Naked City

Absinthe

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Naked City's final album is by far its most puzzling and enigmatic. Downtown maverick John Zorn's compositional workshop for a rock band completed its run of seven albums with this quiet, almost ambient, collection. Some of the pieces, such as "Une Correspondance" and "Artemesia Absintheium," get somewhat noisy, with industrial clattering, insect-like whines, feedback, and complex noises in layers. The closing piece, "...Rend Fou," is atonal electronic rattles, a precursor to the glitch electronics of Mego artists Pita and General Magic rather than representative of any group member's background at the time. However, the bulk of the album is more like Val deTravers, composed of Bill Frisell's detuned guitar over a tranquil bass and Joey Baron's bowed cymbals. The tribute to French composer Olivier Messaien, one of the few mystical visionaries in 20th century music, is quietly beautiful sustained guitar notes over a simple heartbeat-like rhythm. Baron's percussion work is often very subtle, a quiet crackling like a fire on La Feé Verte and the first Verlaine (where Zorn himself takes care of the only vocals on the album). The titles reflect the artist's continued interest in the avant-garde of the 19th century, where the green liqueur absinthe (known as the Green Fairy, La Feé Verte) was a favorite among artists and poets, including Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire (author of the controversial collection Les Fleurs du Mal). Nothing in Naked City's previous oeuvre prepares the listener for this collection, a complete reversal from the hardcore and thrash, but looking forward to Zorn's interest in minimalist pieces like Redbird and Duras.

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