Sounds, encounters and explorations with Fred Frith, The Fred Records Story Vol 1 -2 – 3 on #neuguitars #blog

ReR Megacorp FRITH, FRED: The Fred Records Story. Twenty-eight CDs, in three boxes, with three fat booklets and f

“Improvised structures – the perception that they mostly consist of “boring” bits that lead to “exciting” bits; but if you attempt to cut out the boring bits by making very short “exciting” pieces, the result is the creation of stereotypes, self-conscious attempts to exite, predictable ways of manipulating the audience…easy to fall into traps, but better to resist simplistic definitions in the first place. Learning to empty yourself before playing.”

Fred Frith – Tapped Teeth – Arcana pag 311

Fred Frith. Henry Cow, Residents, Robert Wyatt, Naked City, Brian Eno, Ensemble Modern, Art Bears, Amy Denio, Violent Femmes, Heiner Goebbels, Skeleton Crew, Massacre, just to name a few points of reference. English guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser, one of the most long-lived and vital characters in a field of action that ranges from pure improvisation to rock, from composition to daring New York and Japanese creative forms. So Enrico Bettinello wrote a few years ago in the Italian Blowup Magazine, I think it was number 100, September 2006: “Born in 1949, the son of a discreet amateur pianist, in his journey as an instrumentalist Frith first meets the violin, from which he takes lessons from an early age, to then turn to the guitar in early adolescence. Listens in the family environment were already particularly varied at the time: from Django Reinhardt’s jazz to the pop of the 1950s, passing through the most fascinating composers of the early twentieth century, from Bartòk to Debussy. Diversified and crossed influences, which we will meet again later, since Frith’s first experiences are in the field of English folk and his club circuit …. “

Tracing a detailed and complete history of this artist is a difficult thing, which would require not a post on a simple blog, but a space whose physical dimensions are difficult to calculate: a hypertext as branched and extended as his full-bodied discography, a titanic undertaking. . One of the problems, in fact, is what to listen to, where to start and how to continue. If you take a look at discogs.com you will find a list of over a hundred titles to his name and over 900 credits in the credits. A respectable discography in which it is not easy to move.

Fortunately, in the course of this 2021 now at the end, Professor Frith seems to have decided to facilitate the task by creating three CD boxes, which allow us a guided, easy and oblique exploration within his rich recording activity. Each box contains 9 CDs and a booklet with photographs and extensive comments by the Professor himself.

The first box, entitled “Rocking the Boat” contains: the legendary Guitar Solos, Gravity (with Etron Fou Leloublan and Samla Mammas Manna), Cheap at Half the Price, Killing Time (with Bill Laswell and Fred Maher), Impur (for very large ensemble), Middle of the Moment (film score), Keep the Dog (double CD feat: Rene Lussier, Bob Ostertag, Zeena Parkins, Jean Derome and Charles Hayward). Plus the CD Dropera bonus.

The second box, entitled “Crossing Borders”, which contains: Live in Japan, Speechless, Prints, Step Across the Border (film score), Impur, 2, Art of Memory II (with John Zorn), Skeleton Crew (double CD) . Plus CD Helter Skelter bonus (remastered)

The third box set, “Stepping Out”, contains Technology of Tears, Propaganda, Allies, Accidental, The Previous Evening, Happy End Problem, Nowhere, Sideshow, Field Days. Plus bonus CD Inimitable (previously unreleased)

Anyone who reads the blog knows that I don’t like making playlists of merit of any kind. Music is not a competition, it is not something made for those who arrive first, and the categories of genre and taste bore me. To tell the truth, I’m not even so sure about the quality of my choices. But I can’t help but recommend these three boxes, which, among other things, are also on sale at a good price.

“Music is an act of transformation—air moves, waves travel, membranes vibrate, bodies are altered. When I use objects to produce sounds from a guitar, I’m also transforming them. The paintbrush, the clothes the doweling rod, the alligator clip, the ball of string, the bag of rice, chains, the tin can, these may all be familiar objects. When I use them as mediators, though, they can no longer be defined by their intended function. Instead they become magical objects with mysterious powers, and although at first you may laugh at the idea of someone playing the guitar with a paintbrush, eventually you won’t notice it any more. The brush has become, not invisible exactly, but altered beyond recognition.”

Fred Frith – On dirt, revelations, contradictions, and breathing through your elbows – Arcana V pag 131

With relative effort, in fact, they give us the opportunity to peek inside the vast musical world of Fred Frith. An extremely complex, variegated world, alien to gender categories. Frith seems to move with relaxed ease in every area; collaborations, compositions, from solo to the many duos, Skeleton Crew, Massacre, radical improvisations, soundtracks, music for dance … it is an encyclopedic world, where boundaries are fleeting, blurred entities and concepts. A circular, four-dimensional world, full of so many connections that it looks like a neural network. These three boxes remind me of a fantastic tale by Robert Heinlein, “The new house”, where a brilliant architect, Quintus Teal, decides to build a singular house: a tesseract. A tesseract is the four-dimensional equivalent of a cube. His faces are 8 three-dimensional cubes, which in Heinlein’s story become the 8 rooms of the house built as an unfolded tesseract. During the visit to the property, both the architect and the aspiring buyers find themselves decidedly disoriented in exploring the rooms of the house. This difficulty will increase when the tesseract folds in on itself due to an earthquake in the nearby Sant’Andrea fault. I won’t tell you how it ends, but I guarantee you that Frith’s music offers a similar form of disorientation.

“As a composer I sometimes find myself saying to performers: “Let the music be what it is, you don’t need to add anything to just stay out of the way and let it speak for itself.” Recording music is a revelatory process, like sculpture. The act of ently stripping away results in what was concealed being revealed. Further, the inevitability of the result suggests that it required that very process in order to be revealed. Or the process may not be stripping away at all, but accumulating, patiently waiting to discover what “images” will signify when there are enough of them there.”

Fred Frith – On dirt, revelations, contradictions, and breathing through your elbows – Arcana V pag 131

A disorientation, however, more than natural, considering our objective difficulty in listening to music that presents forms that are different from those belonging to well-known canons and genres. Frith is a master at this. I guarantee you that, at the end of listening to these boxes, you will wonder if really behind them there is always the same person, the same creative mind. Trying to sum up another year lived with the difficulties to which all of us, for better or worse, are getting used to, I think that The Fred Records Story was the best, discographically, we have been offered in the course of this 2021. The small investment made is worth it. Happy New Year!