An album which straddles the line between John Zorn's classical compositions and his more theoretical, experimental work, Angelus Novus collects four pieces which span 20 years of his career. 1983's "For Your Eyes Only" is a chamber symphony which lurches from all-out aggression to jazzy horn interludes and breezy wind pieces. "Christabel" is a 1972 student piece that also has sharply executed cuts alternating between fluttering, energetic sections and smooth, serene ones that could act as the soundtrack to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Zorn has said that the piece was inspired by Coleridge). "Carny," performed expertly by pianist Stephen Drury, comes from the same era as Zorn's file card compositions, Godard and Spillane, and like them it contains a series of short, seemingly random and unrelated bits. When shuffled together the bits present a cohesive image. The final piece, Angelus Novus, is the newest, but like the others it is a fragmented work -- it is divided into five movements, some only slightly more than a minute long, and even within those divisions it manages to execute several themes. Dedicated to Walter Benjamin, the music echoes the influence of many cultures, from traditional Jewish music to modern classical. It contains a complexity which makes it a fitting tribute to Benjamin. Indeed, the whole album, while not shining with the crystalline perfection of his best work, is a solid example of thoughtful composition. ~ Stacia Proefrock
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