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John Zorn - Taboo & Exile CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.93 | 8 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars John Zorn: Taboo & Exile [1999]

Rating: 7/10

Taboo & Exile is the second volume in John Zorn's Music Romance series. Like the first volume, Music for Children, this is a very eclectic album that showcases many of Zorn's numerous different styles. That album showcased many styles that (in my opinion) Zorn is not supremely talented in, such as contemporary-classical and ambient. This album features different styles, such as avant-jazz, melodic jazz, klezmer, metal, tribal music, and exotica. Zorn has proven his finesse for these genres time and time again, and the result of their amalgamation is an extremely diverse album full of unpredictable music. Every style presented shows Zorn doing what he does best: genre-bending avant-garde insanity. However, every track retains a sense of cohesion and musicality, preventing the album from becoming unpleasant or directionless.

The excellent opener "In the Temple of Hadjarim" is a piano-centered jazz piece with strange Eastern-sounding sound effects and percussion. "Sacrifist" is a heavy metallic track with some absolutely phenomenal drumming from the great Joey Baron. "Mayim" is a Masada String Trio piece. The main motif is great and the dissonant string soloing works quite well. "Koryojang" is an irresistibly groovy tribal drum piece. It's a bit cheesy, but fun nonetheless. "Bulls-Eye" is a grindcore-charged surf-rock piece with great electric guitar work and bizarre vocals from Mike Patton (is that redundant)? "Leraim" is an interesting fusion of melodic jazz and string-centered klezmer that ends up working remarkably well. "Thaalapalassi" is a ten-minute ambient piece that actually reminds me of krautrock. It's interesting, but a bit drawn-out. "Makkot" is another excellent Masada String Trio piece. "A Tiki for Blue" is an exotica piece that sounds like something that would be played on a cabana beach. It's not a bad track, but this style doesn't interest me much. "The Possessed" is an excellent avant-jazz piece with some absolutely furious sax playing from Zorn. "Oracle" is a very strange throwaway track with off-putting female vocals and a menacing clock-ticking backbeat. As the title implies, the closer "Koryojang (End Credits)" is a reprise of the groovy tribal drumming.

While Taboo & Exile is indeed an excellent album, a piece of work as eclectic as this is bound to have some tracks that are weaker than others. It's almost impossible to amalgamate this many styles without creating some inconsistency. However, this album manages quite well; there are only about two or three tracks that I would consider inferior to the album as a coherent whole. This is a very interesting and engaging listen. Every piece is suitably strange and puzzling, but things never get out hand; thankfully, Zorn avoids the "avant-garde for the sake of avant-garde" mentality here. These tracks fittingly represent a large amount of Zorn's stylistic varieties, so the album is a good starting point for the Zorn newcomer. Some tracks certainly could have been left on the cutting-room floor, but this doesn't stop Taboo & Exile from being one of Zorn's best 90s releases, if not the best.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |


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