is similar to and that easily rivals the work of his day job, to which one would rightfully say...ABOUT TIME!
The opening track, "Sphere," is an epic eight minute instrumental that starts off with a simple, repetitive keyboard rhythm, but it slowly builds up into a quiet storm of beats, white noise and distant guitars. Though it seems a bit of an odd way to start an album, this Orb-meets-Aphex Twin style number is unlike anything Frusciante's done in the last year, but that's a good thing, as the song is quite peaceful and calming. Frusciante then turns the tables with the one-two punch of "The Afterglow" and "Walls." Both of these songs have a dance beat and the most passionate Frusciante vocals ever. "The Afterglow" shows that Frusciante's falsetto is a force to be reckoned with, while "Walls"--which sounds like Black Dice would sound like if they collaborated with James Murphy--finds Frusciante yelling and unleashing his passion; sustaining your screaming vocals for ten to twenty seconds is an amazing accomplishment. Both songs show that if the two were to get into a sing-off, Frusciante could easily give Anthony Kiedis a run for his money.
For the next three songs, Josh Klinghoffer takes control of the vocals. Having accompanied Frusciante on his musical journey for some time, it's interesting to hear him sing. "Communique" is a dark, depressing piano ballad that's not unlike the better work of This Mortal Coil, and Klinghoffer's voice is equally sad and distant. The next song , "At Your Enemies," is beat-laden and more electronica-based, but it's equally as sad-hearted. Klinghoffer has a young, boyish-sounding voice, and while it might not be as strong as Frusciante's, it's clear that he's taken lessons from his collaborator. The two pair up together on "Surrogate People," and it's enjoyable to hear the two collaborate vocally as well as musically. The album closes gracefully with "My Life," which is a brief, beautifully sung and surprisingly inspirational composition.
A Sphere in the Heart of Silence is a wonderful album. It's nice to hear Frusciante take his music in a different direction, and, to be honest, it would be nice if more of his solo work followed the directions he used for this album. It also shows that Klinghoffer is an artist who has yet to fully blossom--and as such, it's a rewarding work for both men.
Artist Website: http://www.johnfrusciante.com
Label Website: http://www.recordcollectionmusic.com