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John Zorn


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John Zorn Simulacrum album cover
4.55 | 14 ratings | 1 reviews | 43% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Illusionist (12:01)
2. Marmarath (5:17)
3. Snakes And Ladders (5:27)
4. Alterities (2:49)
5. Paradigm Shift (4:34)
6. The Divine Comedy (12:54)

Total Time 42:52

Line-up / Musicians

- John Medeski / Organ
- Kenny Grohowski / Drums
- Matt Hollenberg / Guitar

Releases information

Label: Tzadik Cat. # 8330
March 2015

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
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JOHN ZORN Simulacrum ratings distribution

(14 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(43%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(21%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

JOHN ZORN Simulacrum reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Trying to follow or understand John Zorn's discography can be quite confusing. The fact that his album history is quite extensive, which can be verified by looking up his name in the Archives, is one thing, but the fact that he often works with other established bands like "Secret Chiefs 3" or "Abraxas" or that he has assembled separate groups on his own such as "Moonchild Trio" (with Mike Patton) to meet standards to play certain compositions he has written makes it even more confusing. Add to that his many different album series like "Filmworks" and the "Masada Books", one can easily get confused. Each album is also a surprise as far as how it will sound as Zorn has pretty much touched on every genre out there, but he brings his own avant-prog style to everything he does, sometimes heavy on the improvisation and other times very structured.

"Simulacrum" is one of those bands that Zorn assembled in order to play some of his compositions. This band has released 7 albums under Zorn. The band consists of 3 musicians; John Medeski from "Medeski, Martin, and Wood" (organ), Matt Hollenberg from "Cleric" (guitar), and Kenny Grohowski from "Abraxas" (drums). This is the core band, however some of the albums they have recorded also have guest members such as Trey Spruance from Secret Chiefs 3. On the eponymous album however, only the core band is contributing. Zorn does not contribute any instrumentation, but instead, as in a lot of the albums listed in his discography, he is composer and producer.

The basic sound of this album seems to hover around the progressive metal style with some math rock and jazz fusion thrown in, but, if you notice, there is no bass. The organ tends to take on this role along with the fact that the organ also drives alot of the sound here, and that is what makes this whole thing unique. Hollenberg does take the lead on the guitar more often then not, but the mix with the organ is a sound in and of itself. Though the music is mostly from the metal realms, it isn't afraid to explore other territories.

From the beginning with the 12 minute "The Illusionist" we are thrown into an ever shifting kaleidoscope of styles, beginning with a chunky guitar laden sound with revolving meters to an almost psychedelic and atmospheric organ section that suddenly sees the organ and guitar working together to hold it all somewhere between chaotic feedback and guitar strangulation and jazzy, yet bluesy organ trying to hold it all down. Yet, it flows together seamlessly. And, of course, you can expect the unexpected with dissonant passages and enticing, unique harmonics, since, after all, this is John Zorn. We even slip into a uplifting "Deep Purple" style organ passage that ends up slipping right back out to a chaotic back and forth interplay with the guitar and organ while the drums try to fill in for the atmospherics, but soon gives up and just goes wild. It suddenly shifts at about the 8 minute mark and becomes peacefully flowing, but soon builds to a heavy rock sound again with a nice organ and screechy guitar chords behind it. The music continues to move from fairly standard heaviness to crazy over-the- top wildness without even taking a breath. Zorn is one of the best composers/musicians that can marry rock, metal, jazz and classical styles and he does it so easily while so many bands out there end up just stumbling around with the usual sounds that they have been trying to work with for decades. Zorn does it like a slap to their faces, and in the meantime, he goes mostly unrecognized and ignored by those that should praise his talents.

The next 4 tracks are shorter tracks lasting around 3 ? 5 minutes. All are instrumental, of course. "Mamarath" works off of a repeating guitar riff while other layers of guitar, organ and drums whirl around increasing and decreasing in intensity. The organ will suddenly run off the rails with everything, but after suddenly stopping, the guitar riff brings it all back to earth again. "Snakes and Ladders" is more atmospheric and mysterious sounding with the organ floating around, but then a sudden complex rhythm pattern brings in the guitar and things soon intensify again. The guitar and organ copy each other on a repetitive riff and then the guitar takes off again but is suddenly stopped by an abrasive organ. There's more "normal" jamming then sudden destruction with chaotic sections passing back and forth like its all natural. "Alterities" is like the melding of several short passages glued together and often interrupted by sudden pauses and crazy progressive phrasing, dissonant noise and such, at times becoming almost comical. "Paradigm Shift" starts with a droning organ, but is soon joined by a boiling guitar riff and crazy drum fills. As it goes on, the guitar and organ become more free to wander and provide sudden blasts of power.

The last track is the almost 13 minute "The Divine Comedy". The wild shifting of genres continues here, of course it is all over- seen by the metallic feel, but it amazingly slips from jazz to tech metal, sometimes even merging both, with hardly any effort at all. It's wild, it's chaotic and it's awesome. As I listen, my cat lays there looking at the speakers wondering, "How did that just happen?" If you are wondering if it is all just noise and chaos, you are wrong. The music still takes time to breathe, and even falls into a nice peaceful section in the middle that will make you think you suddenly got transported to church as the organ rolls along with minimal guitar. Suddenly the guitar and drums go on a tech rampage chewing all of this up and spitting it out. The most amazing thing about all of this is how it all just flows and fits together.

So, here we have another amazing collaboration with John Zorn and another group of talented musicians. There are to date six total studio albums with Simulacrum playing Zorn compositions and now a new live album released in January 2020, which should be pretty amazing if this album is any indication. It seems, however, that anyone can go into the Zorn discography and pull out something that will appeal to them. As far as Simulacrum, lovers of metal, fusion and avant rock will find something to easily love and be amazed at. The music is quite heavy and will appeal more to those that love the more complex sounds of post metal, progressive metal and dashes of classic prog and jazz fusion.

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