There’s a strange symmetry in reflecting that a favourite musician from the late 20th Century has released an album that captures music so distinctly mid-to-late 1990s but so far removed from his output at that time.
And it’s actually ironic how, after nearly 25 years, few things sound as progressive to these ears as drum and bass and its burly cousins in sub-genres known as jungle and drill’n’bass.
The often sampled ‘Amen, Brother’ break from 1969 spawned entire genres of music with that firecracker snare emphasising offbeats. Like so many artists, The Winston’s drummer Gregory Sylvester Coleman died without seeing any recognition for his remarkable contribution to popular culture, so it feels important to pay respects here.
Many of my favourite musicians have worked with that sample and I wasn’t sure what to expect from John Frusciante but had high hopes. The album has been released on the Timesig label created by Venetian Snares’ Aaron Funk, who he’s collaborated with as Speed Dealer Moms in 2010. Frusciante has previously branded his electronic music as Trickfinger but this is the first album in that vein under his name.
That’s explained by way of a dedication to his cat:
“Maya was with me as I made music for 15 years, so I wanted to name it after her. She loved music, and with such a personal title, it didn’t seem right to call myself Trickfinger, somehow, so it’s by John Frusciante.”
The album opens with ‘Brand E,’ a haphazard electric piano-like synth painting a chaotic outline which makes sense when the frantic drum and bass beat starts. The envelope is pushed as a fat bassline takes a lead from the piano part, then a vocal samples interrupts:
“Give me a motherfucking breakbeat!”
Those sounds are classic UK Hardcore and, as the track progresses, the track is coloured with contemporary-sounding parts. Atonal synth sounds cut in, then a more familiar dance music synth gets a staccato effect with a short gate tied to the tempo. There’s a lot going on but the changes come regularly and refresh the palette of instrumentation.
‘Usbrup Pensul’ pushed harder with 303 moments that give the impression Frusciante likes those influential Cornisah producers Luke Vibert (particularly as Plug) and Richard D. James (AFX’s Analord series). There’s beaut bit of dynamics where the beat eases toward the end. Feels like he could’ve sat in that for a bit, but the restlessness of these productions sees the track soon end with a cloud of echo decay.
‘Flying’ is even more unrelenting and one of my favourites was ‘Blind Aim,’ where a false start of dark bass and then a ragged beat leaves you waiting to hear the parts all come together. Satifsfyingly they do, with a newer IDM-style bass sound making it feel like Frusciante’s productions have entered into the 21st Century.
Maya is a fun album and I really enjoy the sense of timelessness and energy within its fast-paced and fast-moving tracks.