This release documents an intense musical representation of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, a coordinated attack on Jews throughout the German Reich that occurred on November 9, 1938, during which Nazis, SS members, and Hitler youth broke into Jewish homes and businesses, assaulting the people and their property. The official German report tallied 7,500 businesses destroyed, 267 synagogues burned (with 177 totally destroyed), and 91 Jews killed. John Zorn has created a musical work that powerfully represents the different stages of this historical event. "Shtetl (Ghetto Life)" is beautiful yet apprehensive klezmer, interspersed with sound bites of German rallies and speeches that become more frequent, increasingly crowding the life from the music. This segues into "Never Again," which, Zorn warns in the liner notes, "contains high frequency extremes at the limits of human hearing and beyond, which may cause nausea, headaches and ringing in the ears." While nearly unbearable, it is a fitting sound representation of Kristallnacht, as thousands of layers of shattering glass assault the ears. "Never Again" is both effective and affecting, if you can listen. This onslaught is followed by the loud silence and emptiness of "Gahelet (Embers)," a walk through the immediate aftermath of wind, darkness, and destruction. Alley echoes are heard as sound is overwhelmed by a dread and horror beyond expressing, and no words can contain what might begin to form in the midst of shock. This is a heavy silence. Strings have gone haggard on the next composition, and from this point the album becomes less literal and explicit, moving away from poignancy and focus into more chaos. Zorn's forceful undertaking is realized through the expert and passionate musicianship of violinist Mark Feldman, guitarist Marc Ribot, keyboardist Anthony Coleman, bassist Mark Dresser, and percussionist William Winant, as well as guest trumpeter Frank London and clarinetist David Krakauer.
AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne