Record Guide Reviews – Eye Weekly (11.23.06)

Two reviews from Eye’s Holiday Record Guide issue.

JOHN ZORN ****
Astronome (Tzadik)

With his MacArthur Fellows Genius Grant plaque freshly framed on the studio wall, John Zorn pulls out the file cards and runs his drum, bass and vocal lab rats through a labyrinthine death-metal opera in vocalese based on the brief collaboration of Artaud and Varese entitled Astronome. The rats in this experiment are the same who wrought Zorn’s hardcore improv session Moonchild: Joey Baron (Masada) and Fantomas’ Trevor Dunn and Mike Patton. Pretentiousness aside, the “pocket opera” as Zorn’s liner notes refer to it, is a sheets-of-plate-glass-through-a-wind-turbine kind of affair. Highlights of the three-act monsterpiece include Patton’s committed performance of slurps, gurgles and inhuman shrieking in key, and the classy packaging crammed with Artaud artwork.

Originally published here.

SUBTLE ****
For Hero: For Fool (Astralwerks/Lex)

Only in San Francisco do experimental hip-hop groups tackle paranoid surrealist meditations on personal identity and the primal savagery of celebrity with such epic ambition. Subtle’s For Hero: For Fool is, in a word, dense. Doseone inexhaustibly sputters his copious texts, crammed with enough fantastic anatomy to arouse a Mugwump, over a soundtrack seamlessly flowing from intricately layered electronica to chunky beats, and even the occasional rock-epic instrumental break. Pop hooks are fleeting, eschewed in the interest of non-linear song structures. However, lead-off single “The Mercury Craze” twists a tale of vanity blood transfusions into four minutes of Gnarls-y infectiousness. Any attempt to absorb everything on this album in one listen can only result in injury.

Originally published here.

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