Intended as a tribute to the influence authors and artists William Burroughs and Brion Gysin had upon him, Interzone is one of John Zorn's more ambitious multi-part pieces. While some claim this is a return to the file card process and recordings like Spillane, Interzone feels different: it's more an ensemble work even when it travels through through genres, dynamics, textures, and musical geographies. Zorn plays saxophone with percussionist Cyro Baptista, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Trevor Dunn, Ikue Mori on electronics, John Medeski helming various keyboards, and drummer Kenny Wollesen, who also plays chimes, vibes, gongs, etc. The three numbered pieces are a loosely strung 54-minute suite. "Interzone 1" begins with guitars, drums, and a single long beep before the rest of the band enters in a flowing, free jazz driven by Wollesen's drumkit. Dunn's electric bass pulses and throbs distortedly underneath, pushing matters into more delightfully confusing terrain. Sound effects like those of crowds in the Marrakesh Medina are added to the mix before Dunn's bass moves into rock overdrive, and Medeski's organ swirls and soars before Ribot cuts loose with an unhinged guitar solo. Later, backward-spun tape, Dunn's upright bass, and Zorn's bleating, inventive alto sax enter the fray, replacing some of the electric instruments. Free and structured improv meet composition cohesively. "Interzone 2," which clocks in at over 27 minutes, is the most sparsely populated piece. Pairs or trios -- instruments and sounds -- offer ideas that shift fairly quickly, as they pay the most direct homage to the cut-up writing methods of Zorn's subjects (this track is the most obvious argument for the file card strategy, but there's too much group cohesiveness). That said, while the cut-ups were often jarring and disconnected, everything here feels of a piece, no matter what genre or energy is explored. Various ambiences anchor the track into place; everything happens around them. The final part, at just over 11 minutes, is a mirror image of the second: though it begins slowly and sparsely, before Medeski's piano freely improvises to stir things up, it becomes an orgy of distorted rock with wailing guitar, basses, and organs colliding with drums and percussion. Interzone is a solid entry in Zorn's catalog. Far from ponderous, it is most focused, and succeeds in paying an inventive tribute to Burroughs' and Gysin's collective influence and contributions to art.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek