Simon Frick, solo violin and effects – Simon Frick Solo [TrackList follows] – Boomslang

Simon Frick, solo violin and effects – Simon Frick Solo [TrackList follows] – Boomslang 9120011930415, 54:59 [5/5/15] ***:

Don’t file Austrian electric violinist Simon Frick’s solo record as jazz or classical. Despite use of improvisation and a violin, Frick performs cover tunes and originals for prog rock-disposed listeners. He’s as far from being Stéphane Grappelli or Stuff Smith, as Wes Montgomery is from Jimmy Page. The nearest analogy to American ears might be Alison Chesley [AKA Helen Money], who does a comparable mélange of original and rock-based material utilizing solo, electrified violin and digital effects. What Frick does should not be confused with strings-soaked rock acts such as Electric Light Orchestra or Chicago’s the Flock (although Frick does share the enthusiasm and cross-genre inclinations of the Flock’s violinist Jerry Goodman). Frick’s processed violin sound is also akin to American prog-rock outfit McKendree Spring—especially their song “God Bless the Conspiracy”—but not so much for a likeminded hard rock/classical mixture, but because ensembles such as the Flock and McKendree Spring share an historical antecedent for taking the violin into unusual realms.

Frick showcases his intentions forthrightly on the opener, a five-minute interpretation of Nirvana’s grunge-rock anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He strums against the strings to establish a guitar-like tone; he urgently saws his bow to generate a veneer of stridency and dissonance; he offers a mid-section improvisation which hints at his classical music education; and returns to the riff-laden theme to close out the tune. Another memorable track is Frick’s soft/loud reading of “ATWA,” by nu-metal pioneers System of a Down. While Frick’s instrumental version doesn’t carry the original’s politicized, lyrical stance, there’s no denying Frick’s brash, distorted re-arrangement, with flashes of angularity, jagged rhythm, heightened power riffing and potent dueling violins, via Frick’s live loops. Frick shows his ambition by re-doing the obscure Guns N’ Roses piece, “Don’t Damn Me,” which is from the group’s 1991 LP, Use Your Illusion I. The original is bombastic, but Frick curves it into a tender-to-tough production filled with auditory effects. It’s lyrical but also rough, and in the process Frick proves how vision and creativity can turn mediocrity into something arresting. Frick’s most notable cover is a nine-minute exploration of Dream Theater’s “In the Name of God.” Frick maintains the original’s crunching riffing, but also layers in quiet, poignant tonality. His fast, bass-heavy arpeggios have gravity; his looped riffs have the same amped-up strength as electric guitars; and his notched percussive effects provide a semblance of forceful drums. This is dramatic music which has allegiance to progressive metal music rather than classical or jazz. Those interested in what Frick can do with such material can watch a live extended rendering of “In the Name of God.

Frick’s own compositions display his musical training and background. He has worked in jazz-metal situations, outsider/experimental jazz, modern-creative music, and previously collaborated with pianist David Helbock. Those influences can be heard on far-ranging cuts such as the eight-minute, hard-rock presentation, “Human,” which filters atmospheric, ambient elements with heavy metal instances; “Veilchenalkowohl,” which demonstrates Frick’s classical and jazz connections and strikes a deliberately shrill quality; the haunting, moody “Internal Bleeding,” which gradually builds into a slightly sinewy wrap-up; or the concluding “Nachtlied,” a pensive neo-classical number which owes a touch or more of application from Robert Schumann’s Nachtlied, Op.108. Frick’s trio, Soundscape, has recorded an alternative adaptation of “Internal Bleeding,” (with female vocals), which is affectively different than his solo translation; the same threesome has also done Frick’s “Medium.” Both are worth viewing to see how Frick’s material can be converted into a group setting. On his solo album, Frick attempts a singular variation from what people might expect from a violin. Despite his goals, this does not mean Frick’s work is innovative, unique or exceptional. The synthesis of classical and metal is not so much a fusion as a grafting, and for those who follow such endeavors, there are other projects which offer similar stimulation and sometimes better results.

[Amazon only offers this so far as an MP3 download…Ed.]

TrackList: Smells Like Teen Spirit; Moments; ATWA; Don’t Damn Me; Veilchenalkowohl; Internal Bleeding; In the Name of God; Escape; Dazed; Medium; Human; Nachtlied.

—Doug Simpson

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