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Lonely Heart

Massacre

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Album Review

Recorded during live performances at two European festivals in Europe in January and June of 2003, Lonely Heart is the third proper Massacre offering by the guitar (Fred Frith) bass (Bill Laswell) and drum (Charles Hayward) power trio. Issued on Tzadik, the liner notes state that Frith left his toys — like brushes, chains, and scissors — at home and went straight at the guitar for a change. What begins as a moody exchange between Frith and Laswell soon becomes a pummeling, punishing tour de force of banging, clanging and near riff-a-licious interplay between the three members on the nearly 20-minute set. Hayward and Laswell set the tone and then Frith is off and wailing in power guitar hero mode. Feedback, multi-string fingering and slippery riffs push the band into a heroic kind of improvisation that has no middle and really no end. Everything, even in its quiet moments where Laswell and Hayward are simply playing a rhythmic vamp, is fodder for Frith who goes on a savage tear across his instruments' higher registers. The vamp of Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun," is the cue for such driving, over the red exaggeration in this trio, and Frith plays the living hell out of his instrument taking it ever further on the high wire until there is nowhere to get off. But it's more than just soloing that happens here: Frith is digging into the beat and the actual possibilities of shaded rhythm and color. Laswell is lazy and is the dull one in the trio, not being able to counter or challenge his foils with anything remotely interesting.

As this set progresses, on the bass-driven, nearly blues like dirge of "Step," the band brings it down to a simmer while Frith seems eager to move it into higher gear with his sound pedals and volume controls, which he does on "In." It's seven-minutes-and-forty seconds of sheer guitar mania, the likes of which most fans of the guitarist have never heard. He can play all the heavy metal tricks with his technique, but uses them to find a way inside the various tonal signatures he's spawning each moment. The 18-plus-minute "Gracias la Vida," finds the band setting out carefully and deliberately, creating tension as each minute progresses. Laswell's playing chords here and Frith dons a slide and becomes the anti-Ry Cooder. Hayward challenges him to break it out of its cage but Frith plays atmospherically and deliberately in each go round before he lets the airplane out of the gate near the end and makes his guitar literally wail and scream. The final track, "Return," feels more like something Robert Fripp would play if he were playing in a reggae dub rhythm. The most melodic piece on the set, it is mournful and distant, Morricone like in its minor-key elegance (that's all relative, of course). Hayward plays a melodica creating a modicum of melody as Frith allows his effects pedals to make multiples of his briefly played lines and picks up that thread, spinning out that lyric line on his high strings, volume controls at the ready, never bringing the edges in his sound to the fore. It's all distant and forlorn, and quite beautifully elegiac, and simply fades into the silence. For fans of Massacre, this will not disappoint., For those interested in modern guitar-powered trios this will excite and enthrall and perhaps even confound.

Biography

Formed: 14 February 1980 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

British guitarist Fred Frith moved to N.Y.C. in 1979, and within a year had formed the improv rock trio Massacre with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Fred Maher. The group released Killing Time in 1981 and then called it quits a year later. Frith and Laswell rejoined, this time with drummer Charles Hayward, in 1998 to record an album in the same vein, under the Massacre name. Funny Valentine was released on the Tzadik label later that same year. In 2001 the group released Meltdown, a six-track set...
Full bio
Lonely Heart, Massacre
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