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Cosa Brava: Ragged Atlas

Mark Corroto By

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In the last forty years, no one has been about to categorize just what exactly Fred Frith music is. His seminal early work with the British prog-rock band Henry Cowell—along with the likes of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart—developed the idea rock artists could also be accomplished and serious musicians. Later he founded the New York Downtown scene with John Zorn, Tom Cora, Gary Lucas, and Thomas Chapin. His continuing interests accompany the worlds of free improvisation, film music, chamber ensembles, dance, and theatre.

Cosa Brava is Frith's return to a regular band playing what he describes as rock music. With Frith, nothing fits into a slick category or is capable of being compartmentalized. Who makes a rock record with the lead players being an accordionist and violin player?

In 2008, Frith recruited accordionist Zeena Parkins (collaborator in Skeleton Crew, Keep The Dog), and violinist Carla Kihlstedt (Tin Hat, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) to join drummer Matthias Bossi and sound manipulator The Norman Conquest (TNC) in this five-piece band.

The music lies somewhere between folk, Celtic, modern chamber, Latin, funk, Eastern, and prog-rock. Frith has created the classic 1970s rock opera, linking music with spoken/sung lyrics to shape a narrative. The instrumentation and sound manipulation of TNC pushes this music to the edge of chamber music, but also the edges of all the various styles represented. Frith likes using found objects and pushing players instruments into inventive situations. Here, the progressive boundary of rock meets a world traveler's folk. Frith's ideas never stray far from joyous music making.

Track Listing: Snake Eating Its Tail; Round Dance; Pour Albert; R. D. Burman; Falling Up (for Amanda); Out on the Town with Rusty, 1967; Lucky Thirteen; Blimey, Einstein; The New World; Tall Story; For Tom Zé; A Song About Love; Market Day.

Personnel: Fred Frith: guitar, bass, voice; Carla Kihlstedt: violin, nyckelharpa, bass harmonica, voice; Zeena Parkins accordion, keyboards, foley objects, voice; Matthias Bossi: drums, percussion, sruti box, voice; The Norman Conquest: sound manipulation; Anantha Krishnan: mridangam and tabla (4).

Title: Ragged Atlas | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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