John Zorn’s film score work has been wildly incongruous. But then again, not many of us have seen the films these recordings were made to accompany. From S&M flicks to Japanese cartoons to documentaries about gay Orthodox Jews, and just about everything in between, Zorn’s film works output has something for everyone (punks, minimalists, Masada fans, classical buffs, etc.) yet together they are nothing that everyone will dig. If you own them all, some strike your fancy; others are to be avoided.
Allow me to be so bold as to indicate that Film Works XIII: Invitation To Suicide is his finest film work. The only caveat is this creation has a sweeping universal appeal to lovers of bluesy film noir themes. But then again, who doesn’t love film noir themes?
Zorn’s choice of instrumentation colors this session, matching accordionist Rob Burger (Tin Hat Trio) with guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Kenny Wollessen who doubles on vibes and the marimba. Rounding out the band are Zorn regulars Trevor Dunn (bass) and Erik Friedlander (cello). The music comes from somewhere North of Astor Piazzolla’s Tango and West of Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti gangsters.
While the liner notes tell us this is a dark comedy, this fact is inherently evident in the music. Ribot, a veteran of Tom Waits’ carnival barker music, applies his twisted sense of guitar disfigurement in adroit harmony to the mysterious music. The music (probably cues to the progression of the story) repeats a continuous theme throughout ala Hitchcock, by way of Wolleson’s repeated patterns. Different configurations of music from a waltz, blues, tango, to the Naked City-ish noisy end track, are thrown against this progression. And it’s all very comforting, in a very dark way.
The star here is Burger. His accordion takes the center throughout. He plays a unique blend of Cajun, tango, circus, and folk music. As unusual as the accordion is to American sensibilities, it certainly sparks the odd nature of Zorn’s vision of black comedy.