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John Zorn - The Art Of Memory (John Zorn / Fred Frith) CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.57 | 9 ratings

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4 stars I can only speak for myself here, of course, but there is a limit to the amount of music in this type of vein that I can listen to. It's not that I'm narrow-minded - at least, I don't think I am - I can appreciate the music for what it is, and hear things that I think it is trying to achieve.

One thing the music on this album is emphatically not trying to achieve is any kind of opposition to what the record company wants. There are many bands producing music like this (or rather, not like THIS, but attempts to create something like this) and people have been composing - or rather - creating music like this for the best part of a century now. People buy it, so record companies encourage a limited number of people to produce it.

The other thing this music is not trying to be is Prog Rock. The Rock is almost entirely absent - although it does surface in fragmented forms every so often, making it more accessible than, say, much Henry Cow.

The Prog is not in evidence either - and progression does not seem to be the point here. What is the point, as far as I can see, is a kind of artistic expression, and, since it's almost entirely improv, a series of snapshots rather than some kind of finished work. There would appear to be no artistic statement, unless you take the sheer quality of the work to be a statement of "See, you can make a load of noise and have it sound good".

Rather than pontificate about what it's trying to do, it's more interesting to listen to what it does do - and that is to bring about genuine improvised conversations between experienced improvisers that are markedly individual in character and surprisingly accessible. What those characters are is anybody's guess, of course... one could take the musician's words, or make one's own mind up... my favourite approach ;o)

While it is possibe to analyse each piece on a track-by-track basis, we are not talking about anything that resembles standard rock songs here in terms of any of the elements of music; One could write at great length about each piece and still end up not saying very much.

So instead, approach this album from a completely non-analytical frame of mind, and the intentions will seem apparent - if not crystal clear, and the music will be engaging and entertaining - indeed, humourous to some.

Try to make sense of it all and be prepared to either break the pause and rewind buttons on your CD player, or to scoop up your brains as they slowly trickle out of your ears...

Zorn and Frith are refreshingly different here from the hordes of wannabe improvisers out there who put together meandering and noodly jams under the pretext of "free-form", and play any old thing lazily out of key whilst pretending that it's atonality; This is well improvised music freed of many of the academic notions of what music is - but you really need to "feel" it.

It ain't Prog Rock, and you may only listen to it once or twice, but if you want something that's challenging and not just a load of noise that someone has told you is "hard to get into" or "inaccessible", then buy this.

Much of it IS hard to get into, and much of it SEEMS inaccessible to ears used to listening in a particular way (ie, verse, chorus, guitar solo, nice beat, etc.) - but it surely is NOTjust a load of noise. Even the kisses and farts.

No - Really ;o)

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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