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John Zorn - Kristallnacht CD (album) cover


John Zorn



2.69 | 20 ratings

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1 stars One way progressive bands act progressive is by depicting historical or literary scenes through music. Yes did a phenomenal job musically portraying a battle in "The Gates of Delirium," but they did so through appropriate timbres, tones, dynamics, and most importantly, genuine compositional ideas. Then some artists, like John Zorn, provide a more literal interpretation of their setting. Kristallnacht, or "The Night of Broken Glass" was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany and Austria, occurring on November 9th and 10th in 1938. Over two-hundred synagogues were destroyed, and almost a hundred Jews were murdered, but one of the most historically poignant aspects of those two horrible days involved the destruction of Jewish shops and storefronts, hence the name of the event. So, rather than craft movingly bitter pieces of actual music, Zorn decided to treat listeners to things like eleven minutes of the sound of glass breaking. Heavy-handed symbolism aside, there is one real amazing moment on this album, and I would be unfair if I ignored it: "Gahelet (Embers)" stands out as a gorgeous piece, and probably one of the most masterful works I've ever heard in the genre. On the one hand, the album at times does a fine job creating a genuine Yiddish feel or showing the loneliness, despair, bitterness, and hope that was part of being Jewish in the first half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, parts of this album could do its own glass-breaking- I'm sorry, but I have no use for noise or for ensembles full of members who play their instruments independently of one another and call it music. Perhaps the point is to make the listener feel the pain the Jewish victims felt, but frankly that strikes me as cruel. "Shtetl (Ghetto Life)" Lone brass wails in an inconsolable way. Adding context is the enraged and repeated rants of Nazi Germans. Squealing violin, a simple bass, and a not unpleasant trumpet dominates the rest of the piece.

"Never Again" I'm surprised anybody would listen to this. It is no exaggeration when I say that this is almost eleven minutes of what is practically white noise. Turn on a television with no reception and crank up the volume- there we are. Well, not quite- the TV lacks that constant, ear-piercing frequency. It's unfortunate when the occasional near-silence is the best part of the track. When will I next listen to this piece? I think the title gives a reliable hint.

"Gahelet (Embers)" This is by far the most interesting piece on the album, bathed in minimalism, as it were. It strikes me as sad and lonely, like the defeated Jews who surveyed the damage of their property and livelihood after two days of trials.

"Tikkun (Rectification)" This is a livelier violin piece that uses more rapid notes, giving it an upbeat Yiddish flavor, but it soon devolves into rambling.

"Tzfia (Looking Ahead)" This "work" (I'm struggling to find an appropriate word, so I use that term very loosely) involves occasional blasts of noise, in which a saxophone blares like an enraged elephant, or a noisy guitar goes all over the place. The quieter moments are not all that interesting, but at least are not unpleasant. The senseless guitar solo, laced with irate noise, is pure balderdash.

"Barzel (Iron Fist)" Here is another barrage of inane and painful noise.

"Gariin (Nucleus-The New Settlement)" This undirected track sounds like a band is practicing their instruments individually, perhaps tuning and warming up, before the real show is to begin. Sadly, it's the performance.

Epignosis | 1/5 |


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