Bizarre, unpredictable, and often creepy album by Mike Patton's (of Faith No More) "other" band Mr. Bungle. Released in 1995 by Warner Brothers Records, this album is the cure for those who are bored with all the CDs they own. Go on, you know you need something new. Go buy Disco Volante, take it home, unwrap it, extract it from its case, stick it in your CD player, press play, and then the "NEXT" button once to get past the first track. Then fasten your seat belt. If you're at all familiar with John Zorn, try to picture what he'd be like if he was under the influence of every mindfuck drug known to man...at the same time. And even that would be easier to understand and describe than Disco Volante.
That first track, the one you just skipped over, "Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead," is just the worst 'death metal' song (if you can even call it that) you'll ever hear. I don't mean that it's offensive. I just mean it's no damn good. That's okay. Even without its three minutes, you've still got 65 perfectly good and listenable minutes left.
We rejoin the album with the second track, "Chemical Marriage," clocking in at about 3 minutes. It's got a strange retro vibe going through it that's hard to explain...kinda swingy, but not really, and you'll get your first sample of the bizarre quazi-vocal noises here, as well as liberal use of several kinds of organ which lend a little creepiness to the song. This track might very put you well on edge, in which case you'd really better brace yourself, as this is the most relaxing track on the album.
A seemingly random smattering of cartoon sound effects gives way to a jazzy little intro to the next song, "Carry Stress in the Jaw." Early in this track, the vocals come closer to singing than they did in "Chemical Marriage," but it's hard to make any words out. Little bursts of saxophone similar to the intro drift in and out of this track, leading into and being eventually conquered by long bursts of metal guitar. At about the 3-minute mark, a little bit of Edgar Allen Poe being read is heard, with an instrumental line following the (slightly awkward) rhythm of the words, and at the end of this, chaos reigns over the speakers once more, eventually going into another burst of metal ending at about 4:45, and immediately after it ends comes an old man voice that has been compared to Grandpa Simpson, saying "Don't tell anybody, don't let'em know, there's a secret." This begins the catchy "secret song" portion of the track, which includes a little more of this silly voice. This runs up until about 8:40, is followed by something drumlike and then some choking/vomiting sounds and the next track begins soon afterwards.
Track 4 is described fairly accurately by its name, "Desert Search for Techno Allah." It combines some amount of Middle Eastern sounding music with electronica, and includes what sounds like an Arabic chant. This is probably my favorite track on the album. A few recurring musical themes in the track are used to good effect, as is the "chanting" vocal. A few bizarre sound effects can be heard throughout as well, a musical passage or two that sound vaguely like they could have come from a video game, and a sound in the final 20 seconds or so that remind me of radio dials being played with in an old movie.
The fifth track, "Violenza Domestica," opens with the sound of a knife being sharpened and a little bit of what sounds like music for a cheezy cop movie from the 80s. More sound effects abound through this track, and more strange and scary music, as well as some foreign-language (possibly Italian?) dialogue. This piece clocks in at a little over five minutes and definately has to be heard to be believed.
"After School Special" is the sixth track, and some might say it's sad. I think disturbing is a better word. Especially when it goes from saying, in reference to the mother, "She cooks, she cleans, she lies" to a little bit of happy kiddie show music....although this is nothing compared to the departure from music at about 1:50 with an unworldly-sounding child's voice. The track ends about a minute later, throwing the listener right into the opening drums of track 7, "Phlegmatics."
The first 20 seconds or so of "Phlegmatics" sound to me like they'd fit right in starting off a song on what would call itself an "alternative" radio station, until about a second and a half of metal overtakes it and then things get pretty quiet and calm...until about 30 seconds later, some nice fast drums come back in, although at low volume, so as not to interfere with the almost-haunting vocals....bizarre instrumentation follows, and there is a brief silence around 2:40 or so, but soon strange instrumentation is heard again followed by a loud metal chord, followed by what sounds like music for a children's movie for a dark, creepy environment like a haunted castle. The song ends with a return to the themes from the beginning of the song, and ends abruptly at about 3:15.
The listener has barely recovered from the end of "Phlegmatics" as a bit of pipe organ introduces the eighth song, "Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz." This song features more organs and bizarre vocal noises like "Chemical Marriage," but with more cartoon outbursts here and there, not just sound effects this time, but little bits of cartoony music. Through all this silliness, "Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz" manages to be fairly catchy, although not quite to the extent of "Chemical Marriage." Not danceable, but certainly catchy. Somehow, this song maintains a level of consistency with itself until it ends with some noises that sound vaguely like a human barking.
Track 9, "The Bends," is beyond description, but suffice it to say that it includes a few surprises. According to the liner notes, this track consists of ten sections: "Man Overboard," "The Drowning Flute," "Aqua Swing," "Follow the Bubbles," "Duet for Guitar and Oxygen Tank," "Nerve Damage," "Screaming Bends," "Panic in Blue," "Love on the Event Horizon," and "Re-Entry."
I'd never really paid much attention to track 10, "Backstrokin," before, but I'm picking up the strange retro vibe again here. I'm not sure if "lounge" is the word I'm looking for here, but whatever the appropriate word is for this type of music, I assure you that it's got the Mr. Bungle spin applied to it. The song pretends to end at about 2:10, only to get stranger for about another 20 seconds or so before ending.
Track 11 is called "Platypus," and sounds like a song about a platypus is supposed to sound, if you can imagine that, but in addition to the more platypus-appropriate bits, the song has a kind of funk bounce going through parts of it. This is another piece of aural chaos that's hard to describe, but in any case, the way it's represented in the liner notes is quite amusing.
Track 12, "Merry Go Bye Bye," not only sounds like a kiddie song in name, but in sound as well. At least for about a minute and a half, before the stereotypical "demonic metal" sound takes over. With a video game sound effect or two thrown in for good measure. Don't ask me how Patton-and-friends came up with this stuff, because I have no idea whatsoever. All I can tell you is that I love it.
Disclaimer: This little "guided tour" is not a substitute for the actual album by any means. Try as I might, I realize even more as I make this little attempt that this disc is truly beyond description. I can assure you, though, should you decide to hunt down and purchase this album, you will not regret it.