John Zorn – The Hermetic Organ Vol. 6: For Edgar Allan Poe

zornImagine, if you can, a time before electricity. Naw … fuck that shit. How about we jump back to a time when gunpowder was the newest iPhone? Let’s say around 700 or 800 AD. Horseshit, bullshit, and human shit everywhere. People dying from incredibly laughable illnesses. Got a cold? Too bad. Chicken pox? You’re dead. Stub your toe and get a bit of diarrhoea? That’s all folks! So, one day, you’re walking down a street in your bare feet, avoiding a heterogeneity of viral deaths with every step, when you suddenly feel the earth shake. You stop and wait for the pack of pissed-off bulls to come end your short life, but nothing happens. Despite everything inside of you screaming to get the fuck out of here, you continue walking. The rumbling grows in size and shifts somehow. You look up to the clouds and see a clear blue sky. Not a rain cloud or drop in sight. You continue walking. Now endless multi-harmonic screams sits on top of this low rumble. If you weren’t so scared, you might even call the sound beautiful. Nope. Not beautiful. This shit is evoking fucktons of fear and wonder at once. What’s the word… “awe”? That’s it. You’re awed. The sound you’re hearing is, truly, awesome. You run to find its source even though you’ve pissed yourself. Sure, whatever is making this sound will probably kill you, but these days so will too much ethnic food. Whatever can make this sound could easily murder you, so you might as will try to become its lapdog. And you look fucking great in a collar. You’ve got the face for it. The sound grows, thunders, and rumbles as you draw nearer. You turn a corner and you see a building. It’s this church thing everyone’s raving about. Somehow, the building itself is the thing trumpeting, crying, carolling, and crooning out these mighty roars. You run inside to see a series of metallic pipes and a this wee little man owning these keys and foot pedals. Someone tells you it’s called a pipe organ. But you don’t care. Whatever has inspired such perfect engineering must be the most powerful thing in all existence. And you’re smart enough to worship whatever that thing is before it straight ices your sorry ass.

The organ often doesn’t get enough cred in this modern age. Half the time that’s because it’s not placed in its proper context. When we listen to recordings of it out of these dinky speakers we lodge inside our ears, of course, it’s going to sound like shit. But when you see it played live by a virtuoso, buckle the fuck up. The organ dominates the bass and owns those highs. It’s just bigger than anything else. It can, literally, shake the very building it’s housed in. If you listen to this album, do so on really good headphones or speakers. You won’t be able to hear all the notes otherwise.

John Zorn is one crazy motherfucker. When walking the outer edge of what music and sound is, you’ll eventually meet up with Zorn. It’s where the motherfucker lives. He’s done everything. He’s made music that sounds like childbirth, he’s made metal, jazz, all the way to a clean and crisp Christmas album. This sixth volume is the last in his hermetic organ series and it’s dedicated to the king of nightmares, Elgar Allan Poe. It inspires feelings of dread and horror. And, fuck me, does it ever achieve this goal. Shit is freaky. Poe would either be proud or shitting himself. I don’t know which reaction would be better praise.

I tried to listen to this motherfucker in one go. I couldn’t. I had to stop a few times to take a breather. This improvisation is strange, compelling, and huge. Zorn uses famous organ motifs throughout the performance, like Bach or Ligeti, to keep your feet grounded while flinging out some of the craziest sounding shit ever made. If you were to play these tunes in a haunted house people would, actually, lose their fucking minds. I’m talking straightjacket kinda shit. Look, I get it. I understand if listening to music that’s meant to freak you out isn’t your jam. Same logic applies to scary movies. To limit music to the strict category of “pleasure”, is not just limiting what music can be, but limiting the depths of experience you can have in your short time atop this spinning ball. The building of tension on this album is huge. That’s not by mistake. Zorn is a master composer/performer. And when relief is found in the mountains of fearful cacophony, it’s hard not to feel overcome by that old feeling of awe. This album brings you back to the days when the organ was first created. It puts the fear back into those fucked up machines churches decided to install into the very structure of their buildings. It takes the organ and sits it back down onto the daunting throne as God’s proxy. In short, this album makes the organ awesome again.

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