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John Zorn - Magick CD (album) cover

MAGICK

John Zorn

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.28 | 10 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: B

I've really been enjoying John Zorn's classical music recently, and for good reason. It is truly beautiful. It's exquisitely, meticulously composed, imbued with an undeniably intellectual aura, but it's beautiful nonetheless. Even when it's jarring and dissonant (as it often is), it's still beautiful. Magick, the CD that introduced me to this facet of John Zorn, is no exception, despite being one of the more jarring classical CDs he's released yet. Like Redbird and Duras:Duchamp, Magick has two compositions, one long, one short. Unlike both of those CDs, however, both compositions are fantastic, rather than just one of them.

The first piece is "Necronomicon", a five part suite for a string quartet of two violins, a cello, and a viola. Like much of John Zorn's classical music, it is built around building and resolving tension, and it is one of the most successful at doing so. Violin shrieks shred your eardrums one moment, cello drones sooth them the next. Plucked strings are used well to keep the listener always on his (or her) toes, never allowing a moment's rest. In short, this is one of the most intense pieces John Zorn has written, and one of the very best ways I know to burn twenty-two minutes.

And still, it pales in comparison to "Sortilege", the real highlight of this amazing CD. A roller coaster ride of technical virtuosity for dueling bass clarinets, "Sortilege" combines the technical rigor of John Zorn's compositions (perhaps the most technical he's ever gotten) with stunning - you guessed it - beauty. So many bands try to hide poor songwriting behind technical virtuosity, but here John Zorn shows how such virtuosity can be used to augment already intense musical passages. In nine minutes, "Sortilege" manages to show up the thousands of bands I just described (technically strong, compositionally weak), and it does so with seeming ease. Not to mention that it sounds absolutely fabulous.

Magick may only last just over thirty minutes, meaning that it's a risky purchase for anyone who doesn't already like John Zorn, but its concision is its strength. It packs a tremendous musical punch in its short runtime, and, as such, is one of Zorn's greatest efforts, particularly in the classical field. The closest approximation I can come to its sound is Univers Zero if Univers Zero played at thirty notes a second. The oppressive atmospheres are similarly crushing and dark, though the means by which they are created are vastly different. Thos who are looking to discover a new side of Zorn shouldn't hesitate to check out Magick. Those looking to get into Zorn, however, would do better to start with Spillane or Naked City.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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