John Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer
A Sphere in the Heart of Silence


4.0
excellent

Review

by tom USER (12 Reviews)
November 8th, 2012 | 68 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: shadows casting bodies ~ who knows which way things will go?

Many readers will no doubt be familiar with the ambitious project John Frusciante undertook in 2004, recording and releasing six albums within the space of six months. The majority of these releases more or less adhered to John’s signature style of personal, guitar-based songwriting and were of a consistently high quality. The secret weapon in his arsenal that made such a feat possible was his friend and protégé Josh Klinghoffer, whose dynamic drumming provided the backbone to his sound. Additionally, Klinghoffer provided bass, keyboards, guitars and backing vocals to fully flesh out the songs and speed up the recording process. What sets A Sphere in the Heart of Silence apart is its strong electronic influences and the fact that many of the songs were written by Josh, which adds to the highly experimental nature of the album. These factors also make it, unfortunately, the most overlooked record in the series.

Instrumental opener ‘Sphere’ gives a fairly reasonable indication why. A rather strange piece dominated by an erratic synth line that continues throughout, it contains some mildly interesting guitar playing partway through but does little to justify its eight and a half minute runtime, leaving the listener wondering what exactly they’ve gotten themselves in for. This feeling doesn’t last long however, once ‘The Afterglow’ and ‘Walls’ kick the album into gear. ‘The Afterglow’ in particular highlights Josh’s ability to merge numerous interlocking elements to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Duelling guitars battle over a driving drum loop, various synths come and go, all while twin basslines snake their way through everything else, coalescing into a trippy, danceable mesh of aural ecstasy. ‘Walls’ takes a more direct approach favouring rhythm over melody. A violent two-note synth loop holds the entire track together as more and more effects are stacked on and Frusciante’s screaming increases the intensity to generate a truly mesmerising piece of music. He is on top form vocally for both tracks, holding nothing back and showing off his versatile range with perfectly controlled screams and his trademark falsetto. His lyrical subject matter is typical of his writing at the time, indulging his fascination with contradictory wordplay and the themes of life and death.

Although ‘Walls’ features minor backup singing from Josh, the first true example of his vocal prowess comes in the haunting epic ‘Communique’. His distinctively effeminate voice pulls the listener into the ethereal atmosphere created by his piano playing and John’s synthesised wind effects, a place where time stands still and all that matters is ambience and emotion. His lyrics are rather more opaque than John’s and his heavy slurring makes most of what he sings indecipherable, serving only to escalate the tension and unease. He uses his voice like an additional instrument, managing to convey exactly what he is feeling despite the ambiguity of his words. This mood spills over into ‘At Your Enemies’, though the setting is shifted from atmospheric to subterranean by a hypnotic melody and driving bassline that exude the sensation of being deep underwater. Josh’s influence is slightly more dominant than John’s throughout and these two songs are perhaps the high point of the album.

While most of Sphere feels split between ‘Josh’ songs and ‘John’ songs, it also excels when there is equal influence from both artists; the best example being penultimate track ‘Surrogate People’. Josh lays the foundation with his repetitive synth and vocal lines while John contributes an intricate acoustic guitar part beautiful vocal harmonies, the song slowly evolving before both of them launch into simultaneous minimalist guitar solos. The only track with no input from Josh is album closer ‘My Life’, a simple 90 second piano piece that serves its purpose but feels a tad uninspired in comparison to most other songs here.

A Sphere in the Heart of Silence is without doubt the black sheep of Frusciante’s ‘six in six’ series. The overall vibe is that this is Josh’s project, with a helping hand from John, rather than the other way round. This is by no means a bad thing: Josh brings an aura of mystique to the music that isn’t present on the other albums and his approach gels tremendously well with John’s own. The album covers a vast range of musical styles and moods while still feeling like a unified body of work. Due to its experimental tendencies it may not appeal to all fans of John’s more straightforward guitar-driven albums. On the other hand, those seeking something a little more esoteric, or fans of electronic music in general, will find plenty to sink their teeth into here. Not all of the duo’s ideas stick, but the hits far outweigh the misses. And when they hit, they really fucking hit.



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user ratings (117)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Mike Allen (3)
Where's the songwriting, John?...

rohan (3.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Part II of my love letter to Josh Klinghoffer. Album slays.

'The Afterglow': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FgKuJXkMCU
'Communique': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9RBvJ6hbfc
'At Your Enemies': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9UaShysztE

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2012


3451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good write-up man. Pos. I love Surrogate People, it's so hauntingly beautiful. The rest of the tracks I found harder to get into. Nevertheless, it's a good album, even though I prefer John's and Josh's other works more.

Digging: The Ting Tings - Super Critical

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Thanks buddy. I've revisited this one in the past few days and liked it much more this time around than I did before. I'm really digging all the songs except the first and last. The last is ok but not up to the level of the others for me.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2012


3451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I should give it another spin, I usually listen only to Surrogate People and Walls.

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Yeah man they rule but so does The Afterglow and Communique and At Your Enemies aaah I love it.

WhiteNoise
November 8th 2012


3216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck yeah dude! How weird is this album man! It really shows the origins of Dot Hacker and even PBX.

Good review too.

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Thanks man! Yeah it's crazy hey, that's why I put those albums in the rec'd by reviewer section. These dudes really need to collaborate again.

WhiteNoise
November 8th 2012


3216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Do you reckon they ever will though? I mean are they even still friends? haha

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


I have no idea man! The way I see it, John is really into doing things his own way for now but he tends to go through a different phase every few years, pretty unpredictable. I'd imagine Josh is pretty busy with RHCP and would try to spend all his spare time on Dot Hacker, although I heard a rumour he might be working on a new Bicycle Thief album when the current RHCP tour ends.

VheissuCrisis
Contributing Reviewer
November 8th 2012


996 Comments


One of the few I haven't dedicated any time too yet, but I might have to push that forward now bud, good review have a pos.

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Thanks VC. This one seems to divide opinion, but since you dug Letur-Lefr I'm sure you'll find something to like here. Just don't let the first track put you off!

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Thanks souleater, you are too kind. Writing doesn't come naturally to me at all, this took me like three hours!

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


edit: oh cool souleater got his posts deleted now I look like a nutter talking to myself

Chortles
November 8th 2012


17998 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

really good review tommy, pos'd like no other

i should probably give this record more of a chance than i gave it way back when i initially got it. but as i've said time and again, communique is fucking amazing

i also didn't realize this album had a page on frusciantes and frusciante+klinghoffer lol

Digging: Jacaszek - Treny

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
November 8th 2012


16057 Comments


nice review

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Thanks guys.

@Chortles - yeah I need to get that fixed up with the mods. It should all be on this page because the CD case bears both
their names, not just Frusciante's.

@souleater - off the top of my head - Rudy Klapper, Hernan McKennan and Adam Knott are my favourite writers.
There are plenty of others I could add to that list though.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2012


4443 Comments


Not one of my favourites in the John Frusciante discography, but still pretty great. I liked the trippy electronica sound though

Good review as always Tommy. POS'd hard.

tommygun
November 8th 2012


24989 Comments


Sup Hernan. Yeah this is a bit love/hate for many people but the highs are really, really high for me. I can't get enough Josh Klinghoffer music these past few weeks and his fingerprints are all over this, which I love.

Thanks for the pos, mate.

tommygun
November 9th 2012


24989 Comments


sweet

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
November 9th 2012


4443 Comments


I can't get enough Josh Klinghoffer music these past few weeks and his fingerprints are all over this, which I love.

Yeah those are some of my favourite parts of this as well. Quite honestly, it's always a good thing when John calls on Josh to collaborate. Automatic Writing, The Empyrean, and Shadows Collide with People, are my top 3 albums by John.



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