When beings from other planets make their way to Earth, Perry Farrell has a pretty good idea of what the stuff pouring out of their intergalactic stereos might sound like.
His solo debut.
"If visitors came, maybe not from another planet, but from a future dimension or the upper realms of heaven, would they have the power and ability to make sound with electronic instruments?" Farrell, 42, wondered. "Absolutely, and they would probably be unbelievable. I tried to imagine that when I was writing this album."
And while Farrell might mind-meld with those visitors on a musical level, fans of his previous work might be a bit alienated by some of the sounds on Song Yet to Be Sung, due in stores Tuesday. Gone, for the most part, are the incendiary guitars and the signature yelping vocals of Farrell's legendary '80s art-rock group, Jane's Addiction. And even the more loop-friendly sound of his short-lived '90s band, Porno for Pyros, seems tame compared to the bouncy, carnival-piano dub track "To Me" and the breathy, take-me-higher techno of "Seeds."
Even when traditional rock drums, guitar and bass sneak onto the album, they are buried in a jubilant swirl of programmed dance beats, keyboard blips and sweetly sung, spiritually themed lyrics.
While Farrell began experimenting with samples and drum loops on Porno for Pyros' 1996 swan song, Good God's Urge, he said his immersion in electronic music and DJ culture since that band's demise inspired the mix of techno, ambient, dub, experimental rock and drum'n'bass on Song Yet to Be Sung.
"For me, sound is like food," said Farrell, who has been crisscrossing the globe the past three years spinning records under the nom de mix DJ Peretz. "I love to go out and munch it up. I go to clubs and record stores ... otherwise I'd be starving. When I started to hear what these electronic composers were doing, it would be impossible to live the rest of my life and not take an adventure with these sounds."
The result is a loosely themed concept album about Jubilee, the every-half-century Old Testament celebration of debt forgiveness. The theme weaves its way through the album in obvious lyrical references ("Happy Birthday Jubilee") and in the celebratory feel of songs such as "Shekina" and the title track, which is the first single.
The slightly sinister "Song Yet to Be Sung," a percolating blend of percussion, burbling keyboards, warped guitars and Farrell's yearning vocals, features the uplifting lines "You're at the Jubilee/ Or you're all alone ... From the heights of Zion/ It's whispered in your ear/ Play on, wild designery!/ Song yet to be sung."
"Jubilee is a party within a flame," Farrell explained of the track, which features a partial Jane's Addiction reunion with guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins. "The world is constantly at war with each other, and people are so numb that they fan the flames. But at the same time, we have to bring a celebration, and that's what it sounds like. It's about everyone showing up for the party."
Over the three and a half years Farrell spent building the tracks for the album, he picked up an impressive, eclectic list of collaborators.
Former War keyboardist/singer Lonnie Jordan plays piano on "To Me" and the haunting dub track "King Z," which was co-produced and co-performed by dub master Mad Professor.
Ex-Porno for Pyros bassist and current Jane's Addiction touring bassist, Martyn LeNoble, pops up on a few tracks, as does in-demand Los Angeles session player/producer/performer Jon Brion (Eels, Fiona Apple).
Among the other producers/programmers lending a hand are Marius DeVries (Björk, Madonna) and Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins).
"Look at this album as an evening, a concert," Farrell said, likening Song Yet to Be Sung to Lollapalooza, the pioneering multi-artist festival he co-founded in the early '90s. "We love to hear great DJs, great records. We would love for it to be in a forest. We also want to hear people sing, play acoustic instruments and combine the two. At a certain part of the night, we're gonna all get really up and giddy, and we want to bounce around and hear some drumming."
And, after nearly 20 years of musical shape-shifting, Farrell said the opening lines of the downbeat dance track "Say Something" could very well serve as his official motto. "I like to dance in crowds," he croons over a skittering beat. "I like to make love out loud/ I always keep a fire burning/ And friends help fill things out."