Exposé Online banner

Frank Zappa — Civilization Phaze III
(Zappa CDDZAP 56, 1994, 2CD)

by Steve Robey, Published 1995-11-01

Civilization Phaze III Cover art

This long awaited post-mortem artifact of Zappa's work is indeed a fine addition to his catalog. The music is almost entirely realized on a Synclavier, yet this is not the sterile robot-music we purists have come to expect from a Synclavier, even in the hands of Zappa. Frank had been composing on his Synclavier since before the widely acclaimed Jazz from Hell album, and by the time of this work, he had completely mastered it. The Ensemble Modern is credited on a few tracks, but to be honest, it's very difficult to tell which ones, for the Synclavier is so ingeniously programmed that sometimes it really sounds like a chamber orchestra. Epic tracks like "Dio Fa" could pass for vintage German space rock (Ash Ra Temple, Agitation Free, etc.), and extended suites like "N-lite" and "Beat the Reaper" are beautiful avant-garde mini-symphonies in themselves. Of course, this is not just a collection of "tunes." Conceptual continuity is derived from spoken word interludes (which the fantastic libretto generously transcribes in great detail) between the compositions. These spoken parts are edited from the same zany tapes from the late 60s which brought us Lumpy Gravy. Needless to say, they are quite hilarious and philosophical, and help bring the larger concept of the work into perspective. It's up to the listener to discern what that concept actually is, but the feeling of de-evolution and the stupidity of the human race in general is definitely prevalent. Fans of late 60s Zappa should pick up this album, for the intricate compositions definitely carry the trademark of the likes of "Pound for a Brown," "Holiday in Berlin," "Eric Dolphy's Memorial Barbecue," and even the 80s vintage "Sinister Footwear." Of course, there are no guitar solos, but that is excusable in the company of such well-executed compositions. Remarkably, through the mechanical medium of the Synclavier, Zappa has finally made the music he always wanted to make, played exactly the way he wanted it played.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 8, 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Frank Zappa

Latest news

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music festival world, and music festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Gods of Electricity - Sundiving – Introducing a world where standard sci-fi is just too darn human to be plausible. If there are any advanced life forms out there taking joy rides through post-supernoval remnants or losing the space...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues