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John Zorn - Mysterium CD (album) cover

MYSTERIUM

John Zorn

RIO/Avant-Prog


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3 stars Worth for the track Frammenti del Sappho alone, a gorgeous piece for five female voices treated as instruments. Very soothing and calm, not something you hear very often from Zorn. The first track Orphee is a variation of Debussy chamber piece, succeeding in updating it with modern electronics. It’s generally led by a flute altered with viola while the harp, percussion, celeste and electronics create the background. The last composition for a string trio in three movements is decent enough to keep you interested to the end. The entire cd is short (clocking at 33 minutes) but it’s an interesting listen, nevertheless. Far from essential, though.

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Send comments to silentman (BETA) | Report this review (#78710)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album contains no free-jazz, downtown hardcore or film music. The music there could be classified as contemporary (classic) avant and contains some instrumental minimalist pieces for chamber strings,percussion and flute, Ikue Mori on characteristic avant electronics and female small choir a-Capella.

All 5 compositions are quite different, but common and quite unusual for Zorn's music of any genre is quite soft sound and almost romantic atmosphere. Vocal pieces are enough classical a Capella compositions with nice female voices, instrumental pieces are more radical free form avant contemporary compositions with domination of strings and electronics.

All album being representative for some forms of contemporary avant garde music has no relations with any form of jazz or rock music though. Could be recommended to listen to Zorn's fans and everyone seeking for unusual music outside of prog rock/jazz frames.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#371665)
Posted Monday, January 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars John Zorn: Mysterium [2005]

Rating: 5/10

John Zorn is a not a musician known for resting on his laurels. This man has produced avant-garde interpretations of virtually every musical style imaginable. He is constantly changing direction, both as a musician and as a composer. When a new Zorn album is released, one has little idea what to expect. However, after listening to a large portion of the man's voluminous contemporary-classical albums, I often feel as if I am stuck in a musical rut. Many of these albums blend together; I have trouble distinguishing one from another. The style is relatively uniform: dissonant classical compositions with jangling strings and brooding minimalism. However, Zorn occasionally creates a piece that adds a new level of freshness to albums like these. Such is the case here; there is one fabulous piece to be found, but the rest of the album is tired and uninteresting.

The album opens with "Orphee", a flute-centered piece with no sense of musical direction whatsoever. The complete lack of compositional coherency makes this a weak piece. 'Frammenti Del Sappho" is an absolutely gorgeous a-cappella piece that saves this album from mediocrity. The vocal layering here is nothing short of astounding, and the melodies are beautiful. The three-movement string-quartet "Walpurgisnacht" concludes the short album. Zorn has made about a thousand pieces like this before. There's no need for me to describe it.

"Frammenti Del Sappho" is quite an intriguing piece. It easily stands as one of my favorite of Zorn's classical compositions. However, the rest of the album consists of nothing but glorified noodling. Perhaps I'm merely failing to grasp the academic worth of these pieces; I don't know. What I do know is they're not entertaining in the slightest. There's nothing there for me to grab on to emotionally. Mysterium is worth looking into merely because of the aforementioned piece; otherwise, it is unessential in every sense of the word.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#577801)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The second station on my seven-album beginner's tour through the voluminous discography of John Zorn finds the artist once again switching musical hats, something he does with a dexterity bordering on sleight of hand. This time he traded his Jazz fedora for a Neo-Classical chapeau, in three original pieces for progressively smaller ensembles, each opus resembling the soundtrack to an obscure European art-house film.

Zorn himself doesn't perform on the album, but his restless intellect is all over every note of music. The album opener "Orphée" might have been a selection from an alternative score to Jean Cocteau's 1950 screen masterpiece of the same name: a playful update of Greek mythology set in a swinging Left Bank art colony. References to Debussy provide an occasional respite of melodic grace, and the unexpected electronic embellishments lift the piece above the usual arid, orchestrated post-modern exercise.

The longer "Frammenti del Sappho" is a vocal arrangement for a female quintet, lovely stuff but following the same agenda, all but inscrutable to anyone unschooled in classical music theory and notation. And the final, three-part "Walpurgisnacht" (named for the annual witches sabbath in older pagan calendars) features a string trio scraping and plucking in careful syncopation, again suggesting a modern ballet score, minus the choreography.

Legitimate chamber music of such exquisite refinement doesn't really belong anywhere near a web site named ProgArchives, except perhaps as a link to parallel avenues of musical evolution. Add a heavy Prog Rock rhythm section and the same album would be a magnet for enthusiastic five-star accolades. Otherwise it would have to stand as an acquired taste for all but the most delicate palates.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#1463726)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2015 | Review Permalink

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