Review Revue: Fred Frith – The Technology of Tears

It’s always nice to dig through the KEXP vinyl stacks and find an interesting bunch of comments on an album that I actually own. Long, long ago, when I was young and played saxophone and listened to loud music, I was quite fond of an incredibly noisy group called Naked City, led by saxophonist John Zorn. The band featured Fred Frith on bass, along with drummer Joey Baron and two of Seattle’s leading musical lights, Wayne Horvitz and Bill Frisell. All of these people have incredibly diverse, broad catalogs of work as leaders, composers, and band members. Still, this was a great starting point for me to get into some of the most interesting musicians around. I still vividly remember flipping through the used section at Strawberries in Harvard Square and coming across this CD. “Fred Frith!” I said to myself. “From Naked City!” What I heard when I brought the CD home and listened to it was nothing like Naked City, but beautiful and strange and mind-opening in its own way.

Frith, as I was unaware at the time, has been making music both as a solo artist and in various bands since the late ’60s. His discography, spanning five decades and including work with Henry Cow, Material, Skeleton Crew, and many more (and culminating most recently in a solo album, Clearing Customs, and Long as in Short, Walk as in Run, an album of duets with former Seattleite Annie Lewandowski, both of which were released this year), is a truly impressive document. I recommend digging into it wherever you can, whether you start with this release, the new one, or something else entirely.

“Artsy compositions rooted in improvisation a la Semantics [another downtown NYC avant group released by SST] but certainly not improv. All the pieces are very long so I guess you could play excerpts. Although side D has spaces between the compositions. For people who buy stuff just ‘cuz it’s on SST . . . this’ll shock ‘em. I found side D the most interesting.”

“Cool. Very. H. This man always satisfies!”

“This man’s live shows are better than sex, drugs and R+R combined! If you ever miss a chance to see one you are doing yourself a great disservice. His last show at the Backstage he played 3 ‘songs,’ but the show lasted over 2 hours. Even if you don’t like him on vinyl, I’d bet that you’d love him live. Thanx for listenin, I just had to share that!”

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One Comment

  1. Damon Creed
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Wish I could bring this to mind what it sounds like. Guess after 23 years you forget a tune or two. As for Semantics, yes! Killer group. Their first release, “Semantics” is ace. They played quite a memorable show in Seattle at the old Scoundrel’s Lair.

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