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Moonchild Trio - Six Litanies for Heliogabalus CD (album) cover


Moonchild Trio



4.16 | 43 ratings

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4 stars Probably the best possible review for this gem are these simple two words: Very loud! But, to keep my honour as a reviewer, I must offer this masterpiece a full review. This is the third production from the Moonchild/Astronome line-up, with Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron, and Mike Patton at its core. Zorn actually appears on this album, with his sax, unlike the previous two. Also, a host of other musicians, including organist Jamie Saft, appear.

Six Litanies is comprised chiefly of haunting neo-classical, clashing with brutal metal, and insane vocal work. To be fair, there's a great deal of electronic music, and free jazz, of course, but the classical and metal are arguably at the forefront. I feel terrible calling these loud sections metal: but that's probably the easiest thing to do. It's really just heavy sections, played with lots of distortion, and rhythmic complexity, though not exactly metal. For the remainder of this review, when I use the term metal, all I'm referring to is a high point on the volume scale.

The vocal work has but three gears. One is extremely intrusive, and is typically in the spotlight here. The fourth track, aptly named Litany IV, is an eight minute opus of extraordinary complexity. It is so incredibly complex it sounds improvised, which it likely is to a small degree. However, a great deal of it is tightly composed, since Mike Patton performs it nearly the same during live performances. The second gear is nearly inaudible, where Mike and a troupe of female vocalists simply make sounds of soft laughter or haunting humming. An angelic chorus, the avatar of this album, is sung in this gear. The most obvious use of the second gear is during the second track, where giggling hovers over soft, keyboard led playing. The third gear is completely off, when the instruments take centerstage. Throughout the entire album, the only distinguishable word is, Heliogabalus. Besides that, all vocal work is entirely wordless.

The metal sections are actually quite interesting. There is, of course, a rhythmic emphasis from Joey Baron on drums, and Trevor Dunn on bass, but they are sometimes quite rudely interrupted by a hailing of squealing sax and vocal squealing from Patton. But both aspects always have a very musical quality, and sound great. I always found that avant-garde music perceives music on a very honest and very human level. Like visual art, there is no universal goal other than creating something that is pleasing to the eyes. Sure, there are rules of art that can be followed or disregarded, but in the end, all that matters is the glee that your pupils experience. The same goes for music: often the arrangements are precise, and following set rules, but very often, Zorn forgets all that and merely generates what notes would please the inner ear the most.

If you've got a lot of friends interested in more mainstream music, then I strongly suggest getting this album merely to scare the shit out of them. Even if you don't expect to ever develop an appreciation for this experimental genre of sound, you will be guaranteed to win every, Who has the weirdest song on their iPod, contest. Trust me: many friends have claimed to have found the most bizarre band ever, only to have me violently stick my phones in their ears and play any song on this album, and utter, You win.

Choir and organ sometimes threaten to transform the music to something beautiful, and even succeed on occasion. But fear not! The ravaging lows from the rhythm section and the piercing highs from the vocals and saxes destroy their progress in a mere second. And after defeating the beauty that briefly appeared, the rhythm section and the voices scuffle for spotlight. In this sense, Six Litanies is a perpetual battle between three factions. I must admit, I thought myself very experienced when it came to enjoying avant-garde music, but this album took much time for me to appreciate. But once it did, I loved it to an extreme degree. I proudly proclaim this a masterpiece of modern music, and my personal favourite of 2007. Zorn manages to force chaos and beauty to co-exist, to merge, to fight, to oppose, and to match. All six tracks are excellently loose and aggressive, and are similarly beautiful and haunting.

Shakespeare | 4/5 |


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