Tuesday, April 05, 2016

John Zorn - The Painted Bird (Tzadik, 2016)

This is the fourth album within a year by one of John Zorn’s newest ensembles, featuring John Medeski on organ, Ches Smith on congas and voudun drums, Kenny Wollesen on vibes, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar. The music is uncategorizable, with the compositions mixing jazz, heavy metal, exotica and more. “Snakeskin” opens the album with vibes smashing up against snarling guitar and drums powering a dynamo that allows sparks to fly in the extreme. Cool swinging neon guitar builds pace as the drums thrash, while vibes sway and shimmer all around the musical field, amidst washes and crashing waves of organ. Hollenberg builds nice riffs of guitar that saw in the background then jump to the forefront with a slithering hissing solo. Slash and burn guitar with organ and drums riding point open “Plague” like the horsemen of the apocalypse riding forth. There is a massive wall of pure noise, which is simply overpowering as the musicians threaten to immolate themselves, spontaneously combusting from the friction of the forces at play. On “Ravens” organ and bass pedals make for a really heavy sludge when combined with slash and burn guitar and drums. In this case, Medeski’s organ sounds like Larry Young in a post modern version of the classic group Tony Williams Lifetime. Hollenberg strikes an epic guitar hero pose with a blast of sound, spinning out some incredible virtuously with out showing off (too much) and jousting with Grohowski’s drums. The music on “Comet” begins over the top, but then there is a break for vibes, with excellent dynamism at play, exemplifying aspects of John Zorn compositions: expect the unexpected, both in instrumentation and execution. Like throwing white hot post-metal guitar against vibraphone and pummeling drums. You expect chaos, and you get it, but it is chaos that works. “Cinders” has choppy strong guitar and vibes in check with one another, while the drums rumble underneath with excellent swells of swirling organ. Hyper drums fill in the gaps keep the music moving briskly. Riffing guitar and dark organ fill the musical space completely on “Night” and play off against squiggled sections of organ, dynamically shifting from one plane of existence to another. The music lightens with prominent vibes and congas, then metallic toned guitar builds up from the bottom of the improvisation to become more prominent before they return to the riff based opening that began their journey. “Spike” has vibes along with grinding organ and and in your face guitar making their presence felt, before opening up a section of subtle vibes and hand percussion. It doesn’t last and the dramatic downshift to near chaos can catch you off guard. Medeski kills it though; both he and the band can handle whatever Zorn throws at them. This album worked very well. In John Zorn’s sound world nothing is sacred and music of all kinds are used in the development of his compositions. Combine this with like minded musicians called upon to play them and you get something that is very impressive and unpredictable. Painted Bird - amazon.com

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