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John Zorn: IAO-Music in Sacred Light

Farrell Lowe By

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An album of ritual, Magick, possible bloodletting, sex, and incantations, this recording is the aural equivalent of film director Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. As usual, John Zorn incorporates a wide array of influences and musical styles in IAO. To his credit, he never loses sight of his reason for creating the music in the first place. Like an alchemist, he seems to be interested in the manifestation and transformation of human physicality into numinous spirit. A heady task you may think, but really, isn't it the quest of most jazz musicians? On this effort, Zorn understands the depth and gravity of his mission.

The album opens with "Invocation," which begins with modulated organ tones and stark struck percussion, then slowly builds in intensity. Imagine walking into a darkened church at midnight and discovering that you may or may not be alone... that is the sense conveyed in this piece. On "Sex Magick" the mood shifts and the ritual deepens. Hand drums and percussion invoke the musics of Cuba, Haiti, and the jungle groove of Brazil. Here again the energy builds slowly and with great focus, capturing a raw, sensual vibe and suggesting an image of someone stirring a voodoo pot on a steady fire. "Sacred Rites of the Left Hand Path" begins as an ostinato on electric piano. Later, with the introduction of the theme and variations on acoustic piano and synth, there is a strong sense of a journey undertaken. I am reminded of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky, and I feel that Zorn is exploring similar perimeters here.

"The Clavicle of Solomon" incorporates rich, subtle, and powerful electronic soundscapes—a dark tone poem that offers illumination, but not for the faint of heart! There is a serious gravity and omniscient undertow to this piece. The voices of a dark-hooded choir sets the stage for "Lucifer Rising," which reminds me of the backwards-talking midget in the red room in David Lynch's Twin Peaks film series. It's a predominately vocal piece with strong sensual overtones. The doors come off the hinges in "Leviathan," as the players let it all hang out! An apocalyptic outburst of sonic creation that most heavy metal groups would kill for, this piece harkens back to the angriest music of Archie Shepp in the Sixties and Japanese Noisecore of the '80s and '90s. "Mysteries" closes the album with a sense of spent tumescence. Shattered illusions and tattered clothing lie on the ground. Akin to the work of Olivier Messiaen, this music can shake core beliefs and serve as a powerful catalyst for creative growth.

The depth of research apparent with this and Zorn's other recent work reveals an artist who is consistently developing his understanding of composition, metaphysics, religion, and ritual. He also has the courage to manifest what he hears in relation to his understanding of this research. There are inspired performances by everyone involved in this project. IAO is powerful music outside the realm of head/solo/head mentality, but equally valid—and a welcome addition to the canon of creative music. Visit Tzadik at: www.tzadik.com


Track Listing: 1. Invocation 2.Sex Magick 3.Sacred Rites of the Left Hand Path 4.The Clavicle of Solomon 5. Lucifer Rising 6.Leviathan 7.Mysteries

Personnel: John Zorn, Cyro Baptista, Jennifer Charles, Greg Cohen, Beth Hatton, Bill Laswell, Rebecca Moore, Mike Patton, Jim Puliese, Jamie Saft

Title: IAO-Music in Sacred Light | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Tzadik

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