Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
John Zorn - Kristallnacht CD (album) cover


John Zorn



2.69 | 20 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Kristallnacht' - John Zorn (5/10)

John Zorn is a man whose work is no stranger to controversy and explicit content. My first experience with him was with Naked City's 'Leng T'che', a plodding interpretation of a particularly inhuman form of Chinese execution. With that precedent, it does not come as a big surprise to me that Zorn would take on one of the greatest human tragedies of all time and attempt to express it musically, that of course being the Holocaust. Plenty could be said about the implications of making an album of such a horrific event, although I think that the powerful subject matter would have great potential to make for some very dark music. Zorn's avant-classical explorations here certainly negate any feeling of cheer a listener may have going into it, 'Kristallnacht' passes me as being aimless and only partially effective in conveying the deep tragedy that Zorn has chosen to exploit here.

'Kristallnacht' comes down to a few experiments with noise, and a collection of minimalistic chamber music compositions, rooted in Jewish traditional music. 'Shtetl (Ghetto Life)' brings the listener into this sad story with a very recognizable Klezmer theme. This is infused with jazz, and later some dark chamber music, led on by violins, which are a central part of this album. From this track alone, a listener gets arguably the best sample of around half of the album's material; being the more conventional string-led music. These pieces have the timbre of classical music and the intimate nuances of jazz, although they usually feel aimless and lacking much of a memorable angle to them. All the same, the way Zorn orchestrates the violins is intelligent and admirable, and makes for some thoughtfully dark listening.

Now, I enjoyed 'Leng T'che', and would not consider myself to be an inherent opponent of noise, or any challenging 'fringe' music that is thrown at me. However, like all avant-garde music for me, the test of quality generally relies on how it ages with further listening, and how much depth and subtlety there is to appreciate. 'Never Again' is the cornerstone track on the album, and most likely to be the piece that John Zorn afficionados will remember this album for. Barring the fact that it is a comparatively long eleven minute stretch that dwarfs most else on the album, the central idea of 'Never Again' is to sample and loop the shattering of broken glass, and loop it to the point of being noise. It's this sort of superficial interpretation of 'Kristallnacht' that wounds my appreciation for what Zorn is doing here. Instead of taking his genius and getting the feeling across musically, he resorts to a very literal approach of the content, and not one that is at all pleasing to listen to. There are some somewhat 'subtle' sounds of piano and strings in the background amidst the constant glass-breaking, and even an interlude where the listener is granted some much- wanted silence. All the same, the track utterly lacks the power that it should have, and the monotonous noisy clink reminds me more of a fly buzzing in my ear than a moving tribute to the lives lost during the Holocaust.

'Kristallnacht' is split between these contrasts of noisiness and minimalism, and to be honest, neither are particularly inviting. The chamber music is pleasant and interesting at points, but as a whole, this work feels like something of a let down to its core material. It is experimental, but inconsistent in its visible thoughtfulness, and while not a complete failure, I may have hoped for a little more from Zorn.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this JOHN ZORN review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives