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Album Review

Let's take away John Zorn's ecstatic — some would say diarrheic — hyperbole in the sleeve notes for a bit and look at the trio here: vocalist Mike Patton, drummer Joey Baron, and bassist Trevor Dunn. Given their individual and collective résumés, the possibilities are nearly endless. These three offer Moonchild, Zorn's "contemporary song cycle," the feel of something that for the most part doesn't quite feel like song in any way we currently recognize — even in hardcore punk and metal genres which this set gets its inspiration from — but it's far more than mere improvisation. In his notes Zorn claims to have been "combining the hypnotic intensity of ritual (composition) the spontaneity of magick (improvisation) and in a modern musical format (rock)." Good enough, but what it seems like in a simplistic sense is that he's interested in the power dynamic of rock to change certain elements of both. And changed they are. He claims his spiritual inspiration from the mad genius of French letters in the early 20th century, Antonin Artaud, magician and proto "new age" theorist Aleister Crowley, and the brilliant vanguard composer Edgard Varèse. Moonchild supposedly "touches upon" magick, mysticism, ritual shamanism, and decadence" among other things. Sure it does. By contrast, so did Naked City and Painkiller — though admittedly, these pieces feel more focused than either. Throw that stuff out the window, and the music one is left with is disturbing, dynamically brilliant, taut, and full of surprise, delight, and humor. These tracks feel like guided improvisations in ways that seem to come out of the conceptual ideas for the second Masada book, "Book of Angels." But it most certainly is rock — in scope, power, feel, and shattering intensity. "Possession" would not have been out of place on one of the last two Captain Beefheart albums, the title track is a slow, evil-sounding creep through the basement of modern song; "Summoning" would not have been estranged from the later Burzum catalog; and some of this music — "Part Maudite," "Abraxas," "Caligula" — could be covered by San Francisco's late, great black metal band Weakling. At just over 45 minutes in length, it is staggering how exhausted yet fulfilled the listener is after encountering this music. For jazz fans, run away as fast as possible. For Zorn fans of the aforementioned works, this is for you, or for those who follow Patton and Dunn. For those looking for a new and brutally exciting form of rock music, Moonchild is the only thing that does the trick.

Customer Reviews

Get in touch with your inner caveman

Because lord knows, Mike Patton is deeply in touch with his. Zorn seems to find a new logic in creating intense heavy music; Strip it down to some primitive debacle of freaky patton shrieks, roaring razory basslines that do anything to stray away from the normal sound of one, and a drummer who just follows his own rhythm of madness. These 3 musicians create a jarring musical hysteria that is entertaining as it is shocking. People compare Patton's slew of untraceable and disturbing gibberish to his Fantomas style vocals, but I dont agree. I was actually able to follow those and eventually sing along to them. With Moonchild he clearly is on an entirely more confrontational level of that style, completely untraceable. it just comes at you. It moves from volatile and frantic (Hellfire, Abraxas), to a ghastly, ghost like crooning (Ghosts of Thelema, Moonchild). The demonic, voodoo like esque of Possession is quite a ride, and probably the discs most memorable number. As for Dunn & Baron, well they clearly are on their own schedule of musical nihilism as well, Both of them bouncing off eachother in dark patterns of noisy groove. Equinox is a barreling, nightmarish journey of their powers as a duo. Overall, I really enjoy this album, I wouldnt really reccomend it to anybody unless they really needed a dose of something different, Like REALLY different. Zorn's visionary approach to heavy music is quite spooky, and very overwhelming.

you may need a snorkel

i'm writing this as a patton fan who was handed this by a very cool independent record store owner, i walked in and was immediately informed of this disaster-masterpiece. well not a bad disaster, just a messy one, but a very neat mess if you know what to listen for... the bass and drums are on point, as are the vocals, if anyone know's patton's weirder works they know that he has an extroardinary sense of timing. he puts to use his made famous by fantomas jibberish. if i'm not mistaken zorn is a fan of this side of patton. it's amazing. this music is heavy and bludgeony (yeah) and quirky and to a person with a strange sense of humor, hilarious. also check out the follow up "astronome" it's a 3 part opera in the vein of moonchild. get it.

Cool, Deranged, Zorn, Patton, Dunn

Just about the most psychotic record I have heard out of Tzadik, and there are a lot of them. Patton and Zorn are geniuses.


Born: September 2, 1953 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The one word virtually everyone can agree on in any discussion of the work of composer John Zorn is "prolific," in the strictest sense of the definition. Though he didn't begin making records until 1980, the recordings under his own name number well over 100, and the sheer number of works he has performed on, composed, or produced easily doubles that number. Though now an internationally renowned musician and the founder and owner of the wildly successful and equally prolific Tzadik imprint, Zorn...
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