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John Zorn - IAO CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.04 | 7 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
2 stars John Zorn: IAO [2002]

Rating: 3/10

I'm not sure where to start with this album. John Zorn is a musician known for creating intensely challenging music that often defies any sense of categorization. However, they are various terms that can describe certain albums in his extraordinarily eclectic discography: "avant-jazz", "jazzcore", "contemporary classical", "klezmer", and so on. In the case of IAO, however, I am able to conjure up few fitting terms to describe the music. There is some sort of odd conceptual idea behind this album that I can't make heads or tails out of; something about Satan, Kabbalah, the occult, and Osiris? I have no idea. Perhaps such things are too avant-grade for me. On a purely musical level, this is a very minimalistic work that relies on hypnotic trances and repetitive sequences. So, perhaps "avant-ambient-tribal-metal-noise witchcraft music" would be a fitting stylistic label? Unfortunately, such a description makes this album sound much more interesting than it is. IAO is needlessly repetitive and boring.

The opener "Invocation" is a directionless collection of noise. Most of it involves quiet ambient sounds, but it occasionally breaks out in harshly unpleasant buzzing and clanging. "Sex Magick" is a 13-minute tribal drum trance. This same theme is repeated throughout the whole piece with little variation. Needless to say, it gets quite old. "Sacred Rites of the Left Hand Path" is one of the better tracks on the album. It actually manages to create a decent atmosphere, and I like the synth motif. "The Clavicle of Solomon" is an unlistenable nine minutes of aimless noise. The horrible high-pitched electronic squeaks are literally painful to listen to. I cringe whenever I listen to this track; I don't understand the artistic merit of something like this. The dark ambience continues with the creepy "Lucifer Rising." Sexual-sounding female vocalizations accompany the dark synths. This is another track that creates an atmosphere, but it isn't very musically interesting. The sudden entrance of "Leviathan" creates a startlingly abrupt dynamic shift. This is a heavy piece of noise music that ends up breaking down into absolutely indiscernible static chaos. The album ends with "Mysteries." This is similar to the opening piece: minimalistic ambience centered on chimes/bells.

Zorn has a clear musical purpose here: to create an unsettling atmosphere. For the most part, he succeeds. However, the methods he utilizes to achieve this success are not particularly noble. Instead of well-developed compositional ideas, we are presented with a series of uncomfortable noises layered on top of each other. This is an extremely lazy and unsatisfying approach to ambient music. However, a few tracks are fairly decent for what they are. This music lives up to the occult-themed concept. However, any album that makes me cringe at points isn't going to receive a high rating. This is a dull and frustrating release that I would place near the bottom of Zorn's catalogue.

Anthony H. | 2/5 |


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