zdbd – Lumpy Gravy Part Two
Lumpy Gravy Part Two, the 16-minute counterpart to Lumpy Gravy Part One, opens with a spaced-out guy speaking about the Big Note — “everything’s one note,” expounding on Zappa’s philosophy of the universe as extensions, vibrations, echoes of the One Note. This idea underscores his theory of conceptual continuity, which we’ll get to over time, I’m sure.
More anecdotes, enthusiastic, pile up, before exploding into a cacophonous, racking bout of laughter. If you’d zoned out for the dialogue, that screeching laugh brings you right back. The banter continues, punctuated by this shrill laughter.
At the four minute mark, instruments rumble back onto the record. A gong brings them in time, and the orchestra readies. They sync up, in time for discordant chords on keys, woodwind, strings. The entire song itches and writhes. Their synchronization is threatened, but holds — for only a moment. A perverse television jingle takes over at maximum volume, and again Lumpy Gravy launches us headlong into a conversation. We wonder if the dialogue is truly extemporaneous, or is some of it cleverly faked? I think I still lean toward the former, but I can’t be sure.
More thrusting, short-lived melodies of varying degrees of consonance follow. Melody soon gives way to free-form discord, however, as the orchestra weaves and cries. Zappa soon corrals them, though, for a languid, funky tune, with a muted horn section carrying the melody, descending the scale like it was a sunny afternoon. Halfway through Part Two, we suspect the moments of melody may be few and far between, as we return to the thumping, independent free-styling of the orchestra and the characters telling stories about kangaroos.
There is method here — the orchestra is by no means entirely discordant. The music is esoteric, challenging, and ever-shifting, but never becomes ‘mere’ noise (in, at least, the vast majority of cases…). Silence is given its space, its due as a musical tool, on this side of the record. Tricky rhythms on the drumkit, too, are featured heavily. The orchestra mixes, matches, slips and splashes across the back end of this effort. Abstraction and opacity dominate. All is not lost, though, as the instruments claw their way back towards synchronization and true melody, with much tension and strain. They resist, they fight back. The impossible is eventually realised.
A bassy, droning voice muses to himself — a beat or two of silence — and a chirpy rendition of what we’ll come to know as “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance” carries us out of the song and the record. A deliberately happy, melodic note to conclude on, considering the challenging nature of this second half of Lumpy Gravy.