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John Zorn - The Dreamers CD (album) cover

THE DREAMERS

John Zorn

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars Rating: B

As most artists these days content themselves to a release every two years or so (maybe annually if they're efficient), John Zorn continues to prove himself the most efficient of them all, releasing upwards of three albums each year. After one great one earlier in the year (FIlmworks XIX), John Zorn has returned with The Dreamers, an album destined to be a highlight of 2008. It's similar to his popular album The Gift, only where The Gift often sagged and felt stale, The Dreamers is always fresh and never dull. It never gets loud and noisy like Zorn's most famous works, but it doesn't need to. The Dreamers is a release built for lying in the sun with a good pair of headphones and for driving. It's engaging enough that it serves well as foreground music, but it's light and breezy enough that it works equally well as background music.

Like The Gift (and most Zorn albums to be honest), The Dreamers is a mish-mash of styles. Once again like The Gift, the predominant styles are jazz, surf, and soundtrack, with some ethnic percussion and hints of avant-garde (such as on "Anulikwutsayl") that help spice it up. Its rich textures wash over the listener, creating a multilayered atmosphere that engulfs the listener. It takes a few listens to reveal all its secrets, but once it does, it shows why it is one of Zorn's most well-realized projects. The variety on the album is another strong suit, ranging from the jazz of "Toys" to the more avant-garde "Anulikwutsayl", on which dissonant, almost freeform sections are held together by the reptition of a single motif. Of course, all of this only deals with the excellent composition, which is only half the story.

The other half, of course, is the musicianship. John Zorn has never settled for less than the very best for his albums, and this is still the case here. Jamie Saft on keyboards, Marc Ribot on guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass, Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Joey Baron on drums are all extraordinarily proficient on their instruments. More importantly, however, they work well as a team. Baron, Dunn, and Saft were all featured on Zorn's landmark Six Litanies for Heliogabalus, among numerous other Zorn albums on which they've played. Marc Ribot is also a longtime Zorn collaborator, and he has constantly proven himself worthy of carrying Zorn's compositions. I'm less familiar with the other two, but based on their performance on The Dreamers, they show an incredible ability to bring out the energy and emotion of the compositions.

In both aspects of the CD, composition and musicianship, Zorn reveals his unbelievable attention to detail. This is nothing new for Zorn - one need only listen to Madness, Love, and Mysticism to recognize his love of detail - but it is readily apparent on the Dreamers. As such, it should come as no surprise that, not only is the music rigorously composed and the performers thoughtfully chosen, but the packaging is superb as well. Not only is the cover art beautiful (especially in the mini-LP) format, but it comes with a set of free stickers (I, for one, greatly appreciate these stickers). It's a small gesture, but it's yet another piece of evidence that proves that Zorn cares about his listeners. Throughout his long career, which has seen the release of over one hundred CDs, John Zorn has produced highlight after highlight. With The Dreamers, he has given the world yet another highlight, and not only is this one among his very best, but it's also the perfect starting place for those looking to discover this fabulous musician.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#165374)
Posted Sunday, March 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.5 stars.

At first listen, this one seems fairly similar to Zorn's seminal album O'o, but after a few more this one pales a bit in comparison. It becomes evident that the only reason one could compare the two is because of the ever-present vibraphones throughout. The addition of some country-sounding guitar is a definite difference from the jazzier O'o, but not in a positive way (to my ears anyway). Perhaps the music is a bit more diverse than some of John Zorn's other albums, but none of the tracks really stand out as exceptionally interesting or superb. Of course, everything is flawlessly executed with top-notch musicianship, but in terms of composition, this is simply incapable of standing alongside, really, much of Zorn's discography at all. The only real reason to bother acquiring this album is if you want more Zorn than you can otherwise find, or if for some reason the sound of this album is exactly what you happen to be seeking.

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Send comments to Triceratopsoil (BETA) | Report this review (#285530)
Posted Monday, June 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars John Zorn: The Dreamers [2008]

Rating: 6/10

The Dreamers is the fourth volume in John Zorn's Music Romance series. This series displays a different side of John Zorn musical personality. For the most part, these albums are focused on the more melodic side of his sound. Zorn is a man of many talents. While he may be best known for his ear-splitting free-jazz insanity, he is also capable of making harmonious - and, at times, downright pretty - music. Such is the case with The Dreamers. This is an eclectic release; it touches on melodic jazz, surf music, psychedelic rock, blues, and soft-rock. Although I greatly enjoy Zorn's melodic compositions, I was not particularly impressed with this release. There are a few excellent tracks here, but the album as a whole is bit too pleasant for its own good. It often feels like background music that would not be out of place at a cocktail party. There are tracks here that your grandmother probably wouldn't mind listening to.

"Mow Mow" opens the album with some pleasant surf-rock. Marc Ribot's guitar is excellent, but this piece is mostly uninteresting otherwise. "Uluwati" features a catchy main theme, but not much else. "A Ride on Cottonfair" is an excellent piano-centered melodic jazz piece ala Vince Guaraldi. "Anulikwutsayl" is a psychedelic guitar jam that overstays its welcome for about four minutes. Zorn breaks out his sax on "Toys." This piece is both melodic and cacophonous, with insane electric piano and vibes. It's quite an interesting listen. "Of Wonder and Certainty (For Lou Reed)" is another uninteresting surf piece. The soft surf/jazz continues on the needlessly repetitive "Mystic Circles." "Nekashim" is a boring track redeemed by fantastic vibe work. "Exodus" is the definite highlight of the album. It's a psychedelic jam with phenomenal organ drones. "Forbidden Tears" is another dull surf piece. "Rakassa" ends the album nicely with more searing guitar work from Ribot.

The Dreamers is a nice album, but it fails to provide any sort of solid substance. The light atmosphere, coupled with the needless repetition, brings this bit too close to musak for my tastes. The musicianship is superb, particularly from Marc Ribot, but the compositions don't normally give the musicians enough room to spread their wings. This being said, there are some great tracks to be found here. However, these good ideas are often extended beyond their reasonable capacities. There isn't much to hate on this release, but there isn't much to love, either. The Dreamers is nicely polished, but there's little to be found beneath the gloss.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#586114)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2011 | Review Permalink

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