John Zorn - IAO: Music in Sacred Light

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"Experimental music icon John Zorn has been living on the edge of deviance for some time now. In the mid-80s, during his six month sojourns to Japan, repeated exposure to extreme porn and S&M; rubbed off on him-- enough to find a place in his compositions with Naked City and afterwards. He's produced soundtracks for South American gay porn, placed dead bodies and decapitated heads on his CD covers (there's a pentagram on the back of this one), and composed whole albums about deadly poisons. Zorn seems tempted by the dark side, and it often brings out the best in him.

IAO is his meditation on evil, specifically concerned with the Beast (the name IAO is Kabbalistically identical to 'Satan'). The liner notes tell me it was partially inspired by cult theorist Aleister Crowley, who spent most of his life practicing and writing about the concept of 'Magick.' As much as I can gather, Magick was the practice of governing and empowering one's sense of free will through Gnostic rituals (often with sexual symbolism) and tarot cards, all tied together by a system of strange symbols and a mythical poem called "Liber al vel Legis." Crowley was as subversive a figure as you're likely to find, and it's not hard to see how his esoteric deviance could have inspired Zorn to focus on primal fears and ritualistic lusts.

The music of IAO is classic Zorn: dark ambient exoticism, ethnic percussion exercises, hypnotic suspense-film music, thrash, and avant-garde classical. Similar to his recent "Music for Children" series, he seems to be loosening the reins on his tradition for branding each project an isolated incident, opting instead to use all of his best colors on one canvas. "Invocation," follows Crowley's ritual model, and its clanging cymbals and use of null space seem to nod to Nurse with Wound's similarly disturbing Homotopy to Marie. A church organ (of all things) opens the track with dissonant, wavering chords, and bells rustle along both sides of the stereo. They give way to a whirling tailwind, and what sounds like someone sharpening a blade. And like a black hole, this implodes slightly, only to supernova into a wall of flies. This may actually be the loudest moment on the album, and two minutes in, it's apparent that Zorn's new album is one of the better records to be affiliated with the black arts (a short list, I know). I won't bring up the backwards-singing choir or voodoo sticks, as I'm sure you'll want to experience the sheer thrill for yourself."

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