Friday, August 07, 2015

John Zorn - Pellucidar (Tzadik, 2015)

One of John Zorn’s many bands is the melodic, nearly lounge band called The Dreamers. They have examined exotica, the music of the Polynesian Islands and even made a Christmas album. Subtitled A Dreamers Fantabula, the music is performed by Cyro Baptista on percussion, Joey Baron on drums, Trevor Dunn on bass, Marc Ribot on guitar, Jamie Saft on keyboards and Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone. This album combines a wide number of musical forms with the musical style that The Dreamers have developed over the past several years. “Magic Carpet Ride” opens the album with shimmering vibes buoyed by beams of guitar and gentle electric piano. The music is quietly melodic, shaded by the reverberation of the ringing vibes. Ribot’s guitar has a very cool dusty western feel to it on “Gormenghast” like a gunfighter biding his time. The vibes hang the music in open space and allow things to develop organically. “Queen of Ilium” features the percussion, bass and drums, which drive the music forward, with particular deference given to Trevor Dunn who has an excellent strong and powerful bass tone. Saft’s electric piano glides in, adding a groovy sensibility that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Return to Forever record. There is some medium tempoed guitar on “Once Upon a Time” supported by percussion and there is a silky and fun section for guitar and vibraphone playing off of one another, before the electric piano and light percussion ease the song out. “The Fight For Salem” up the ante with urgent vibes and percussion while streaks of electric guitar flash overhead like shooting stars. The musicians develop an excellent sense of texture and pacing to this performance. Electric piano and thick bass make for a fine foundation on “Atlantis” for sharp shards of Ribot’s guitar which are fired across hand percussion and rippling vibes before Dunn takes another excellent solo, creating nice thick pulses of music. The culminating track is “Jewels of Opar” where things get off to a flying start with a fast choppy drums and percussion rhythm with vibraphone accents. All of the percussion instruments moving relentlessly forward with thick bass holding it all together with shimmering electric piano and vibes cresting that wave before Ribot finally slips the leash and blasts out howling and snarling guitar like a feral beast who has been backed into a corner but is ready to come out fighting. It’s interesting that all of the musicians gathered here have been associated with the avant garde and of the spectrum whether playing Zorn’s music or other projects of their own. They acquit themselves very well playing this melodic, pleasant and easy listening music. Perhaps that is the most subversive act of all. Pellucidar -

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