Words by J Beverly

Don’t be fooled by John Frusciante’s role as the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist; his solo music is a far cry from the band’s heavy rock roots. Though the band has regained momentum after Frusciante’s return, that’s never stopped him from experimenting with his own music, which has become his refresher from the rock genre. His eclectic sound is reflected in his latest LP : II ., a digital and CD version of the vinyl exclusive : I .. He’s not new to the electronic genre, having shifted to it after his departure from RHCP in 2009 for mental health reasons. However, this album is much more unorthodox and experimental than his previous works, moving away from the post-rave tone of earlier releases to ambient sounds free from conventional musical structures.

The : II : sound

The LP’s tracks are surprisingly varied, considering the lack of things going on musically. The first track, “Golpin,” contains a deep drone, broken up by warped oscillations that create almost-alien like gurgling. The pitter-pattering of “Pyn” and “Clank” give off the sound of malfunctioning tech gear as if your spaceship is on the brink of a crash. The eerie and constant humming of “MK 2.1” and the static-y panic of “Sluice” juxtapose each other, showing off the album’s strange take on musical range. The longest track, “Frantay,” which runs for a whopping 16 and a half minutes, comprises sharp buzzing, muffled bubbling, and deep whirring, perfectly encapsulating the album’s overall sound.

Frusciante’s experimentation

Frusciante is no stranger to effects, and even in his tenure as the RHCP guitarist, you can hear a sense of the eclectic tones of his work in his guitar solos if you listen closely. Frusciante uses at least two pedals designed by Boss—specifically the Boss CE-1 and DS-2—which he has relied on since 2003. Boss is a favorite brand across genres, as their products are reputed for durable, compact design and quality construction over the past 40 years. These pedals are known for their efficacy with effects, no matter the player’s skill level. This gear gives his guitar the signature heavy, distorted sound emblematic of the rock genre.

On : II ., he swaps out his guitars and pedals for synthesizers such as the Elektron Monomachine. This piece of equipment is a staple for many in the electronic genre, such as SOPHIE and Deadmau5, who’ve impacted the scene with their unique sonic takes. Much like these artists, Frusciante is unafraid to push the boundaries of electronic sound. However, whether or not this album hit the mark regarding enjoyability is up to the listener.

Thoughts on : II .

: II . occupies a strange limbo where neither his fans nor listeners of the electronic genre might react well to his work. RHCP fans may find themselves weirded out by the alien rave music that is seemingly so unlike the rock guitarist side of Frusciante, and where enjoyers of ambient or electronic listeners might not be pleased with the sonic texture of these tracks. Even fans of his solo work might find this departure too experimental for their liking. The LP is commendable for its uniqueness, but it isn’t the type of music—generous use of the term—one can relax or jam out to. It’s difficult to determine if an album with not much going on musically is good, but it may find an audience somewhere, somehow. If a niche group of people who exclusively listen to space-set science fiction movie soundtracks exists, they would likely enjoy this LP.

If you’re looking to hear more of Frusciante with RHCP, check out their Japanese bonus track called “Nerve Flip” from their latest album, Unlimited Love. You can also catch them on their North American tour this summer.

John Frusciante
© February 3, 2023

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