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John Zorn - Cartoon S/M CD (album) cover

CARTOON S/M

John Zorn

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

2.14 | 3 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
2 stars John Zorn: Cartoon S/M [2000]

Rating: 4/10

Cartoon S/M is a lengthy double-album collection of some of Zorn's most prominent contemporary classical compositions. I was already familiar with these compositions before listening to this album, so my expectations were rather low; I'm generally not a big fan of Zorn's classical pieces. These re-recordings bring a new sense of refinement and professionalism to these works, but this doesn't change the fact the majority of them are severely lacking on a compositional level. Musical coherency is thrown away in favor of needlessly avant-garde tomfoolery. Instead of themes, melodies, and motifs, the listener is presented with assorted avant-garde blaring and haphazard minimalist twanging. This is frustrating. There's much potential to be found on these pieces, but this promise is usually quickly dashed by yet another foray into uninteresting and unmusical collages of avant-garde something-or-other. Many of these tracks sound like loose connections of multiple small vignettes rather than full-fledged compositions.

What really saves the album, however, is the superb "Kol Nidre." This is almost undoubtedly the best classical piece Zorn had written up to this point, and this album features two different versions of it: one with a string quartet and one with a clarinet quartet. This is a gorgeously brooding piece with a haunting atmosphere. The clarinet performance really shines; it adds another layer of depth to this already fantastic composition. However, while this is indeed a fantastic piece, it only makes the album more frustrating. One is forced to ponder: If John Zorn is so clearly able to write excellent music, why is he content with the boring and sub-par material that permeates the majority of this 110-minute monstrosity of an album?

Anthony H. | 2/5 |

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