Wednesday, March 04, 2015

John Zorn - Hen to Pan (Tzadik, 2015)

This album is a selection of chamber music composed by John Zorn and performed by the group of Steve Gosling on piano, Jay Campbell and Michael Nicolas on cello, Chris Otto on violin and Tyshawn Soreyon drums. These musicians play in different groupings from duo on up and Tzadik’s website touts this music as visceral, intense and powerfully emotional. The album opens with “Ouroboros (trio version 1)” which begins with drums and wild strings, developing an uneasy feel with slashing strings and drums. The music is very exciting and unnerving, ranging from abstract section to music of a more violent nature, both dynamic and untethered. “Occam’s Razor” comes alive with droplets of piano notes playing off against bowed strings. The music is able to move from a whisper to a scream in ways that are by turn dark and foreboding. Sawing bow and string plucks usher in “Ouroboros (duo version)” before moving into a bowed section of astonishing speed, fast as possible before dropping off on a dime. The sweeps of acoustic noise and the coiled tension is equally hypnotic and telepathic. “The Aristos” moves through cutting strings and piano before dropping into sections of anxious silence then climbing to the heights of complexity and then cutting off abruptly. The concluding piece is  “Ouroboros (trio version 2)” where Sorey’s confident and evocative drumming moves against wickedly fast strings before crashing into abstraction and then rebounding and driving to an intense and heavy conclusion. I do not know much about chamber music (as this post no doubt makes abundantly clear) but it really lives up to Tzadik’s claim that this is “chamber music as you have never heard it before.” Dense, visceral and at times a little frightening this is music that demands your full attention. Hen to Pan -

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