Sunday, April 12, 2015

John Zorn - Simulacrum (Tzadik, 2015)

Billed as “the most extreme organ trio ever” John Zorn supplies the compositions and then sets loose the trio of John Medeski on organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar on a wild ride which throws free jazz, metal and progressive rock into a blender. “The Illusionist” begins the album with Medeski’s organ shielding the guitar and drums before they break out for a grinding section, which sounds like the Tony Williams Lifetime on a generous helping of amphetamines. This is a long performance and the group is able to control the dynamics of the music by dropping down into quieter, spacier sections before putting the boot back in. Smears of organ and guitar over kinetic drumming drives their improvisation to a locomotive conclusion. “Marmarath” has a crushing metal riff echoed by heavy, pummeling drumming slashing into pure relentless noise. There is a complex interplay at work on “Snakes and Ladders” with the mysterious sounding organ offering up a twilight zone effect, accentuated by zaps of electric guitar. Hollenberg jacks things back up with a massive riff, building to a scalding solo, and moving forward with a hard metallic grind. “Alterities” is reminiscent of one of Zorn’s games pieces or a Naked City vignette, with choppy start/stop organ trading jabs with guitar and drums. Ominous organ and smeared guitar are featured on “Paradigm Shift” before Hollenberg’s guitar sharpens up and does battle with Grohowski’s crushing beat. The band goes all out in a thrilling fashion as Medeski’s organ scrabbles for purchase amidst the drum and guitar onslaught. “The Divine Comedy” develops a spooky spooky theme, atmospheric organ building the aura with prog rock overtones. Suddenly the hammer is dropped, and the band goes all out like a post-modern Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s a long blowout of heavy grating and relentless guitar made even more poignant by the brief breaks of near silence that occur sporadically. Although John Zorn doesn’t play on this album, his fingerprints are all over it. He is able to compose for particular musicians and situations that work like clockwork, making for ceaselessly stimulating music. Simulacrum -

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