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“Invitation to a Suicide”: A guide to John Zorn

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Sordel, Mar 31, 2021.

  1. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn was born in NYC in 1953. As a teenager he was already studying classical composition before being inspired as a teenager to take up saxophone by hearing Antony Braxton's album For Alto. He became a significant figure in the Downtown avant garde scene, where he developed some unique improvisational pieces utilising prompting. In his thirties he became internationally known for a series of landmark recordings beginning with an album of inventive Morricone re-inventions and culminating in Naked City: a “hardcore” band notable for its virtuosity & aggression. He started a long-running series of film scores in the same period.

    In his forties, after some time in Japan, he dramatically changed direction by starting the Masada quartet, which exclusively improvised around heads that Zorn had composed using Jewish scales. This lead to a more extensive Masada project with multiple ensembles and configurations performing music from what eventually became three books of heads.

    In his fifties and beyond Zorn's music has become ever more fertile with a significant expansion of his classical compositions, a new series of heads with atonal themes (the Bagatelles), a series of improvisations for pipe organ, chamber ensembles, rock bands and some frankly extreme one-off projects. I've got something over 210 Zorn albums and there are probably people on these boards who have more but, what the hell, I'm unlikely to run out of material.

    In this thread I will take on difficult the task of introducing John Zorn albums to an audience that may not have heard much, if any, of his music. Threads of this type are often “song by song” beginning at the start and ending at the end of a career but a chronological run through Zorn's discography would, frankly, not be much fun for anyone and his work is, in any case, “synchronic” in the sense that his many varying styles are generally present in some form or another. So I'll jump around, reaching for albums when the mood hits me.

    Listening to Zorn presupposes that you will run up against your limitations as a listener. I think it's possible to navigate a path through his catalogue that would keep an adventurous music fan within their comfort zone but that would really be to sell him short. Speaking as a huge (albeit belated) Zorn fan I feel that his strength is to take you places that you haven't been before and didn't know that you wanted to visit.

    For each album I will be giving a personal rating from 1-10 and I'll be trying to use as much of that range as possible. I will also give a “Parental Advisory” content guide with the following categories: Scares the Horses/Weird/Quirky/Accessible/Relaxed.

    Note that John Zorn albums are usually credited simply to him but I will adopt the habit of giving an ensemble name along with the title where possible.

    Some terms:

    Game refers to Zorn's game pieces where abrupt changes of style and direction are prompted, often with intervening moments of simulated chaos. This is always on the more avant garde end of his work.

    File Card is similar but refers to his compositions where pre-determined style sections are cued by the prompter using cards; these pieces are less chaotic but marked by sudden turns of direction and often their more protracted length.

    Downtown denotes the New York music scene that emerged in the 1960s as an antidote to uptown music. Characterised by its focus on avant garde experimentation and opposed to any particular genre, it is important to Zorn in terms of the cross-pollenation of musics and musicians that led to his early success as a live performer and recording artist.​
     
  2. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn, The Bribe: Variations and Extensions on Spillane
    [​IMG]

    Genre: Soundtrack, File Card
    Label & Year of Issue: Tzadik, Recorded 1986, Released 1998
    Categories: Weird/Quirky, Scares the Horses in places
    My Rating: 5/10

    Personnel:
    Marty Ehrlich (Reeds)
    John Zorn (Alto Sax)
    Jim Stalley (Trombone)
    Zeena Parkins (Harp)
    Robert Quine (Guitar)
    Anthony Coleman (Piano, celeste, organ)
    Wayne Horvitz (Organ)
    Christian Marclay (Turntables)
    David Hoestra (Bass)
    Bobby Previte (Percussion)
    Reck (Rhythm Guitar)
    Carol Emanuel (Harp)
    Ikue Mori (Drum Machines)​
    1. “Gill's Theme”. Film Noir pastiche Jazz with creamy sax lead, harp glissandi, finger snaps, organ lead, oompa brass band & polka inserts to end.
    2. “Hydrant of the Vogue”. Brief sound collage.
    3. “The Big Freeze”. Brief sound collage with small, jangling bells and foley work.
    4. “Meters”. Funk/ Soul with prominent bass guitar and organ. Raucous ‘60s guitar solo.
    5. “The Bridge/Cocktails”. ‘Tec Noir vibes & guitar, harp, foley work, turntable effects, segues into: a collage of several cocktail piano, then blues guitar over a more focused band section to abrupt end.
    6. “The Willies”. Brief game-style montage.
    7. “The Taxman Cometh”. Fairly conventional R’n’R number with sax.
    8. “Night Walk”. Orchestral drums and bells provide a dramatic film cue.
    9. “Skit Rhesus”. Idiomatic fast Jazz piece in what I'm going to call Hard Bop style with an Easy Listening outro.
    10. “The Boxer”. Brief collage.
    11. “Trick or Treat.” Turntable samples of soundtrack-type music, harp & orchestral drums then: an anxious piano phrase with keyboard strings.
    12. “The Latin Trip/Gill's Theme”. A Latin American dance number with idiomatic percussion including Jew's harp & guiro abruptly segues back into the Film Noir pastiche from track 1. This closes out Part One: Sliding on the Ice.
    13. “A Taste of Voodoo”. Guitar, drums and low-speed turntable “wind” against wavering high organ. A conga rhythm, acoustic bass.
    14. “Inhaling The Image.” In-your-face game-style montage.
    15. “City Chase”. A repeated trombone figure accompanied by double-time piano on a fairly idiomatic soundtrack cue with increasingly intrusive musical elements piled on top.
    16. “Dreams of the Red Chamber”. At over eleven minutes this is the longest track on an album where tracks are commonly about a minute long. This is a piece of Orientalism with birdsong, sustained organ notes and what sounds like koto (but is probably harp).
    17. “Rash Acts”. Extreme, game-style montage with angry guitar.
    18. “Chippewa”. Electronic drums with electric guitar on what is nearly a conventional, dancable Rock number.
    19. “The Hour of Thirteen”. Celesta, harp glissandi, bowed acoustic bass on another dramatic cue.
    20. “Radio Mouth/Gill's Theme”. Extreme game-style montage with a cartoon style in places, then back to the main theme for harp glissandi, walking bass, finger snaps, drum samples. This closes out Part Two: The Arrest.
    21. “Midnight, Streets”. Extended Noir Pastiche cue with walking bass, keyboard strings, foley work, samples, flute. Solo electric guitar coda.
    22. “Victoria Lake”. Trombone, keyboard strings, harp, celeste on probably the album's most magical and enticing track.
    23. “Strip Central”. This a Rock number that is repeatedly interrupted by game-style montage. High-spirited and wacky.
    24. “Pink Limousine”. At over nine minutes this is the other “long” track on this album and it's more Noir pastiche with the customary walking bass, held keyboard notes and harp glissandi. Muted brass stabs, flute solo. The piece appears to end just over three minutes in and we switch to an extended montage with foley work. About six and a half minutes we switch back to the “Gill's Theme” style with additional bell sounds & flute. More montage with percussion. This track is pretty much the entire album in microcosm.
    25. “Skyline”. More Noir pastiche.
    26. “Ordinary Lies/Gill's Theme”. Brief pastiche and then “Gill's Theme” to close out Part Three: The Art Bar
    The Bribe was composed for a play but its pastiche & montage elements place it in the main line of Zorn's work in the eighties: parts of it spilled over from the Spillane album which some may find a more economic and stylish version of what Zorn does here. At almost eighty minutes it's a double album “in the old money” and not a bad entry point for someone who wants a quintessentially Zorn listening experience but without straying too far from familiar genres. Importantly, it's also a highly coherent album: the same things happen over & over again so it's something that you can throw on to acclimatise yourself to the abrupt transitions that you get with file-card compositions. The fact that there are 26 “tracks” doesn't really matter much: it's could be one track or fifty. I bought this album quite early on in my journey and I still enjoy it but Christian Marclay's turntable technique was of its time and has not necessarily aged well. So today I rate it right in the middle of the field.
     
  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    As already stated.
    Very new to me. I probably won't have much of value to add, but I will be trying to follow along and learn about this really interesting bloke
     
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  4. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet: Voodoo
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Acoustic Jazz
    Label & Year of Release: Black Saint, 1986
    Categories: Accessible
    My Rating: 9/10

    Personnel:
    Wayne Horvitz, Piano
    John Zorn, Alto Sax
    Ray Drummond, Bass
    Bobby Previte, Drums​
    1. “Cool Struttin’”.
    2. “Minor Meeting”. A Zorn feature, enabling him to show off his fluid sax style but also provide some hints of the squalling that characterises his more avant garde work.
    3. “Nicely”.
    4. “Something Special”. A lot of fun and real toe-tapper.
    5. “Voodoo”. The longest track here at eleven minutes finds Zorn absolutely faithful to the sly good humour of the original head. Previte takes a solo spot and then we get flashes of the “real” Zorn in his extended solo that explores the full range of the instrument.
    6. “Sonia”.
    7. “Sonny's Crib”.
    There's no point labouring the track descriptions on this straightforward album of Sonny Clark Bop compositions: this is charming, melodic, acoustic Jazz right in the middle of the mainstream. On release, the liner notes by Howard Mandel felt the need to explain why performers more associated with the left field were performing such an idiomatic programme but the result is an absolute gem, and this is the disc Zorn fans should reach for when doubts are raised whether he could actually play Alto like a normal human being if he wanted to.

    Zorn is really sideman to Horvitz on this album, and even Jazz fans wary of Zorn should view this as a safe purchase: you'd have to be an incredibly picky sort of Jazz aficionado not to enjoy it. It looks as though it has been reissued (possibly remastered) on a label called Bethlehem so it is currently available.

    There's really not much else in the Zorn catalogue like this although, for different reasons, that could be said of so many of his individual discs.
     
  5. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    Voodoo

    Listening to the title track at the moment.
    Horovitz has a really nice touch on the piano. Previte and Drummond give us a really nice propulsive bed as the rhythm section.
    Zorn's sax seems to add a nice little swing into the equation.
    I can listen to stuff like this all day. Good players, nice feel, not completely traditional, but not overwhelmed with atonal noodlings.
    The playout towards the end when Zorn comes back in has some really nice runs, and it seems it would appeal to a lot of folks that enjoy their jazz melodic with a few twists and turns.
    A solid track.
     
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  6. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: A Classic Guide to Strategy Volume 4

    [​IMG]
    (I'm assuming that JZ doesn't wear lipstick so that appears to be blood on the album artwork!)

    Genre(s): Avant Garde/Solo Saxophone
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik, Recorded 2012, released 2016
    Categories: Scares the Horses/Weird
    My Rating: 4/10

    Personnel
    John Zorn, Alto Sax​

    The Wind Book 1-5

    Zorn's series of solo improvisations for saxophone is not for the faint of heart: even Jazz fans for the most part should steer well clear, at least until they have thoroughly immersed themselves in his style elsewhere. Previous volumes came out in 1983, 1986 and 2003 and they are very much predicated on an extended, or at least non-standard, set of techniques. Sometimes he sounds like a conventional saxophonist, at other times the sound is whistles, or squeals, or simply the sounds of the valves being tapped, or maybe playing the instrument with the mouthpiece removed, or maybe playing the mouthpiece with no instrument.

    I'm not qualified to say what every single technique is, which is reason enough for not attempting listening notes. If you want a possible point of entry, the fourth piece is modal and centred in the creamy low register of the instrument: the Masada listener will find something to enjoy here and , comparatively, this track is easy on the ear. Overall, however, the disc succeeds only as a demonstration of inventiveness and virtuosity ... which is, of course, reason enough for it to exist. It's important to bear in mind that - for a highly prolific musician - Zorn has been sparing with these releases, bringing them out only (presumably) when he felt that he had something to say. (By contrast he has released eight volumes of The Hermetic Organ series in seven years and - at the risk of pre-empting my later comments - I'm not convinced that he ever had that much to say on the instrument!)

    So, anyway, I have the advantage of having seen Zorn play live several times and I appreciate this release more for having some acquaintance with how he performs. I do have a favourite in the series and Volume 4 is not it. The acoustic is rather reverberant meaning that you always feel that the instrument is set at a distance. If this was the only disc like this I'd probably rave about it and slap an automatic 10/10 on it but I only reach for an album of solo saxophone improvisations (with virtually no melodic content) once every couple of years and saying that something is hugely impressive is very different from saying that one wants to listen to it.

    Having just listened to the full 45 minutes again for the purposes of this thread I am glad to be putting this in the rearview mirror but at the same time freshly astonished by the very vocal third track which is positively uncanny. This mix of repulsion & attraction is something that becomes quite familiar on the Zorn journey.

    _____________________________


    I was sorely tempted to include video links in this thread but decided not to for two reasons. In the first place, I'm sure that Zorn is bitterly opposed to the use of his music on YouTube (his music is not even carried on streaming services). Secondly, I think I might be too good at choosing “the good track” and thus creating a misleading impression of the music overall. If you want to check out anything I say in this thread then I'm sure that you can explore YT on your own recognisance.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2021
  7. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Masada: Alef

    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Acoustic Jazz, Masada
    Label & Year of Release: DIW, 1994
    Categories: Scares the Horses/Accessible
    My Rating: 8/10

    Personnel
    John Zorn, Alto Sax
    Dave Douglas, Trumpet
    Greg Cohen, Double Bass
    Joey Baron, Drums​
    1. “Jair”. Fast, raucous with all the splendid roughness and imprecision that you expect from Douglas & Zorn's interplay.
    2. “Bith Aneth”. A slow piece on what is effectively a Tango rhythm picked out by Baron's nuanced drumming. The frontline musicians improvise in parallel virtually throughout.
    3. “Tzofeh”. An uplifting Jewish dance (yes, I know that “Jewish” is redundant when discussing Masada, but some pieces call the word to mind more than others!) Unusually, Zorn holds a note while Douglas plays the recapitulation of the head nearly four minutes in. Baron takes a drum solo: I'm quite the Baron fanboy so this is always a cause for celebration.
    4. “Ashnah”. Slow, funereal atmospheric.
    5. “Tahah”. Another dance, ecstatic with a memorable head. More Baron gives rise to more assertive alternating measures from Zorn & Douglas.
    6. “Kanah”. In slow waltz time with slightly more room for Cohen, who begins the track unaccompanied.
    7. “Delin”. For this short piece, a notably Jazzier head makes way for a Cohen bass solo with delicate commentary from Baron.
    8. “Janohah”. A steady, mid-tempo walking bass introduction is picked up by the front line playing the sultry in unison. Douglas is given the distinctive little figure that rounds out the head and then plays, at first softly, in the space left as we go around the chords again. Zorn & Douglas play against one another with little sense of one or the other having the lead. Two minutes short of the end they trill together rather magically.
    9. “Zebdi”. Wildly racing lines from everyone on this short track including some very “out” playing.
    10. “Idalah-Abal”. A slow bass introduction gives way to the announcement of one of the most mysterious & compelling Masada heads. This one will be heard many times in the catalogue going forward and for me there are better takes out there.
    11. “Zelah”. Bass & drums open playing fast before the Jazzy head comes in. Zorn plays hot but controlled for his first solo. An emphatic climax for a long (one hour) debut.
    On February 20th 1994 the Masada quartet went into the studio and recorded four albums’ worth of material. Alef is the first Masada album to be released; this is history being made, although we will probably eventually get to the live recording from 1993 that was issued later. The same musicians recorded briefly as “Thieves Quartet” but this was the first recording of them playing Masada material and, for me, that makes it almost a sacred text despite the fact that there are better albums by this quartet to come. The idea for this quartet is one that Zorn took from Ornette Coleman who wanted a quartet with no chordal instrument so that implied chords could come entirely from the interplay of single-line instruments. It is certainly the counterpoint of Zorn & Douglas that defines the group, although the rhythm section is a treat of itself. Certainly there is no pure Jazz quartet I would rather listen to than this, although some listeners may find it brash in places.

    I picked up all ten DIW Masada releases in one go and I'd recommend anyone to do the same for fear that these discs eventually go out of print. As it is, availability is hit-or-miss although I believe that Downtown Music Gallery keeps them in stock. Fortunately there are some great live album and the fantastic compilation of unissued studio recordings, Sanhedrin, on Tzadik if you miss the boat. Needless to say, Alef is for Jazz fans only ... and I don't include people who just want Jazz as polite backing for dinner parties!

    I've rated this 8/10 despite the fact that I don't listen to it very often. The Masada catalogue (even the catalogue of Masada the original quartet) is large and this certainly isn't in the first three I'd reach for but the quality is nonetheless exceptional and my rating is thus, if anything, low.
     
  8. Jimbino

    Jimbino Goad Kicker, Music Lover

    Location:
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Thanks @Sordel for going deep on this.
    My next question is "where can I hear these?" Can someone list options beside Apple Music Store and Boomkat for sampling these albums?
     
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  9. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    Pink Limousine

    This is a pretty cool track.... and forgive my likely ignorant thoughts about it.
    The opening sequence is a really cool groove that has these excellent Glenn Miller-like stabs to it, and appeals to me a lot.
    The flute lays a really nice wandering melody on this... and aside from the phone dialing section we seem fairly straight forward.
    We get this cool crescendo of cymbals, and then at the 3:30 point, this stab of music that is somewhat Zappa-esque, and it bounces into this bright and chirpy section, which flows into the cinematic section.
    Really very cool, and certainly interesting. Almost a Lumpy Gravy variant going on here.
    After this series of cool interesting textures, we move into a cool section led by the flute. Then a percussive section, some nice electronic sounding swoops.

    Cool, interesting piece of music.
     
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  10. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    The tracks I checked out were on youtube.
     
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  11. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: The Satyr’s Play - Cerberus
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Chamber Music
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik, 2010
    Categories: Scares The Horses/Weird/Quirky/Accessible
    My Rating: 5/10

    Personnel
    Cyro Baptista, Percussion (The Satyr's Play)
    Kenny Wollesen, Percussion (The Satyr's Play)
    Peter Evans, Trumpet (Cerberus)
    David Taylor, Bass Trombone (Cerberus)
    Marcus Rojas, Tuba (Cerberus)
    John Zorn, Conductor​

    The Satyr's Play (subtitles “Visions of Dionysus”) is an eight-part suite for percussion and I wouldn't describe it as particularly avant garde in itself but it is made weird/wacky by the inclusion of sound effects such as a whip or a goat. You may be thinking “at 26 minutes, the two percussionists were already a hard pass and neither the whip nor the goat are sweetening this deal”. How about sexual moaning? No? Actually this is not a hard listen, varying from atmospheric & unsettling (Part 5) to intense (when gamelan sounds are invoked in Part 6) to stirring (when tribal drums begin to beat). Although the piece is divided into parts it is in spirit a single, file card piece with an implied narrative or series of narratives. Wollesen's vibe work connects the piece to the fine series of works in which he has played the same instrument. So it's not really one of Zorn's classical works. It's a one-off and - not least because it's beautifully recorded - it may suit an adventurous listener coming from any genre.

    At ten minutes, the brass trio Cerberus will more than likely scare the horses with its fearless, gymnastic demonstration of brass techniques and angry, atonal musical lines. Extended techniques are used, evoking disturbing or comical sounds but alternating with notable moments of lyricism as well. I feel very much that it is a piece designed to explore these instruments (and these musicians) at a particular moment in time, but equally it is a great example of Zorn the composer working with the unexpected and producing a challenging but compelling work that stands in a tradition while being uniquely his. For all that I praise the work I'd still come down to calling it “interesting”: a sign that my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered.

    This album is one of my proudest possessions because I own one of a numbered, limited edition of 66 copies that accompanied a very beautiful, illustrated goatskin-bound book signed by Zorn. As a trophy of fandom it's wonderful ... as an album it’s a middle-ranker. I think all Zorn fans have a list of albums that “you simply must listen to” and I bet that this album isn't on anyone's ... but I like it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2021
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  12. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: Sacred Visions
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Choral/Chamber Music
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik, 2016
    Categories: Scares The Horses/Accessible
    My Rating: 8/10

    Personnel
    Jane Sheldon, Voice
    Sarah Bailey, Voice
    Eliza Bagg, Voice
    Rachel Calloway, Voice
    Kirsten Sollek, Voice

    Chris Otto, Violin
    Ari Streisfield, Violin
    John Pickford Richards, Viola
    Kevin McFarland, Cello​

    The Holy Visions is a choral piece subtitled (deep breath) “a mystery play in eleven strophes concerning the life, work and philosophy of Hildegard von Bingen”. I like choral music anyway, but I particularly like John Zorn's and this piece is one of several choral works of his that have been in fairly regular rotation ever since I first heard them. As such, it's amongst his pieces that I've heard most frequently and I believe that this is also the piece that I saw live in London that completely bowled over my wife and made her (to a degree at least) a Zorn fan. It's extremely virtuosic, moving fluidly from style to style, with texts sung in Latin. As always with Zorn, a variety of approaches is taken, from atonal lines to chattering/whispering to warm Minimalism and Medieval simplicity but there is no part of the work where he “goes too far and spoils it” (to put it in terms that would probably so infuriate Zorn that he would add a strophe of simulated vomiting at the piece's next performance just to up the ante). I'll add that this the most sophisticated of the purely vocal works I've heard from Zorn: it really is a very accomplished piece of writing. And I love the way it closes with a gasp.

    The Remedy of Fortune (“Six Tableaux Depicting the Changing Fortunes of Romantic Love”) is another entry in Zorn's increasingly significant series of string quartets. These began with Modernist horror music which was already very competently written, but the later Zorn has a lot more to say than that. This piece is an affective sequence that moves from pain to desire to devotion to hope to beauty to longing to ecstasy to intoxication to frustration to anger to despair. (I'm not making this up ... it's in the liner notes!) So there's a certain pleasure to following along in an effort to follow transitions in what is still overwhelmingly a Modern string style: inventive in places but certainly in that established genre. There's a caper midway through: is it hope or ecstasy? The piece is fifteen minutes and performed here by the Jack Quartet. Comparatively it's hardly fair to say that it scares the horses but if the horses have been neglecting their Bartók it might make them a trifle anxious.

    So, I'd buy this just for The Holy Visions and I'd give the disc 8/10 on the strength of that piece alone with a rating of Accessible. But then it would only be a 23 minute disc which, at current Zorn prices, would be teeth-gnashingly expensive. So the string quartet is more of a bonus here unless you are a string quartet specialist in which case: it's a string quartet. Overall if you're straying into the classical side of his work this carries my recommendation but be advised that there are even more consonant vocal discs elsewhere in the catalogue.
     
  13. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: Pool
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Game Piece
    Label & Date of Release: Parachute, 1980 (Reissued on Tzadik, 1997)
    Categories: Weird/Quirky
    My Rating: 1/10

    Personnel:
    Polly Bradfield, Violin
    Mark E. Miller, Percussion, Contact Microphones, Vibraphone
    Charles K. Noyes, Percussion, Saw, Knéne (Google doesn't know what Knéne is by the way!)
    Bob Ostertag, Electronics (Serge Modular Synthesiser)
    John Zorn, Alto, Soprano Saxophones, Bb clarinets, game calls
    Leslie Dalaba, Prompter​

    Pool is a game piece that runs for fifty minutes across three first tracks on this disc. This is one disc of seven in The Parachute Years boxed set but I'm going to do them as individual albums because no human should have to audition the entire set in a single go; and I picked Pool because it's just one disc, which should tell you something. When I reviewed this for Amazon I gave the entire set one star out of five; here I'm giving it 1/10 for the simple reason that if you give a damn about the rating then you are not ready for this disc. The only reason for buying this is that possessing it has become the nexus of your fear & desire; in the full knowledge that it will be absolutely inaccessible but in your desperation to become one with Zorn's music by understanding what a Game Piece really means you will buy this boxed set. And you will not buy one of the individual volumes because in your heart of hearts you know full well that if you buy one volume you will never summon up the determination to buy the remaining ones.

    So, it's terrible, right?

    Not even that. This sound doesn't really scare the horses, it's not noisy or offensive. Imagine that you have a group of fantastic musicians who spent their education learning how to play dense, complex music. And then you teach them a system that will completely break that and will instead enable them to make very small, precise, unmusical noises. No harmony, no melody, no rhythm: merely sounds. Zorn does give some gnomic explanations of how the piece works (something to do with a revolving solo-duo-trio-quartet structure with the two percussionists counting as a single musician for those purposes, and any musician having the power to trigger silence at any point) but it says a lot that he quotes the following from his own score: “My concern is not so much with how things SOUND as with how things WORK”. So the music is an interactive structure inhabited by musicians concerned only with how the game works and consciously ignoring how the game sounds. The target is presumably that once the game works well enough the end point of the process will be a new form of music. We will come across game pieces in the discography that do give rise to interesting forms of music, but Pool is not one of them.

    Confusingly the disc includes a bonus track which is five minutes of a false start for Archery ... which is almost unbelievably exciting after listening to Pool!
     
  14. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: Taboo and Exile - Music Romance Volume Two
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Music Romance/Mixed
    Label & Date of Release: Tzadik, 1999
    Categories: Accessible/Scares The Horses, sometimes Quirky, sometimes Relaxed
    My Rating: 8/10
    1. “In The Temple Of The Hadjarim”. Personnel on this album are on a track-by-track basis. This track has five of the Bar Kokhba Sextet with Marc Ribot “switched out” for Jamie Saft on piano/organ: it's a stellar lineup and, frankly, a stellar piece of music as well with piano delicately & consonantly improvising over strings. I challenge anyone not to like this track.
    2. “Sacrifist”. Fred Frith & Marc Ribot on electric guitars, Bill Laswell on Bass and Dave Lombardo on drums. Angry hard rock.
    3. “Mayim”. This is performed by the Masada String Trio: Mark Feldman on Violin, Eric Friedlander on Cello and Greg Cohen on Double Bass. (They're also half of the Bar Kokhba Sextet). Here they play a rather firey, gamey Masada piece with, as ever from this grouping, beautiful interplay.
    4. “Koryojang”. A percussion duet for Joey Baron and Cyro Baptista. Two truly great percussionists laying down a tribal groove and staying in it for over six minutes. The only tonal element is, I think a Bloogle Resonator which provides a drone. (I could have called it a whirly tube but I just wanted to type Bloogle Resonator.) Cool track.
    5. “Bull's-Eye”. Mike Patton on Vocals, Robert Quine on Lead Guitar, Marc Ribot on Rhythm Guitar, Chris Wood on Bass, Sim Cain on Drums. Obviously this scares the horses but it's only a minute long and has a sixties Rock feel to me.
    6. “Zeraim”. Same line-up as track 1, with a very Masada/Bar Kokhba Sextet feel. (As a point of reference this is moot if you don't know what the Bar Kokhba Sextet is but, trust me, it's a good thing.)
    7. “Thaalapalassi”. Same line-up as track 2 but this track is over ten minutes long. It begins with feedback and atmosphere until some load, echoing drumbeats enter and build in intensity without producing any sense of backbeat. The obvious point of reference is Painkiller, which also features Laswell, but we haven't touched on Painkiller yet. This is a moody piece all about directionless crescendos: it has a post-Rock feel.
    8. “Makkot”. The Masada String Trio again. This is one of my favourite of their Masada pieces: a really joyful track that I playlisted so it's very familiar indeed.
    9. “A Tiki For Blue”. Ribot, Saft, Cohen joined by Roberto Rodriguez on Percussion. This has an Easy Listening/Exotica feel that anticipates another Zorn ensemble, The Dreamers. Personally I'm not wild about this corner of Zorn's discography and I find Saft’s organ sound rather weedy. Your mileage may vary.
    10. “The Possessed.” John Zorn on Sax joining Frith, Laswell & Lombardo. Zorn blows hard throughout this track and if you're just dipping your toe into his sax work then your toe should be thoroughly dipped by the end of these six minutes.
    11. “Oracle”. Saft, Friedlander and Baptista are joined by Miho Halori, whose mysterious, sweet, girlish vocals over held organ notes and ticking percussion make for a curiously magical experience.
    12. “Koryojang (End Credits)”. More of track 4.
    This is an exceptional album with a stellar line-up of musicians, many of whom are legends within their field. As you will have gathered, it has the feel of a sampler with a little of most of the fields that Zorn was exploring at the end of the Twentieth Century although his focus has shifted so much in the subsequent twenty years that it would be a very different album if he tried to do it today. Although there are tracks here that don't do it for me personally I would recommend this to a newcomer, always bearing in mind that disliking some of his music is as much a part of the full-fat experience as liking it. I think Zorn fans often recommend albums that are 100% “safe” without bearing in mind that safe albums do not Zorn fans make.
     
  15. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Mary Halvorson Quartet, Paimon: Book Of Angels Volume 32
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Electric Jazz, Masada
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik 2017
    Categories: Quirky/Accessible
    My Rating: 5/10

    Personnel:
    Mary Halvorson (Electric Guitar)
    Miles Okazaki (Electric Guitar)
    Drew Gess (Double Bass)
    Tomas Fujiwara (Drums)​
    1. “Chaskiel”. Entertainingly busy little piece. Throughout this album the guitarists are often playing single lines (rather than chords) giving an appealing sense of counterpoint.
    2. “Reniel”. Game style piece.
    3. “Ruhiel”. Less obviously “Masada” due to its comparatively Western feel.
    4. “Dahariel”. The long head sounds like a Jewish song but the improvisation is relaxed before counterpoint starts up between the guitarists and continues through the return of the head.
    5. “Yeqon”. Slow & atmospheric with the head played several times in varying ways.
    6. “Uzza”. Game style head but the improv has a strong sense of direction & momentum. The guitarists lock occasionally into the same riff before diverging into counterpoint.
    7. “Verchiel”. A more Easy Listening style piece reminiscent of the Bar Kokhba Sextet. Bass solo.
    8. “Jesodoth”. More counterpoint throughout a short but effective piece with quite a defined head.
    9. “Phul”. Halvorson uses a lot of delay on this track which is extended and in the mainstream of Masada compositions.
    10. “Rachmiah”. A ballad head with a strong soundtrack feel. Very easy on the ear tending towards Sleepy.
    Mary Halvorson is a superstar of the younger generation of Downtown performers and this album has been widely acclaimed. It's also the final volume of the immense second book of Masada heads, which gives it a special prominence all of its own. Even among Book Of Angels albums, however, there are a lot I'd rate higher. I've marked it as Quirky because Halvorson's signature style employs a digital “hiccup” effect that is pretty much unique to her and you're going to notice it a lot. Many of the Book Of Angels albums feel like one-offs and this is very much one of those, but most people seem at least to like it so if you're looking for a way into Zorn from outside the mainstream of his bands this would be well worth checking out.
     
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  16. Jimbino

    Jimbino Goad Kicker, Music Lover

    Location:
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Cheers @Sordel !
    I'm checking this out for the first time with samples via Apple Music Store. I've had a hard time getting into Mary Halvorson, but this album makes it a little easier.
    There's no denying her skill, but I think I'd really have to be in that kind of mood to take on an album of hers. Her duo LP with Frisell, The Maid With The Flaxen Hair, is interesting, but not something I'll be revisiting soon.
     
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  17. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    I was considering picking up that album only yesterday although I didn't pull the trigger. Her new Zorn album in the Bagatelles series is, I think, very good but I’m not quite a fan ... yet.
     
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  18. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Simulacrum: Simulacrum
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Metal
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik, 2015
    Categories: Accessible/Scares the Horses
    My rating: 6/10

    Personnel:
    John Medeski (Organ)
    Matt Hollenberg (Guitar)
    Kenny Grohowski (Drums)​
    1. “The Illusionist”. At twelve minutes, this is one hell of an introduction for a power organ trio that I ended up terming “Metal” because there is really no less misleading term: I did consider calling Simulacrum “Progressive Metalcore” but it's just as wrong. For nearly five minutes this track is snippets of aggressive rock, then we get a stiller and more relaxed section, then a quasi-Jazz frenetic phase, a meltdown, a more melodic section that bursts into life with a Rock organ break. There is some wilder Jazz towards the end into a dissonant guitar solo and angry ending.
    2. “Marmarath”. A heavy riff which continues throughout much of the piece except for a couple of breakdowns. Held organ chords that change into arpeggios.
    3. “Snakes and Ladders”. An atmospheric organ introduction for the first minute then virtuosic fast metal with Eastern inflections predominantly in 6/8. Thunderous blast beats and then an angular finale.
    4. “Alterities”. Game-style piece notable for its appealing, repeated Middle Eastern Rock section.
    5. “Paradigm Shift”. Slow Leslie for the first half minute then a powerful technical riff with shifting emphasis goes into a fuller Thrash section with blast beats followed by tricky time signatures and solos from guitar and organ before a big finish. A highlight with a definite progressive feel.
    6. “The Divine Comedy”. Everything Simulacrum does is on this 13-minute piece: technical Thrash, atmospheric organ sections, meltdowns, Masada-esque Eastern sections, gently flowing arpeggiated passages, angular atonal obbligatos. There is a surprisingly low-key coda to round off the album.
    After Moonchild retired, Zorn appears to have looked for another band to perform his metal and Simulacrum was the result. It has become one of Zorn's most prolific recent bands (eight albums in its first six years) and to be honest it's a band that's difficult to dislike, characterised by its incredible musicianship combined with dumb, headbanging riffs that reward the listener for “hanging in there” with technical, angular, difficult sections. It helps that Grohowski is an astonishing drummer and Medeski a very seasoned performer ... he had performed on the later Moonchild albums and was fully cognisant of the style. It's testament to Hollenberg that the music generally feels guitar-driven and I never miss a bass guitarist.

    This album provides most of the material for the 2020 live album, Beyond Good And Evil. I think that there are better albums in the Simulacrum catalogue and they are not my favourite Zorn vehicle so I'm giving this album a harsh 6/10 but it's a very strong debut and stands up well if you're looking for something from the heavier end of the catalogue.
     
  19. Izozeles

    Izozeles Pushing my limits

    I’m impressed with the OP knowledge. This could serve as a JZ guide to anyone
     
  20. ATR

    ATR Senior Member

    Location:
    Baystate
    I've known about Zorn and listened to his music since the 70's. He's been pretty scrupulous, it seems, about keeping his music off of streaming platforms. I say this based on seeing what's up of his on Qobuz. For my money the albums to hear are the two trios with George Lewis and Bill Frisell, News for Lulu and More News for Lulu, At The Mountains of Madness, the Yankees trio with Lewis and Derek Bailey, duets with Milford Graves, Rivers, another trio with George Lewis where the third leg is trumpeter Leo Smith, and Masada Live in Jerusalem 1994. Zorn is well known for his interest in and collaboration with speed metal bands also.
     
  21. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: First Recordings 1973
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Experimental
    Label & Date of Release: Recorded 1973-4, Released on Tzadik, 1995
    Categories: Weird/Quirky/Scares the Horses
    Rating: 3/10

    Personnel:
    John Zorn, Saxophones, Toy Percussion, Voice, Television, Turntables, Jew's Harp, Piano, Drums etc.​
    1. “Mikhael Zoetrope, Act One.” Where do I start with this thing? The piece as a whole was recorded as “an improvisational performance in two continuous takes (right channel then left channel)”. You have to approach it as a radically avant garde tape piece: there are some musical events but often the piece is about shouting, growling or ambient sounds. At one point he blows into a bowl of water, one of the many extended techniques that typifies his early career in the Downtown scene.
    2. “Mikhael Zoetrope, Act Two.” A quiet, restrained start with, eventually, more pervasive use of televisions and occasional vocalisation. “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” played on the kazoo. A chorus of recorders sound like a whistling wind.
    3. “Mikhael Zoetrope, Act Three.” Another quiet start then what sounds like a war film alongside the winding of clock. Dripping/lapping water. Bottles are used as bells (had to turn this down ... really quite loud!) Shortly before the end a television is turned on again but the close of the piece is mainly quiet.
    4. “Conquest of Mexico - Part One: Warning Signs.” Conquest of Mexico was apparently a “happening” organised by Zorn in which live musicians performed over a backing tape that he had prepared with an avant garde soundtrack. There are no recordings of the finished work but this is the backing tape, which does make me wonder whether at some point we will get a new version with live instrumentalists. Anyway, it differs from Mikhael Zoetrope in that there are a lot of electronically processed sounds such as you might find in a 1970s TV movie if a character was supposed to be drunk, drugged or hallucinating: I definitely get that vibe. Whistling feedback and delayed percussive sounds are also a feature.
    5. “Conquest of Mexico - Part Two: Confession.” More electronics & whistling though (maybe it's just me!) this short piece seems to work somewhat.
    6. “Conquest of Mexico - Part Three: Convulsions/Abdication.” Another short piece, more of the same.
    7. “Wind Ko/la”. Even Zorn is wry about this piece, which seems to be a muffled recording of himself torturing a guitar in various ways for three minutes.
    8. “Automata of Al Jazari”. Zorn jump-cuts between several film soundtracks for about a minute. As he says in the notes this is a glimpse of things to come.
    9. “Variations on a Theme by Albert Ayler/Requiem for Albert”. Ayler, also an Alto Saxophonist, is claimed as an influence by Zorn and (I assume that) his recordings are transformed as part of this piece, which stays close to the sound of Conquest of Mexico due to the prominent electronic manipulations.
    The cover of this album has a photograph of what I assume is an (unrecognisable) John Zorn aged about ten(?) but these pieces are not juvenilia: he was around twenty when he recorded them and they are informed by music theory. These are the products of a clever music student, rather (too) taken with then cutting edge trends. The result is more “constructed” than, for example, Pool: one senses a composer's ideas even though at times those ideas go beyond the merely irritating to become genuinely annoying.

    If you're tempted to try Zorn's game pieces to understand where his later music “comes from” then there's an even more compelling reason to own this disc for the same reason: the screaming; the respect for the role of non-events in music; the interest in cartoons, comedy & musical found objects; many of Zorn's most characteristic idiosyncrasies are here in embryo. I can absolutely understand why the older Zorn speaks with such reverence in the liner notes about the works of his younger self and there have been a couple of recent albums by him that have seemed to draw him back to similar territory. I can also see why he wanted this music in print, but it would be remiss of me not to warn off any potential purchaser. This is nearly eighty minutes of music of which quite possibly you will never want to hear a single bar twice.

    I should add that while Zorn is intense about his own work he is also quite aware that this disc is a stretch. In the notes he writes as follows: “Only with these recordings did I discover the kind of ecstasy we are all in search of in one form or another, and with this release I hope that a small part of that adolescent creative ecstasy I experienced might rub off on the listener. In any event, these pieces should at least be good for a few laughs.”
     
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  22. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Smith/Laswell/Zorn: The Dream Membrane
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Dark Ambient(?)
    Label & Date of Release: Tzadik, 2014
    Categories: Weird
    My Rating: 6/10

    Personnel
    David Chaim Smith, Voices and Text
    Bill Laswell, Bass Guitars, Drones
    John Zorn, Shofar, Alto Saxophone​

    This is one track of 47 minutes and although I rate this as Weird I also think it's pretty good. David Chaim Smith is Kabbalist, a visual artist and, I suppose, prose poet. “The Dream Membrane” begins as follows: “The wonderland forest of blazing nothingness is a sacrificial beast, a pregnant beast, filled with worlds and souls. Conventional reality is the ash of its smoldering corpse. Poetic resonance is the rising smoke of its burning flesh. The mass of its reality is seized along with its shadow, unreality.” It's pretty heavy stuff, and would make for a good Death Metal lyric I guess, except that Smith reads his own words in a professorial voice, as though his fantastic visions are a matter of pedestrian fact. He has a pleasant, educated way of speaking and I find his impenetrable, overly-detailed and lettered pencil drawings (such as the one on the album cover) strangely enticing. I actually bought one of his books after hearing this album and I own one of his prints as well.

    The narration takes place in blocks spaced throughout the music, which is an organic, unsettling drone into which bass guitar sometimes plays sympathetically. The drone sometimes shifts in interesting ways due (I think) to subtly changing the time setting on the oceanic reverberation. Zorn plays the Shofar, which is a bugle fashioned from an animal horn and used almost exclusively for Jewish religious ceremonies. The sound (more of a cry than a note) is often combined with saxophone as though to make a single instrument: the sound is mournful. Zorn's alto sax is heard in a more tormented register about 35 minutes in ... but if you've listened that far you're probably on board by that point.

    To say the least this will not be for everyone. It's meditative, mystical and the sort of thing that triggers Satanic Panic. Importantly, it isn't a John Zorn album: Smith & Laswell are the senior partners in this trio. But it's a hypnotic piece that rather tends to live in the imagination when you're not listening to it and there's a lot to be said for that. I don't listen to it often but I always enjoy it when I do.
     
  23. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Brian Marsella: The Heirophant
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Acoustic Jazz
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik, 2019
    Categories: Accessible, may Scare The Horses briefly in places
    My Rating: 8/10

    Personnel:
    Brian Marsella, Piano
    Trevor Dunn, Double Bass
    Kenny Wollesen, Drums​
    1. “The Heirophant”. Begins with a dynamic, atonal head with high energy and maintains a strong Jazz feel throughout.
    2. “The High Priestess”. Begins with a minimalist, laid-back repeated phrase whose tonality is called into question by different harmonies before entering a very smooth, enjoyable, swung improvisation section. Bass prominent later in the piece as the head re-enters. A beautiful, flowing improv section proves to be the coda.
    3. “The Devil”. Another spikey head, scrapey bowed bass, a brief section for drums, piano over a fast walking bass, piano suddenly becomes more liquid to end the piece.
    4. “The Magician”. An uneasy arpeggio in the piano for over two minutes, then a more melodic section before the same arpeggio returns.
    5. “The Hermit”. Unaccompanied piano throughout. An angular composition with a stop/start feel that could be mistaken for contemporary classical.
    6. “The Hanged Man”. File Card feel. Restless walking bass and urgent cymbals with cascading Jazz lines in piano. Very “out” playing with aggressive dynamics, then bowed bass and suddenly we are into a propulsive groove. Marsella is all over the keyboard reminding me of a Nancarrow player piano. Staccato piano playing into a brief quiet section and then suddenly we hear the piano trio playing rock for a few bars before a new section with atmospheric quiet drumming and distant arco effects from Dunn. A wakeup alarm from Marsella and we're into Blaxploitation funk for a few bars before we head back to Jazz. Now we're changing Jazz feel every few bars until the piano & bass settle on one style for a while, mounting to an angry climax and a surprisingly chill final phrase.
    7. “Death”. Deep drums, the bowed bass groans in anguish, extended techniques in the piano interior, a sense of stasis. Gloomy but effective.
    8. “The Tower”. High notes reiterated on piano provide this piece with its head but the overall feel is again Jazzy, restless. Sprays of piano notes seem to take Marsella to the limits of his control before a motoric section reintroduces the head, eventually underpinned with rising notes in the left hand.
    9. “The Lovers”. Late night Jazz chords segue into a sweet, Pastoral piece with soaring sections. Shifting time signatures.
    Brian Marsella is a simply amazing pianist and his participation will often correlate with very high rankings in this thread, which highlights one of Zorn's superpowers: getting the greatest musicians in successive generations to work with him. This was my #3 album of the year in 2019 and a great point of entry to Zorn's rewarding 21st Century series of discs performed by acoustic Jazz ensembles. “The Hanged Man” is pretty much a must-hear although I think the list of must-hear Zorn pieces probably runs into tens of hours.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2021
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  24. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    John Zorn: New Traditions In East Asian Bar Bands
    [​IMG]

    Genre(s): Sui generis
    Label & Date of Release: Recorded 1986, 1988, 1990. Released by Tzadik, 1997
    Categories: Quirky
    My Rating: 6/10
    1. “Hu-Die”. Bill Frisell & Fred Frith on electric guitars improvise during a narration in Chinese by Zhang Jinglin whose soft, often dispassionate voice becomes a key musical element in a piece lasting 25 minutes. The guitar lines often sound Chinese, but not slavishly so and there is a lot of music in this piece, which feels experimental without being odious about it. It's a quiet, coherent, focused work.
    2. “Hwang Chin-ee”. Joey Baron & Samm Bennett on drums during a narration in Korean by Jung Hee Shin whose manner is more declamatory/theatrical but also unfortunately slightly muffled. At just over quarter of an hour this is much the shortest of the pieces on the album and features for the most part thunderous, primal drumming alternating with subtle stick-work. The text is written in sijo, which is a Korean verse form rather like haiku. Later in the piece the narration becomes significantly louder, even breaking into laughter, and the drums keep pace with this emotional crescendo. At the climax the drums come to a dramatic & fitting stop.
    3. “Quê Trân”. Anthony Coleman & Wayne Horvitz on keyboards improvise during a narration in Vietnamese by Ánh Trân, who speaks almost seductively through a veil of heavy reverberation. The keyboards (synths really) again take on some of the Eastern colouration, favouring bell-like tones, but I feel that technology which probably once sounded opulent now feels dated: one performer, for example, is unduly heavy on the mod wheel. The music is punctuated at intervals by a metal percussive sound (presumably sampled?) which becomes part of the musical logic of the piece. Otherwise, musical gestures are spare and repeated several times in the course of the half hour, resulting in a minimalist feel that somewhat relents six minutes from the end when the musicians have a sense of restrained climax.
    To be a Zorn fan (as opposed to, say, a Masada fan, which is a very different thing) is to be excited by an album like this that no one else could (or would think to) create. At 72 minutes this is admittedly a challenge to the listener's concentration and - despite the fire and urgency of the second piece - overall it is a sombre, introspective album. The easiest thing to do would be to argue that it achieves what it sets out to achieve and is thus an automatic 10/10 but in my subjective rating I have to rate it on the basis of how much I like it and how much I want to listen to it: both of which considerations lead me to knock it down. You could increase my rating if you wanted this disc as background music, or were susceptible to ASMR. Either way, this is a “deep cut” from the catalogue that would probably get more positive attention if more people heard it.
     
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  25. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Moonchild: Ipsissimus
    [​IMG]

    Genre: Metal/Progressive(?)
    Label & Year of Release: Tzadik, 2010
    Categories: Scares the Horses
    My Rating: 7/10

    Personnel
    Mike Patton, Voice
    Trevor Dunn, Bass
    Joey Baron, Drums
    Marc Ribot, Electric Guitar
    John Zorn, Alto Sax (on “Seven Sigils”), Piano (on “The Door of Los”)​
    1. “Seven Sigils”. Heavy riff, Patton's threatening vocals, then Zorn’s alto goes into a shriek. The riff changes several times. Patton vocalises further and sings the riff with the bass unexpectedly. Later he sings in unison with the sax, which then takes a Jazzy solo transitioning to characteristic squeals.
    2. “The Door of Los”. For the first three and a half minutes: piano from Zorn, comparatively clean guitar from Ribot and a low, consonant feel with Patton singing purely. Dunn breaks into a heavy riff and Ribot cuts loose with the noisy guitar lines before a brief chaotic game section and Patton begins speaking in tongues. Ribot takes a guitar solo. At 6.40 you get a terrific riff from Dunn which is then doubled by Ribot. The song ends with a blood-curdling scream from Patton.
    3. “Apparitions I”. The first of three atonal, avant garde improvisations. About two minutes in you get some sense of direction for a while but it returns to joyless noise for the remainder.
    4. “Supplicant”. A heavy, primitive beat while Patton rambles demonically. Extensive, Hendrix-inflected guitar from Ribot. Three and half minutes in you get a new riff and renewed momentum but this degenerates into a feedback-drenched end.
    5. “Tabula Smaragdina”. Fast, technical riff with shifting time signatures. Patton cuts loose on a track that largely features his vocals.
    6. “Apparitions II”. Largely static and ugly throughout.
    7. “The Changeling”. This is a duet for Bass and drums. First a heavy riff and then something more Masada in feel while Baron cuts loose. There's chaos for a few bars later on but otherwise it's a focused piece of Metal momentum.
    8. “Warlock”. Chiming guitar strings with clean bass backing suggest that this is going to be something rather calm and mystical. Then Patton narrates hellishly and there's some riffage before before we're back in the first style, with alternation proceeding through the song and Ribot contributing more blistering solo work. He has a killer riff late in the third minute.
    9. “Apparitions III”. More of the same.
    This was the fifth album in the Moonchild series, where the common elements are the trio of Patton, Dunn & Baron. It's easy to make fun of what Patton does but it's amazing to see live: his discipline, focus and fearlessness are striking. Patton of himself pretty much guarantees that horses will be scared, however, and Zorn's own contribution on sax, plus the free improvisations, mean that even a Death Metal fan may find this music occasionally taxing.

    Nevertheless, this is a good album and in the middle of the pack for me within the Moonchild discography. Zorn understood how to get a lot out of this band (he conducted it in the studio) and despite the fact that the feel of the music is consistent there's a lot more going on than first meets the ear. Dunn's bass riffs in particular are a treat and his ability to move fluidly between Zorn's heavier bands (on bass guitar) and his acoustic ensembles (often on Double Bass) is a tribute to his virtuosity.
     
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