Gravity (Fred Frith album)

Gravity (Fred Frith album)

Infobox Album
Name = Gravity
Type = Studio album
Artist = Fred Frith

Background = orange
Released = 1980
Recorded = Sweden, August 1979;
Switzerland, August 1979
and January 1980;
USA, November 1979
Genre = Avant-progressive rock
Length = 46:24
Label = Ralph (USA)
Producer = Fred Frith and
Etienne Conod
Reviews =
*"Allmusic" Rating|4|5 [ link]
*Piero Scaruffi (7/10) [ link]
*"Progressive World" (4.5/5) [ link] | Last album = "Guitar Solos"
This album = "Gravity"
Next album = "Speechless"
Misc = Extra chronology 2
Artist = Fred Records
Type = studio
Last album = –
This album = "Gravity"
Fred Frith
(RēR/FRO 01)
Next album = "Accidental"
Fred Frith
(RēR/FRA 01)
Extra album cover
Upper caption = CD releases
Background = CadetBlue

Lower caption = Fred Records CD release. The cover includes a detail of the original Ralph Records (1980) cover.

"Gravity" is a 1980 solo album by English guitarist, composer and improvisor Fred Frith. It was Frith's second solo album and his first since the demise of Henry Cow. It was recorded in Sweden, the United States and Switzerland and featured the Swedish Rock in Opposition group Samla Mammas Manna on one side of the LP record, and the United States group The Muffins on the other side. Additional musicians included Marc Hollander and Frank Wuyts from Aksak Maboul, and ex-Henry Cow compatriot Chris Cutler.

"Gravity" was originally released on LP record on The Residents' Ralph Records label and was the first of three solo albums Frith recorded for the label. Frith recorded with The Residents in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"Gravity" shows Frith breaking free from the highly structured and orchestrated music of Henry Cow and experimenting with world folk and dance music. The title of the album comes from a 1937 quote by Curt Sachs (printed on the album sleeve) in which he described dance as:

"Allmusic" calls "Gravity" "... one of the most important guitar-based, experimental guitar titles from the avant-guitarist and founding Henry Cow member Fred Frith." cite web |url= |title="Gravity" | |first=Thomas |last=Schulte |accessdate=2006-11-21 ] It also describes the album as "... an entertaining and multicultural pocket folk festival."

The album cover artwork on the original LP record was done by Robert Wyatt's wife Alfreda Benge.


Frith began exploring folk and dance music in 1978 with "Terrain" and "Moeris Dancing" on the first Art Bears album, "Hopes and Fears". In particular, he was inspired by the song "The Dance" that Frith and Chris Cutler had written for that album. Frith remarked in a BBC interview: "Working on Chris’ words for "The Dance" made me think a lot about dance music and how different it was in different cultures, and how rigid and standardised disco was in comparison, and I just started exploring and mixing stuff together." [ cite web |url= |title=Fred Frith interview |work=BBC Music |accessdate=2006-11-21 ]

Many of the tracks on "Gravity" consist of "... melodic lines [woven] into complex rhythmic structures taken from different folk music cultures." cite web |url= |title=Fred Frith interview |work=Defining The Edge: The Musical World Of Fred Frith |first=Sander R. |last=Wolff |accessdate=2006-11-21 ] The time signatures are not the standard 3/4 or 4/4, but more complex signatures like 15/8. Frith commented in an interview: "All the time signatures we used on "Gravity" were taken from folk music cultures, where those kinds of time signatures are quite normal." He remarked on how surprised he was at the ease with which Samla Mammas Manna were able to pick up and play these complex signatures, particularly as they could not read music, rendering Frith's carefully written music sheets ineffective.


The opening track begins with a burst of manic laughter, followed by tap dancing overlaid with apparent random percussion and a violin. This sets the stage for 13 folk and dance instrumentals featuring guitars, violins, accordions, pianos, mandolins, saxophones, clarinets and percussion, plus field recordings and plenty of clapping and "whirling". There is no singing here, not even on Frith's reconstructed version of Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street".

"Spring Any Day Now" is a lively, cabaret-like guitar and piano piece. The dramatic "Norrgården Nyvla", one of Frith's most recognisable tunes, flows into "Year of the Monkey", a chaotic mix of sounds held together by a piano hammering out a repeated pattern, terminating with a snippet of the 13st Puerto Rico Summertime Band ("ten seconds of the real thing", according to the album's liner notes). The album has Balkan wedding music, an Indian raga ("Hands of the Juggler"), and an Irish gig ("A Career in Real Estate"), to name a few of the many styles present.

"Gravity" is considered to be one of Fred Frith's most accessible albums. [ cite web |url= |title="Gravity" |work=Chris Cutler's ReR/Recommended |first=Chris |last=Cutler |accessdate=2006-11-21 ]

Track listing

;Side One
#"The Boy Beats the Rams (Kluk Tluce Berany)" (Frith) – 4:54
#"Spring Any Day Now" (Frith) – 3:04
#"Don't Cry For Me" (Frith) – 3:28
#"The Hands of the Juggler" (Frith) – 5:31
#"Norrgården Nyvla" (Frith) – 2:54
#"Year of the Monkey" (Frith) – 4:11;Side Two
#"What a Dilemma" (Frith) – 3:11
#"Crack in the Concrete" (Frith) – 1:24
#"Come Across" (Frith) – 2:47
#"Dancing in the Street" (Gaye, Stevenson, Hunter) / "My Enemy is a Bad Man" (Frith) – 4:42
#"Slap Dance" (Frith) – 2:32
#"A Career in Real Estate" (Frith) – 4:42
#"Dancing in Rockville Maryland" (Frith) – 3:04


ide One

*Fred Frith – guitar, bass guitar, violin, percussion
*Samla Mammas Manna:
**Lars Hollmer – piano, organ, accordion
**Hans Bruniusson – drums
**Eino Haapala – guitar, mandolin
*Marc Hollander – alto saxophone, clarinet


*Olivia Bruynhooghe – tap dancing, clapping
*Chris Cutler – snare drum and maracas (3), clapping
*Tina Curran – whirling, clapping
*Catherine Jauniaux – whirling, clapping
*Frank Wuyts – recorders (6), whirling, clapping
*Etienne Conod – clapping
*Veronique Vincent – clapping


Recorded at Norrgården Nyvla in Uppsala, Sweden and at Sunrise Studios, Switzerland in August 1979.
*Gabriel Rosen – engineer (Sweden)
*Etienne Conod – engineer (Switzerland)

ide Two

*Fred Frith – guitar, bass guitar, violin, keyboards, drums
*The Muffins:
**Dave Newhouse – alto saxophone, organ (4)
**Thomas Scott – soprano saxophone (6)
**Paul Sears – drums
**Billy Swann – bass guitar
*Marc Hollander – alto saxophone, bass clarinet


*Hans Bruniusson – drums (4)
*Tina Curran – subliminal bass guitar (1)
*Frank Wuyts – drums (3)


Recorded at Catch-a-Buzz Studio, Rockville, Maryland, United States in November 1979 and at Sunrise Studios, Switzerland in January 1980.
*Thomas Scott and Colleen Scott – engineers (USA)
*Etienne Conod – engineer (Switzerland)


*"Dancing in the Street" (1980, Ralph Records)
#"Dancing in the Street" (Gaye, Stevenson, Hunter)
#"What a Dilemma" (Frith)

CD reissues

*In 1990 East Side Digital and RecRec Music re-issued "Gravity" on CD with six additional tracks:
#"Waking Against Sleep" (Frith) – 2:08
#"Terrain" (Frith) – 3:50 (from "Hopes and Fears" by Art Bears)
#"Moeris Dancing" (Frith) – 5:03 (from "Hopes and Fears" by Art Bears)
#"Geistige Nacht" (Frith) – 5:18 (from "Un Peu de l'Âme des Bandits" by Aksak Maboul)
#"Life at the Top" (Frith) – 1:40 (from "Learn to Talk" by Skeleton Crew)
#"Oh Wie Schon Ist Panama!" (Frith) – 5:02
*In 2002 Fred Records issued a remastered version of the original "Gravity" with no extra tracks.


*The title of "Norrgården Nyvla" is the name of the studio in Uppsala, Sweden where it was recorded.
*The title of "Dancing in Rockville Maryland" includes the name of the city, Rockville, Maryland in which it was recorded.
*Two additional tracks, "Vanity, Vanity" and "Dancing in Sunrise, Switzerland", were recorded with The Muffins but were omitted from the album. They appeared later on The Muffins' 1985 album, "Open City".


External links

*amg | id = 10:926m964ojep1 | label = Gravity
* [ Fred Frith discography]

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