Freakzine, Issue 6, Dec. 1995
Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante
by Frankco Lamerikx
There are two reasons why writing a review of Mr. Bungle's new album Disco Volante is not easy. The first reason is that the album has too much notable points to write about in short piece like this. The second reason is that the majority of these points are entirely outside the world that the average music fan lives in. Because the Freakzine reader may be suspected of being open-minded towards a lot of musical styles and excesses, I will try to write a review nevertheless.
Mr. Bungle is a highschool experiment of some refractory youngsters from Eureka, CA., that went out of hand. One of these youngsters by the name of Mike Patton, would, entirely against his will, fall prey to the fame and status of a Rock Star at the age of 21 through his hobby band Faith No More. However, Patton stayed faithfull to his youth friends en toured merrily with Mr. Bungle in the holes of the busy Faith No More schedule. Meanwhile, Mr. Bungle flirted on four consecutive demo tapes with genuine death metal, ska, and funk. This led to the release in 1991 of the ecclectic album Mr. Bungle, the production of which was supervised by John Zorn, the enfant terrible of the postmodern New York jazz and improvisation scene. When Mike Patton did a European tour with Zorn's much praised ensemble Naked City, the cards appeared to be dealt for Mr. Bungle's future.
The new album Disco Volante, released in October, indeed proves the stilistic influence of John Zorn. The album has the atmosphere of Zorn best recordings. However, influences are not restricted to the NY scene. Disco Volante is a completely non-linear mix of very diverse styles. Japanoise in the opening track Everyone I Went To Highschool With Is Dead, circus music in Chemical Marriage, free jazz in Platypus, film music in the Italian Violenza Domestica, and improvisation inspired by the San Francisco scene in The Bends. However improbable this blend of styles may sound, it is not that strange in the light of the band members' background. Guitarist Trey Spruance (an ardent fan of Zeni Geva) plays in noise bands such as Noddingturd Fan, bassist Trevor Dunn is seeking refuge in the jazz ensembles of Ben Goldberg and Graham Connah, Mike Patton speaks out his love of Sade, Ween, and Henry Mancini, and Mr. Bungle as such performs with the Rova Saxophone Quartet as well as the famous Kronos Quartet. Furthermore, Mr. Bungle is strengthened on the new album by the likes of percussionist William Winant, a well-known figure in the improv scene. All this leads to an album that defies classification and demands repeated listening. Once you get used to the abrupt changes of style, a universe of musical ideas is opening up that has no peer in modern music. It's like making a time travel through 20th century music history.
So, allow yourself to be surprised and ask your record store to import this album, that has thus far not been released in The Netherlands. At the moment of writing, Mr. Bungle tours with Japanoise band Melt Banana in The States. If they come to Europe, be sure you don't miss their show, which is described by some as performance art, and which will definitely be worthwhile.
Thanks to Frankco Lamerikx