Automatic Writing – ATAXIA/ JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 2004

Ataxia (from Greek α- [used as a negative prefix] + -τάξις [order]: meaning “lack of order”) is a neurological sign and symptom consisting of gross lack of coordination of muscle movements.


For some reason, all I can think of is John Fru. and co. hinting at some chronic incontinence. And really, it opens this experimental group to all sorts of level humor. Unfortunately, as is the wont of us reviewers, I must tackle yet another of my favourite guitar player’s pet projects away from his bread (and Grammy) winning fare with the Chili Peppers. I got this disc, like the other Frusciante music, from a friend who ‘highly recommends’ it.


All the tracks here follow but one pattern; Joe Lally (on bass, from Fugazi) lays down a repetitive, shoegazer-ish bass line, over which there are various wierded out guitar textures with some singing. What is surprising that despite this pretty bloody limited premise, the trio branch out admirably well into screeching guitar rock, stoner thingses, percussion that can only be described as spacious (a Frusciante hallmark) and some highly introspective and often doped out lyrics.

Um…aside from that I don’t have much to say. All of these five (long) tracks follow this template, with “The Sides” being the only one which follows any discernible structure. “Dust” is probably the strongest track here, with a great melody and with Frusciante singing in two very distinct voices, as if to capture the age old conversation between his artistic and commercial tendencies. Or something.

The extremely long (12 minutes!) “Montreal” is probably the more stoner oriented track here, with a couple of muted bass chords over Lally’s still more muted vocals providing proper acid-trip fodder, not in the least because of the cacophonic synth solo at around 10 minutes.

A small note. I’ve reviewed an earlier collaborative effort between Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer (A Sphere in the Heart of Silence) and there, the only tracks which I found weak were the ones on which Klinghoffer sang. The same is this case with “Another” in this album, on which Klinghoffer sings. His singing style, while distinctive, is something that I personally don’t like at all. It gobbles up syllables in what seems to be a drunken parable on some obscure topic whose meaning is very hard to discern. It is frowned upon.They're bringing stonerback.

Anyway, what must be clear to you by now, is that this stuff not for everyone. Infact, I will go so far as to say this is for nearly no one. But in the Venn diagram of the music which this album combines, the very small bunch of people who can handle a mad combination of stoner, electronica, psychedelia and god knows what else will love it fanatically. Me? I can’t help but relapse into poop jokes. This is a bit too out there even for me. Yes, Automatic Writing has its moments, but generally, it doesn’t sound right.

– El Bajista





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