This was not on the initial pass I took at outlining the albums in Zappa’s discography I was going to listen to on this little journey. I’m aware that the eighties are considered a fallow period by a lot of people, so I gave them short shrift. On second thought, after I had already started listening to his first few albums, I got more interested. It’s Pierre Boulez, himself a very significant figure in modern classical music, and it’s Zappa working in something very close to the vein he always claimed he most wanted to work in, composing for a classical ensemble. So, I put it on the list. On third thought, I removed it; this is long enough, I said to myself; you have enough albums on this list. And you’ve already started; now isn’t the time to be revisiting the discography and adding others. On fourth thought, well, here we are, so you know where I went on fourth thought. Am I glad I listened to this? Kind of. Did I particularly like it? Not really. The pieces for the ensemble are in a very typical modernist style. They’re not particularly terrible, but neither are they any good either really. Then there are the tracks that feature only Zappa, working on his Synclavier. They have the feeling of being tossed off. I think they’re probably filler mostly, just Zappa noodling around and having a little fun, but they probably wouldn’t have been released if Zappa had enough with Boulez to fill an album. The tracks with Boulez and his ensemble add up to around twenty-three minutes, not long enough really for a proper record. I found this album to be pretty bland on the whole. I will give props to one track, the album closing Jonestown, a five minute dissonant Synclavier piece inspired by the mass suicide of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple. It’s really dark and unsettling. I listened to it for the first time on headphones while puttering around my house alone at night and I have to say it genuinely gave me the creeps. It’s a great piece. Other than that, this one is distinctly average. Oh, wait, that dog is adorable. I mean, who doesn’t love that dog? 2 stars.
tl;dr –a classical ensemble provides three tracks while Zappa’s synclavier provides four others; not offensive, but not memorable, this album is distinctly bland. 2 stars.