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Naked City biography
Naked City was formed in 1988 by NYC Downtown sax player John Zorn as a vehicle to explore the boundaries of compositional & improvisational music with a traditional rock set up. Joining him in this endeavor was Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Massacre), Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Joey Baron, & occasionally Yamatsuka Eye (Boredoms) & Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle), the latter only contributing for live performances during the Grand Guignol & reunion eras.

Naked City released their self-titled debut on Elektra Nonesuch Records in 1989 which featured a photo of a dead gangster borrowed from Weegee's book Naked City. After running into trouble with Elektra on account of the controversial S&M bondage pictures Zorn intended to use as the cover for their sophomore effort Torture Garden, Zorn turned to Shimmy Disc & his own labels Tzadik & Avant to harbor Naked City.

Naked City continued to be prolific up until 1993 when Zorn decided a call it quits in order to pursue other musical ideas that were outside the bounds of Naked City's framework. Since their demise, a compilation, live album, & boxset have been released.

- Danial (Captain Capricorn)

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NAKED CITY discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

NAKED CITY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.14 | 94 ratings
Naked City
4.25 | 19 ratings
Heretic, Jeux Des Dames Cruelles
4.26 | 32 ratings
Grand Guignol
2.69 | 21 ratings
Leng Tch'e
4.05 | 22 ratings
3.43 | 12 ratings

NAKED CITY Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 5 ratings
Naked City Live, Vol. 1: Knitting Factory 1989

NAKED CITY Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

NAKED CITY Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.97 | 13 ratings
Torture Garden
4.00 | 2 ratings
Black Box
5.00 | 5 ratings
The Complete Studio Recordings (Naked City)

NAKED CITY Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Heretic, Jeux Des Dames Cruelles by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.25 | 19 ratings

Heretic, Jeux Des Dames Cruelles
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

5 stars Review n° 212

Naked City - Heretic: Jeux Des Dames Cruelles

If you enjoyed other Naked City albums art, this one will make you happier than ever. Here, John Zorn leads an all original soundtrack for a bondage fetish/s&m erotic experimental movie, this album is totally out of the ordinary limits. Well, it can't be better than Naked City's debut or Grand Guignol (both are Magnum Opus into avant-garde), but it beats the same weirdness level. Different from the other two masterpieces of the band, this album does not sound like a demented Carl Stalling, full of quick style shifts. It focus on noise and strange musical texture. It reminds me of some of John Zorn solo albums, but hell, the Naked City line-up is perfect for a disaster, and you can't get any better into an Avant-Garde album: Zorn, Frisell, Yamatsuka Eye, Wayne Horvitz and Joey Baron.

 Naked City by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.14 | 94 ratings

Naked City
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

5 stars "Mr. Zorn doesn't bother with transitions. While he and his musicians create every sudden textural shift themselves, without technological assistance, his guides are the splice, the jump cut, the video edit - not to mention the jack-in-the-box and its more sinister relatives in funhouses and horror movies. In his music, coherence is barely more than propinquity; one sound or style simply doesn't predict the next" - New York Times

My definition of a perfect album (together with The Grand Guignol, by Naked City. I already wrote about it here too). A technical paradise for avant-garde lovers. Naked City is my favorite project by the demented John Zorn. Well, I really love demented people. Actually, Naked City brings me lot of my beloved stuff altogether: Free Jazz, Post/Hard Bop, Classical, Rockabilly/Country, Grindcore, Fusion, Grindcore, Hammond focking Organ, noise, Avant-Prog and more. But the most important thing is the fast-change, the shapeshifter tendencies of the Naked City music, highly inspired by Carl Stalling, the composer for Warner Brothers cartoons. You know, there's a lot of shifts in tempo, theme, style and signature. It makes the album an interesting bag of surprises, with 26 tracks. One hour of pure madness. If you are a musician, believe me, you will not regret. The shortest songs are the heaviest ones, where Zorn screams with his sax and goddamn, he did the impossible with that instrument. The whole band is awesome, but Zorn as the head of this ecletic (maybe ecletic enough, sounding offensive to regular listeners) hell, is my favorite here, of course. My favorites are the most ecletic, experimental and texture-changing tracks, in my opinion: Snagglepuss, You Will be Shot, A Shot In The Dark (an incredible version for the soundtrack from the 1964 film) and N.Y. Flat Top Box. Some expert versions taken from big names like Ornette Coleman* and Johnny Mandel transformed into totally new tunes. The theme for Chinatown, James Bond, and The Sicilian Clan too.

Naked City's debut includes Maruo Suehiro illustrations. Suehiro is one of the most celebrated "ero-guro" mangakas: an underground sick humouristic, experimental and dark movement from the japanese comics area. The guro term came from the janpanese pronounce for grotesque. I was a great fan of this kind of material. And Zorn too. You will notice this. Just take a look at the Naked City themes and concept: shiit, blood, s/m... Without any lyrics, John Zorn makes me think about the darkest side of the humanity into short hardcore jazzy tracks. The album art and the name of the songs reflects the horror and bizarre reality -or surrealism, musical or conceptual, like Reanimator- into his music. To fully understand the Naked City theory, search for the notes of their album Grand Guignol, dedicated to the theater wich carried the same name.

Five Stars!

*John Zorn already covered Ornette Coleman in a hardcore way with the album Spy vs Spy.

 Grand Guignol by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.26 | 32 ratings

Grand Guignol
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

5 stars What you expect from a 40 seconds track with more than 25 tempo changes with weird time signatures? Now, this is ridiculous! Just the way I love, just the way it should be. Well, I had a lot of feedback and critics after my 5/5 review for the unknown masterpiece Plague Soundscapes from The Locust. My retard love for the bizarre made me find a lot of great music. I was looking for eroguro and this kind of crappy gross humor, like Kago Shintaro works when I found this amazing project by John Zorn. I found it because of the japanese splatter relations at the track titles. So, this album still elevates me to the highest level of dementia, in a sweet [&*!#]ful nostalgia of my darkest days, when I was almost insane dealing with some psychological issues and hunting the ultimate strange music. For some reason, last weeks I'm searching for weirdest stuff again, and I found myself listening again to this: Naked City - Grand Guignol.

Imagine a musical festival. There is a battle between a free-jazz and a grindcore/powerviolence band, and a classical orchestra making a background symphony sometimes. But a violent napalm fell in Afrika, and the elephants burning escape to the concert destroying everything and screaming like faggots dying from pain. That's how Naked City sounds. The album has more than 40 tracks and includes a 17 minutes trippy song, a classical/jazz mixed suite and a bunch of shorts, tracks during a few seconds. John Zorn screaming saxophone is brilliant! Sounds like a hurt child asking for help or an elephant falling down the hill. Well, just take a look at Speedfreak, that's my favorite track, the kind of stuff that turns me on.

 Naked City by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.14 | 94 ratings

Naked City
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars When I listen to this album, it brings to my mind the film "Pulp Fiction". There are stretches of extreme coolness in the sound, broken up by passages of vulgar brutality and violence. For the most part, the music works. If you are into this sort of thing.

There is quite a bit of rockabilly, lounge jazz, and other more normal forms of pop music. But even when playing it somewhat straight, John Zorn and his cohorts have a tendency to veer off into experimental and off beat riffs and explorations. And interspersed with these are ventures into blasts of noise and uncontrolled chaos.

The chaos I enjoy, for the most part. I just get put off when vocalist Yamatsuka Eye starts screaming his lungs out.

Otherwise, it's a trip. But a dangerous one.

 Leng Tch'e by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.69 | 21 ratings

Leng Tch'e
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Smegcake!

3 stars Ouchies. Concept album taken to its pessimistic and painful extreme. Does that mean it's not good? Well, if you like avant-garde (and I do mean, the really experimental and conceptual stuff), then no, it is actually quite a good single song album. The problem is, the concept is torture. And you'd have to expect that it follows through as being an auditory torture as well as a being one on a conceptual basis. If you accept the album on those uncompromising terms, you might find that the piece follows through indelibly. If you can't meet it halfway, then there's no possible way you'll get to the real tortures half way through. I'm not sure how this really constitutes prog, except for the length, and the distinct three part progression, of feedback riddled guitar to drums, to a SCREAMING saxophone. Oh, and of course the screams that begin halfway. Not for everyone. Not for most people. Only for fans of Naked City, and those who actually like to see how far the musical extremes can be pushed. Because it gets pushed pretty far here.
 Leng Tch'e by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.69 | 21 ratings

Leng Tch'e
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Renkls

4 stars Painful, abrasive stuff here. A musical companion to the torture by a thousand knives that is a notorious blemish on Chinese history, and the pain that Naked City associates with it in this 'song' is extreme. Beginning as a drone doom piece that evolves with some dynamic drum work, with feedback driven guitar and bass lines - which run through the whole 31 minute piece, then leading at its exact middle point to screams, of pain and agony, which depending on how solid your appreichiations for avant-grade are, are either in a league of their own, or the reason to turn the song off right then and there and abandon the CD to the dusty corner. It's first and foremost an endurance test, which for some, myself partially included makes it lose some of its potential. It's also quite a simplistic idea, and indeed if it had been any longer I doubt I would treat it with the positivity I do. But be warned, it is not enjoyable, but it is original. So if you're looking for something extreme that you don't intend to play often, but occasionally will indulge in the challenge, this may be for you. If not, stay away.
 Grand Guignol by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.26 | 32 ratings

Grand Guignol
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by The Truth
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

5 stars I feel no shame in giving this album that many will find unlistenable five stars because this is truly beautiful music. It's innovative, unique and (despite what some think) has an awesome effect on the ears.

This album is practically impossible to describe, but Naked City's "Grand Guignol" is a humongous and pompous mixture of jazz, classical, avant-garde, grindcore and straight-up metal. Each keeps my attention even though they range from seventeen minutes to thirty seconds, they all just have something that really makes me have this feeling that I don't want to miss any of this. It's so shrill and loud but never ceases to be hauntingly beautiful.

From Zorn torturing his sax, to Yamatzuka screaming his head off, somehow this record remains coherent the whole time. That's why this record is amazing. As far as I know, nothing like this has been accomplished before. Even though the influences are apparent, the mixture Naked City makes with them is something truly original and loveable.

This album is not for the casual listener, but for the adventurous music fan it is a total must have masterpiece.

 Leng Tch'e by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.69 | 21 ratings

Leng Tch'e
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Leng Tch'e' - Naked City (7/10)

When it comes to Western definitions of music, quality is generally seen to be derived from melodies, cohesive structure, the effectiveness of harmonies, and so forth. With so much music tending to focus on melodies over anything else, the objective differences brought forth by some avant-garde artists makes for a refreshing change of pace. Most often though, the more outside music gets from the norm, the more open it is to controversy. While far from the weirdest thing I have ever heard, Naked City's 'Leng Tch'e' is indeed an album that has sparked many a heated argument, with polar opinions reaching around the board. Both the greatly supportive praise, and revolted detraction of the album has led to a certain amount of hype surrounding the album, and while my opinion of the record may tend to be more moderate than most, I can certainly see why 'Leng Tch'e' has sparked such polarity among listeners.

First hearing about the album earlier today regarding what some people considered to be among 'the worst albums ever created', I was interested in hearing what these heated opinions were all about, perhaps out of the same morbid curiosity that fueled the making of this album. As some may know already, 'Leng Tch'e' refers to a Chinese method of torture and execution that I will leave to the reader to look up; suffice to say, it does not sound like the sort of thing you would want to bring up at a dinner party, lest you want to put the guests off their meals indefinitely. The music Naked City has created here really reflects the concept of slow, painful torture through abrasive and doomy guitar textures, set to a slowly, but steadily building level of intensity that flows through the half-hour track. For someone looking for the finer points of music, there aren't any here; no melodies, or much in the way of musical arrangement. Instead, John Zorn and his crew have crafted a dark soundtrack only with some minimalistic drum work, brooding guitar distortion, and some strained saxophones that burst in as the piece hits its climax.

From that description alone, it is easy to see why so many people may be averted to the sound of this album. This is challenging music, but it is not necessarily complex in its orchestration. There are not many, if any subtle nuances to the album's arrangement. Instead, one cannot appreciate 'Leng Tch'e' through conventional standards of musical enjoyment, but instead approach it by concentrating on the meticulous way in which the guitar feedback is used to create unsettling textures. Above all, the focus of 'Leng Tche' is to create atmosphere, and if that was what Zorn set out to do here, than he damn well accomplished it.

The vibe of torture and pain makes for an uneasy listen, and things are made even more off-putting by the vocals that emerge about half way through this album. Overtop the ambient guitar sludge and ominous drums, an ear-piercing scream lets loose. This isn't the sort of scream one might typically associate with doom metal, metal, or music in general. This is the sort of scream that exemplifies fear and duress, and it becomes an integral part of the musical experience for the second half of the album. While not musical in any way, the screams add tonnes to the fearful atmosphere of the album, and it adds alot to the imagery one could probably conjure in their minds while listening to the album. The vocals do start to wear thin after fifteen minutes; it is clear that the screamer tries to change up his act as the final half streches on, but his short vocal experiments don't always work, and sometimes sound like a simian howling for bananas rather than a human being executed. The album's short length is perfect for an album like this; were it any longer, the album's rather simplistic and primal nature would have robbed the best of it, and worn thin. 'Leng Tch'e' is not the sort of album that would have done well at any normal album length. It is fairly low on ideas, but the ideas that are here are extended and developed to just the right length, although any more would have taken it to the level of boredom, which the album does teeter on at points.

So there you have it; Naked City's 'Leng Tch'e', an album rightfully disdained by many, and even coming from someone who enjoys the album, it is easy to see why. The incredibly dark subject matter and abrasive content is not the sort of thing that will appeal to everyone; in fact, even alot of progressive music fans won't find much to appreciate here. All the same, 'Leng Tch'e' is an album with a wealth of haunting atmosphere to it, and although difficult to recommend to many outside of the noise or drone music communities, it has left a positive impression on me.

 Leng Tch'e by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.69 | 21 ratings

Leng Tch'e
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by The Truth
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

3 stars In my cold hard opinion, that one and a half star overall rating this album has is way to harsh. Harsher than what most people say the album sounds like.

If anything, this album should get more than one star simply because it gets it's job done. What I mean by this is, Leng Tch'e is a type of torture that John Zorn was trying to express in music and he definitely hits the nail on the head. Zorn definitely made meaningful music and that alone, in my opinion should get him some credit.

This album is rough, long droning guitar parts that are sometimes soft but always uneasy symbolizing the small breaks in the torture sequence (the victim's were given opium to stay conscious longer). But often times this album is torturous sounding (I personally enjoy these parts) and Zorn's sax makes agonizing noises I didn't even know were possible and these are accompanied by long violent screams. But always, the droning guitar is present and it really keeps the piece flowing no matter how wild and rough it gets.

Overall, this piece is not pleasant for the casual listener (and some non-casual) but for those who look for deep, meaningful pieces of music that are adventurous in their concepts should look here. Zorn did not make a masterpiece, but he certainly did not make a one-star album.

Well played and meaningful does not a lone star album make.

 Leng Tch'e by NAKED CITY album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.69 | 21 ratings

Leng Tch'e
Naked City RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Guldbamsen
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

1 stars A musical rendition of your worst nightmare

Do you consider yourself avant garde? Do you like anti music? Are you a masochist? Are you in touch with the darker aspects of the human mind? If so, then climb on board - because this album has got to be one of the most revolting and uncomfortable I have ever come across.

As Negoba points out in his review, this album is about the Chinese torture method Leng Tch'e - oh yes, that old thang where you place a thousand small cuts all over your involuntary patient´s poor body. Goody - you might say, if you´re into old splatter movies and you generally tend to listen to music, that nobody else listens to. Ahem - I have a few friends who enjoy their music discordant, impenetrable and grim, but I have, on quite the number of occasions, caught them listening to Marillion´s Fugazi or Phideaux´s Doomsday Afternoon with their eyes shut and their mouths open like a slutty carport...

I am not going to say, that nobody enjoys this particular record, but if they do, you´d better run like hell or hide somewhere safe, because what this album doesn´t have in beauty - it holds in spades of pure and unadulterated evil.

It starts out slow and sluggishly, and reminds me a bit of the doomy side of Neurosis - well if they had been into barbiturates and backwards coffee. Fred Frith on the bass plays like he is dragging a 500 pound rake on his back whilst thumping away. The other guys involved enhances this image, and apart from the free form flow of this start, that points towards Zorn ´s love for the wilder side of jazz, this sounds very much like a confused sleepwalker treading through a hazy fog.

Then the madness starts, and I am not talking about madness a la Area, Gentle Giant or Koenjihyakkei, but more in the form of: Alright, place your kitty cat on the kitchen table, and I ´ll start beating the mickey out of it with my trusty pink garden shovel. 15 minutes of screaming, that truly evokes the feeling of a torture victim, whose pain is so out there - so real, that any person with a small insight into normal human empathy, will cringe and quiver in the most terrifying and ugly way. Yamatsuka Eye is the vocal contributor to this scary piece of music, although music is not really the right wording here. Sonic exorcism? Nightmare performed by sheep at the slaughterhouse?

The only time I felt the need to play this outside my first listening, was when my upstairs neighbor played Hansi Hinterseer (German shlager at its worst) at 7 o clock in the morning on a Sunday. I hit the search button and jumped straight to the torture section, and consequentially the girl has never played Hansi again... Every other time I´ve heard this album has been an atrocious experience - bordering on sickening.

One could easily come to the conclusion, that John Zorn and his fellow black riders here has been successful in conveying the true sounds of the Chinese Leng Tch'e, but does that really mean anything at all? I once made a piece of music called Broken Bicycle, which was performed by yours truly hammering my elbows into a frightened piano, but does this make for an interesting musical venture, and moreover would you want to spend your hard earned cash on such a thing?

Thanks to easy money for the artist addition. and to snobb for the last updates

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