Review Summary: Crowleyana for ages 2 to 92
My five-year-old son loves “Book of Los,” the second track off Tzadik’s latest Moonchild collaboration. I could lie and say it was for Marc Ribot’s lush guitar lead, the mid-song choral touches, Zorn’s cautious piano contributions, or even the blazing instrumental virtuoso second half. It’s not. My boy lights up when Mike Patton’s Fudd-in-an-electric-chair gibbering rips across the song’s ritual jazz-rock landscape. It’s perhaps not the best reason to be excited about occult improv, but it could be worse. He could prefer Bieber.
After four other recordings with similar focus, one might expect further work to be a stale retread, but on Ipsissimus, Zorn and company are still finding new ways to evolve their sound. Patton has injected lighter whispers and tonal singing into his performance, and Zorn’s sax rage in opener “Seven Sigils” also yields to smoother granddad-pleasing runs. Trevor Dunn’s bass growls in places, bubbles in others, sometimes laying foundation but just as often scratching out Masada-like melodies (as in “The Changeling”) that have been creeping into this music since Moonchild’s last outing, The Crucible. Joey Baron, likewise, is more than rhythm keeper; his drums sketch impish patterns around the others’ equally cheeky efforts. Further sonic surprises can be found in the chiming intro and tropical beach-to-beast transformations of “Warlock,” and in the guitar solos exhumed from some alternate universe’s Southern rock tradition in “Supplicant.”
Maybe it’s not so strange that, amidst all the bold magickal questing undertaken by these brave musicians, it’s Patton’s human voice, screwball utterances and all, that I find most memorable. Maybe there’s a giggling five-year-old in all of us.