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John Zorn - Spillane CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.74 | 18 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars John Zorn: Spillane [1987]

Rating: 5/10


As with many John Zorn albums, Spillane is difficult to describe. This album consists of "file-card" pieces, a method of composition involving interconnected musical vignettes. These segments connect to form a whole. Thus, Spillane is a cinematic album; Zorn is attempting to create an auditory film-noir. This is undoubtedly a cool idea. However, as some of his albums show, Zorn's ideas - while brilliant in theory - can often fail in practice. In regards to this particular piece of work, I'm unsure if the concept works. These compositions certainly do evoke a cinematic feel; the clear musical transitions and the spoken-word interludes make these pieces feel like they're moving down a linear track. However, the separately defined "scenes" also create a sense of disjointedness. These pieces, the title track in particular, lack any sort of cohesion. Instead, they feel like a mash-up of underdeveloped short compositions.

The 25-minute title track is the main centerpiece of the album. This piece focuses primarily on jazz. It touches many different styles, from smooth hotel-lobby jazz to noisy avant-garde madness. The music is tied together with spoken-word passages that reinforce the noir atmosphere. The second piece, "Two-Lane Highway", is centered on blues. The first part is an extended blues-rock jam, while the second part features long spoken-word sections. "Forbidden Fruit" is the final piece. This track is pure Zorn-style avant-garde chamber music. It's probably the least interesting of these three compositions. The spoken-word sections are in Japanese, so they will be lost on the majority of audiences.

To be completely honest, Spillane does very little for me. However, I'm objective enough to understand and appreciate what Zorn is doing here. These compositions are undeniably creative and unique. Atmospherically, they work quite well. Zorn is trying to create cinematic music, and he succeeds in this respect. However, these pieces don't work very well on a compositional level. They're disjointed - there's little coherency or cohesion to be found here. Zorn placed musical ideas into a blender and poured the mixture out. The album presents the raw batter rather than the baked cake. Because of this, Spillane fails to connect with me. However, this is an essential album for anybody interested in Zorn's body of work. If anything, it makes for an interesting and unique listen.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |


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