John Frusciante isn't about to let Guided by Voices' Bob Pollard, Centro-Matic's Will Johnson or even the Fall's Mark E. Smith tell him what prolific means. In an unprecedented move, the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist has issued seven albums this past year. One, Shadows Collide With People, was issued by Warner Bros. early in 2004; the rest have been issued independently by Record Collection. Each release showcases a different side of Frusciante's musical interests, from contemplative singer-songwriterdom to electronic music noodling to power-trio space-jamming. Of course, it's all too much to take in at once; there are reasons people don't normally release this much music at once, aside from most folks' inability to create this much output.
For Frusciante, it's about musical and spiritual release. It's a shame that the notes he's sent to the media to explain each of his albums aren't included with the actual CDs, since they offer genuine insight into his creative process. It's helpful to know that The Will to Death was inspired by his love for Eno, the Velvet Underground and his modular synthesizer, and was performed as a "celebration of flaws." Each track was recorded quickly without the stifling perfectionism that usually accompanies the making of a modern album.
There are highlights throughout these releases. The DC EP's four short songs each unfold simply and slowly. Curtains, the "acoustic" album, is closest to what an evening with Frusciante might be like if he were stranded at an open mike. My personal fave remains the Ataxia offering, where Frusciante sat down in the studio with Josh Klinghoffer and Fugazi's Joe Lally and recorded their improvisations, adding the vocals afterward. The result is an album that reflects the loose, hypnotic groove of early-'70s Krautrock with just enough form to give these songs life. It's in these moments of musical solidarity that one hears the joy of creation, the reason to continue regardless of who might or might not be listening.