Nowhere in John Zorn's vast catalog has a new work been given such a detailed liner note treatment as Mount Analogue. Zorn became interested in G.I. Gurdjieff as early as 1969. The music by Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann is claimed as a primary influence on his Masada songbooks. The piece on this disc is titled for the unfinished novel by surrealist writer René Daumal -- who was also a disciple of Gurdjieff. The spine wrapper that accompanies all Tzadik titles claims Mount Analogue as one of Zorn's file card pieces. That said, the composer claims in his liner notes that the score was mostly written in conventional notation in sequence from beginning to end; file cards were eventually developed but not used in the recording sessions. As an entity, Mount Analogue has much more in common with his mystical works. A single piece, just over 38 minutes long, "Mount Analogue" was performed by Cyro Baptista's Banquet of the Spirits quartet: Shanir Blumenkranz, Tim Keiper, and Brian Marsella, with Kenny Wollesen on vibes and chimes. Zorn conducted. There are vocals credited to all the players, but they resemble chants more than singing. From Jewish and other Middle Eastern folk musics to soundtrack atmospherics, exotica-tinged jazz, Latin rhythms, and contemporary classical inquiries into minimalism, tone, space, color, and counterpoint, all are on display in this wonderfully musical, meditative, hypnotic, and "mystical" work. The accessibility factor in "Mount Analogue" is high; what begins as a musical question eventually resolves, usually through a circular method that is deeply satisfying. Blumenkranz's oud and bass playing are exceptional, and the organ and piano work from Marsella balances sacred folk music and jazz musics with classical discipline. Wollesen's vibes are central to the composition -- as is Baptista's arsenal, particularly his prayer bells and hand drums -- and Keiper's calabash drums create surprising textures and balance. Without in any way trivializing Zorn's achievement -- he has clearly turned some kind of corner in his own already wildly inspired universe as a composer -- fans of the Dreamers' various recordings, as well as some of the later volumes in the Film Works series, would appreciate Mount Analogue as well. If you're a serious Zorn fans who may wonder with a skeptical gaze if his liner comments that this is one of his greatest achievements are hyperbole, you can rest easy: he's telling the truth.
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