Having kept himself busy in 2022 by releasing not one but two new albums with Red Hot Chili Peppers – not to mention touring the world with them – John Frusciante has announced that he’s also returned to one of his other great loves: making electronic music.
The star actually has two albums on the way: ‘. I :’ (pronounced ‘one’) and two ‘: I I .’ (pronounced ‘two’). These will be released on Avenue 66, a sub-label of Berlin-via-LA-based label Acid Test that focuses on leftfield electronic projects.
And leftfield these two records most certainly are. In fact, Frusciante suggests that they’re a direct response to spending “a year and a half writing and recording rock music” with the Chili Peppers.
“I needed to clear my head,” he explains. “I listened to and made music where things generally happen gradually rather than suddenly. I would set up patches on a [Elektron] Monomachine or Analog Four and listen to them, hearing one sound morph into others, making changes to a patch only after having listened for quite a while, gradually adding elements, and finally manipulating the sounds on the fly. All tracks were recorded live to CD burner, with no overdubs, and executed on one or two machines.”
Frusciante cites a range of experimental musicians as influences on the albums, also referencing “John Lennon’s tape and mellotron experiments he made at home during his time in the Beatles, as well as events like the first minute of Bowie’s Station To Station, …And The Gods Made Love by Jimi Hendrix, the synths in the song Mass Production by Iggy Pop, and the general idea of [Brian] Eno’s initial concept of Ambient music.”
In a bid to convey “both movement and stillness,” Frusciante reports that he “refrained from sudden musical changes, especially avoiding sequences of notes and rhythms.”
He goes on to say that “in fact, this music was made from sequences which never exceed a single note, many of these pieces being made on a single pattern. The movement which a good sculptor conveys when the shape of his medium meets the eyes of the viewer who walks around the piece, or the sun changes its position, are the kinds of movement which it was the role of the synth patches to communicate.”
Confirming that “there was no place for sequences of notes and rhythms in my plans,” Frusciante attributes this creative philosophy to coming off the back of “writing songs and playing guitar” for 18 months.
“When the band’s recording phase was completed, I needed to go back to my adopted language,” he explains. “I had done enough with chords, rhythms, notes, defined sections, sharp transitions, etc… What I needed was to create music from the ground up with nothing but sound, and have that music reflect ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. It was a therapeutic way of re-balancing myself, before and during my band’s mixing process.”
Given all of the above, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the new albums won’t be made up of hooky three-minute pop songs.
“This music seeks to just exist, and is not attempting to manipulate or grab the listener in any way,” says Frusciante. “I believe it works well if one listens loud and focuses on it, but also works well at soft volumes and in the background. It can compete with silence on silence’s own terms, and it can also happily wipe silence out.”
Released on CD, ‘two’ is essentially a longer version of ‘one’, which will be put out on vinyl. “The reason the vinyl is shorter is that some of the tracks have sounds that can not be pressed on vinyl,” Frusciante explains, though there is one additional track that’s exclusive to the vinyl release.
You can find out more and pre-order the albums on the Acid Test Bandcamp page. They’ll be released on 3 February 2023.