The quality of his first album and the backing of Acid Test, the label behind acid-leaning releases from artists such as Achterbahn D'Amour and Pépé Bradock, helped assuage criticisms of Frusciante as a hobbyist getting a free pass on his name alone. His influences were obvious—he's said how much he admires Aphex Twin—but, as an unpretentious package of wiggly electro and IDM, it worked. Frusciante has a natural ear for tender tones, and easily transmits the excitement of juicing noise from freshly acquired machines.
His working methods on Trickfinger reinforced these impressions. Each track was captured in a single go on a shitty recorder. You could imagine him sitting on the floor, trying out different combinations of drum patterns and synth modulations, scoping out new possibilities, geeking out as tracks begin to click and make sense. It's a nice picture. Trickfinger II, however, doesn't really evoke much more than that.
"Shift Sync" is a poor start. A trundling rhythm and a shy lead, as if peeking out from behind a corner, match up against what sounds like someone clinking a glass at a table. It feels every bit like a beginner's experiment. There are other clunkers here. "Hasan"'s 303 is texturally bland. "Stall" reaches for a Richard D. James-style bittersweet melody, but smothers it in frantic claps. With no space to breathe, it's simultaneously overloaded and undercooked.
Frusciante's strongest quality here is his sense of rhythm. His drum programming on both "Ruche" and "Exclam" is spry and clever. "Cuh" is the best of the bunch, with a serrated 303 lead and deep pound reminiscent of late '90s Laurent Garnier. This could go off in a club if used properly, which is more than can be said about most of Trickfinger II's one-take jams. A few years ago, Frusciante said he'd come to the end of the line of the conventional album release process, saying he had "no audience." Indeed, I'm not sure Trickfinger II needed to see the light of day.