Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Naked City ~ Black Box [Torture Garden/Leng Tch'e]
This two-CD set was first released by John Zorn in Japan in the early 1990s. It couldn't be sold in the United States because of the cover art, now concealed within the Black Box. These are Zorn's most horrific inspirations--Torture Garden incited by the images of Japanese sadomasochist pornography contained herein, Leng Tch'e by photographs of a Chinese public execution involving extended torture. A key part of Zorn's aesthetic is to create a musical methodology that matches his subject matter, or, conversely, to find a subject that matches his compositional methods. Like Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, William S. Burrough's cut-up method, or the cutting and pasting of collage, Zorn's methods mimic violence, creating new forms out of the torture and destruction of the old. Torture Garden and Leng Tch'e are, literally, the short and the long of it. Torture Garden consists of 42 tracks, the longest of which is a minute and 14 seconds, the shortest a scant 10 seconds. Musical genres are literally cut up and stuck together, snippets of free jazz, lounge, country and western, pop (ancient and modern), and classical colliding and overlapping in a kind of cultural shock treatment. The 32-minute Leng Tch'e is drawn out to excruciating lengths in its simulation of the agony (and ecstasies) of torture and death. Throughout the two discs, the execution is at a very high level. With Bill Frisell on guitar, Fred Frith on bass, Joey Baron on drums, Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, and vocalist Yamatsuka Eye of the acclaimed Boredoms), Naked City combines many of Zorn's most talented collaborators, and it inspires some of his most brutish and brilliant alto saxophone playing. The Black Box creates a literal connection between "hard core" music and hard-core pornography. To say that it isn't for the squeamish is understatement.