Pitom: Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes (2011)
The sophomore release of Pitom, of one of John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture series outfits, symbolizes a dead-end in this important musical and cultural movement that began in early nineties. Pitom, led by guitarist Yoshie Fruchter, is influenced by iconic musical figures from visionary seventies fusion bands like Frank Zappa and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as early nineties grunge/punk bands including Nirvana and The Melvins. Blasphemy and other Serious Crimes is even supposed to be a sonic homage to the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), in a manner that mixes the seriousness of the day with a tongue-in-cheek style and sound.
But while listening to this release, there's the feeling that Zappa would have found a much deeper and spikier insight on such a holy day a sarcastic, ironic one, perhaps, or even one that loathed the way that organized religions attempt to entrench constant guilt as a mean of control. Pitom's members, gifted as they are, remain far from replicating Mahavishnu's level of virtuous playing, even at the Orchestra's moments of excess, and it is hard to believe that Pitom's manifestation of sonic angst is nothing more than a compositional and stylistic exercise; paler in its emotional intensity than that of early grunge bands.
Pitom's affinity with some of Zorn's repertoire is evident in its combination of fusion and heavy metal riffs with noise, punk with some klezmer shtick, especially on "Vos Zogt Ir," a too-obvious tribute to Zorn's compositional style. But contrary to the promising title of this album, there is a benevolent adoption of these genres, not a rebellionsonic or culturalnor a convincing attempt to create a singular music language that reflects the emotional and intellectual inner battle of the believer on such a tormenting day, or about the cultural identity of a musician that corresponds with other cultures and beliefs.
The end result is so disappointing because each of Pitom's members are excellent musicians. But this set of eleven compositions focuses on their excessive sides and misses their other qualities.
Track Listing: In the Merit of...; Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes; Head in the Ground; Resentful Repentance; Stumbling Block; Confusion of the Heart; A Crisis of Faith; Neilah; Epic Encounter; Vos Zogt Ir; Azazel.
Personnel: Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: bass; Yoshie Fruchter: guitar; Kevin Zubek: drums; Jeremy Brown: violin, viola.
Record Label: Tzadik