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John Zorn - The Dreamers CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.59 | 19 ratings

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4 stars Rating: B

As most artists these days content themselves to a release every two years or so (maybe annually if they're efficient), John Zorn continues to prove himself the most efficient of them all, releasing upwards of three albums each year. After one great one earlier in the year (FIlmworks XIX), John Zorn has returned with The Dreamers, an album destined to be a highlight of 2008. It's similar to his popular album The Gift, only where The Gift often sagged and felt stale, The Dreamers is always fresh and never dull. It never gets loud and noisy like Zorn's most famous works, but it doesn't need to. The Dreamers is a release built for lying in the sun with a good pair of headphones and for driving. It's engaging enough that it serves well as foreground music, but it's light and breezy enough that it works equally well as background music.

Like The Gift (and most Zorn albums to be honest), The Dreamers is a mish-mash of styles. Once again like The Gift, the predominant styles are jazz, surf, and soundtrack, with some ethnic percussion and hints of avant-garde (such as on "Anulikwutsayl") that help spice it up. Its rich textures wash over the listener, creating a multilayered atmosphere that engulfs the listener. It takes a few listens to reveal all its secrets, but once it does, it shows why it is one of Zorn's most well-realized projects. The variety on the album is another strong suit, ranging from the jazz of "Toys" to the more avant-garde "Anulikwutsayl", on which dissonant, almost freeform sections are held together by the reptition of a single motif. Of course, all of this only deals with the excellent composition, which is only half the story.

The other half, of course, is the musicianship. John Zorn has never settled for less than the very best for his albums, and this is still the case here. Jamie Saft on keyboards, Marc Ribot on guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass, Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Joey Baron on drums are all extraordinarily proficient on their instruments. More importantly, however, they work well as a team. Baron, Dunn, and Saft were all featured on Zorn's landmark Six Litanies for Heliogabalus, among numerous other Zorn albums on which they've played. Marc Ribot is also a longtime Zorn collaborator, and he has constantly proven himself worthy of carrying Zorn's compositions. I'm less familiar with the other two, but based on their performance on The Dreamers, they show an incredible ability to bring out the energy and emotion of the compositions.

In both aspects of the CD, composition and musicianship, Zorn reveals his unbelievable attention to detail. This is nothing new for Zorn - one need only listen to Madness, Love, and Mysticism to recognize his love of detail - but it is readily apparent on the Dreamers. As such, it should come as no surprise that, not only is the music rigorously composed and the performers thoughtfully chosen, but the packaging is superb as well. Not only is the cover art beautiful (especially in the mini-LP) format, but it comes with a set of free stickers (I, for one, greatly appreciate these stickers). It's a small gesture, but it's yet another piece of evidence that proves that Zorn cares about his listeners. Throughout his long career, which has seen the release of over one hundred CDs, John Zorn has produced highlight after highlight. With The Dreamers, he has given the world yet another highlight, and not only is this one among his very best, but it's also the perfect starting place for those looking to discover this fabulous musician.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |


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