This is it, folks. The 100th and final official Frank Zappa album, Dance Me This, has arrived courtesy of the Zappa Family Trust, and it’s a work of pure genius. “The present-day composer refuses to die” is a quote from French composer Edgard Varese, which Zappa would often refer to in the liner notes of many of his albums. The reference holds true to this day, while Zappa’s music continues to live on.
In December of 1993, Frank Zappa lost his long battle with prostate cancer. Dance Me This was his final work, an effort in a similar vein as his later electronic albums like Jazz From Hell (1986), Francesco Zappa (1984) and The Mothers of Prevention (1985). His fondness for the Synclavier digital synthesizer is readily apparent on this work.
You can stream the album in full below, and read on for an extensive review of the work.
Starting off with the algorithmic intricacy of the title track, Zappa takes up right where he left off; delving heavily into the world of synthesized dance tunes. However, these are no ordinary dance songs. Listening to this music will, in all honesty, make you smarter. The sheer complicated brilliance of it all is simply mind-blowing.
A trio of throat singers from the Republic of Tuva are featured on the album as well, adding an interesting element throughout the album. The subsequent song “Pachuco Gavotte” is chock-a-block with quirky sounds, squawks, clicks and clacks that swim around your head in a frenzy of avant-garde virtuosity.
Up next is a musical composition titled “Wolf Harbor”, which is broken down into five movements. Beginning with a sustained eeriness and sporadic sludgy sounds splashing about, the music paints imagery of what seems to be a dark and ghostly harbor. Some of these same sound effects are present on the live classical masterpiece, The Yellow Shark, released the same year in 1993. “Wolf Harbor” continues on with elaborate percussion, haunting trumpet and twisted sound effects. This hair-raising composition submerges the listener in this swampy atmosphere. With sounds that resemble regurgitation and a plunged toilet, Zappa creates this stomach-turning soundscape.
The Tuvan throat singers return on the maddeningly complex “Goat Polo”, while the next track, “Rykoniki”, is fairly reminiscent of material from the 1986 release, Jazz From Hell. The following track on this jam-packed synth-masterwork is “Piano,” and the song title tells no lies. “Piano” is an insanely impressive magnum opus of the ivories that dances from ear to ear and opens a musical Pandora’s Box of musical intensity.
Finally, the eleventh track from the album, and final song of Zappa’s astonishing career, is the bizarre and bass-heavy “Calculus.“ It is simply put, a marvelously twisted ending to a marvelously twisted record.
While listening to Dance Me This, I was nearly brought to tears. With the pure immeasurable brilliance throughout the album, one could only imagine the things he’d be doing today if he were still alive. One can only dream. In addition to being one of the most under-appreciated guitarists of all time, Frank Zappa was a genius, a musical pioneer and the Stravinsky of his time. His music will live on forever, and there is certainly plenty of it. With 100 official albums, it’s a comfort to know that Zappa left us with a long list of music to appreciate.
At the end of this journey it only feels appropriate to quote Mr. Zappa himself: “Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth, truth is not beauty, beauty is not love, love is not music, music is the best.” We couldn’t agree more, Frank.
By Joseph Conlon