WTF?! Wednesdays: Fred Frith, “No Birds” (1974)

Many years ago, I made a mix tape specifically for use on long drives in my pickup truck. No, it was not filled with country music. The first side, labelled “Easy Listening,” was filled with jazz selections that were just a little out there, with a tiny bit of edge. Pat Metheny‘s “First Circle” was on there. Then there was side two: “Difficult Listening.” Selections ran the spectrum from slightly edgy (Lounge Lizards – “Sharks”) to TheWife™-annoying screech of Coltrane and his Interstellar Space.

And then there was Fred Frith.

I became aware of Frith via my John Zorn investigations, which in turn lead me to a holy grail of noisy fun: Henry Cow, Tom Cora, Massacre, Eugene Chadbourne. Like kindred spirit Marc Ribot, Frith has the ability to place himself in a lot of different contexts, from the avant squall of duets with Anthony Braxton, to the off kilter pop/rock of his work with John French, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson.

“No Birds” is a sort of industrial landscape played on guitar. It’s got quiet passages, disturbing knots of sound, and hypnotic looped fragments that fold back on themselves. It’s Frippertronics for the David Lynch fan.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at