Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Naked City - Grand Guignol (1992)

| Avant-Garde | Jazzcore | Experimental Rock |
| Avant-Classical |

"Unlike some of Naked City's other albums, this could hardly be qualified as a rock or jazz album. In the liner notes Zorn talks about how humanity has a dark side, symbolized by the Grand Guignol, a Parisian theatre that "served up torture, incest, blood lust, insanity, mutilation and death to generations of fervid spectators." The album is Zorn's exploration of our fascination with evil.

The album opens with a series of eloquent and sinister classical pieces. The first, Zorn's "Grand Guignol" is a series of avant-garde vignettes, drums and tortured guitars against a backdrop of silence. It is similar to "American Pyscho" on Radio, except it lacks the cultural references to rock and pop. The rest of the pieces drift along, subtle and dark classical covers performed by a rock quintet. Frisell's eloquent reverby guitar is used to good effect here, as is Fred Frith's use of the volume pedal to float his electric bass in and out of the song. This is some of the most understated and beautiful playing Naked City has ever done.

They are sharply contrasted by the onslaught of tracks 9-41. These tracks make up the other half of Torture Garden, the first half released on Naked City's debut album. They are a brutal, in your face assault of genres augmented by Yamatsuka Eye's ferocious screams, yells and grunts. The material is, in a word, insanity.

This is one of my favorite Naked City albums. It is both dark and contemplative and upbeat and disturbing. This album should appeal to anyone interested in new ways of structuring music who doesn't mind some pretty insane sound. It should also appeal to anyone who enjoys thrash or hardcore music.

PS: This is the remastered version of the album, which includes "Grand Guignol (Vocal Version)", with awesome vocals by the genius Mike Patton!

Catalog: Avan 002 (Avant)
Download (ALAC)
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