By Thom Jurek (AMG)
Dreamachines marks the third part of a trilogy of sorts, influenced by the works and techniques of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, who together developed the cut-up method Third Mind collaboration and other creative and improvisational strategies. As a composer, John Zorn has utilized their techniques and thought throughout his career; it has been most obvious in the cut-and-paste methodology of his Naked City group, and in the two previous tribute recordings to Burroughs and Gysin that preceded this one: the vanguard multi-part suite Interzone that appeared in 2010, and 2011's Nova Express.
While the former album is the clear outlier of the three, the material in this set closely mirrors the latter recording, even employing the same band: pianist John Medeski, bassist Trevor Dunn, vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, and drummer Joey Baron. Zorn offers some freer jazz pieces with intuitive and expert improvisation evidenced by the set bookends, "Psychic Conspirators" and "The Wild Boys," the former driven by speedy, demanding work by Wollesen, the latter with deft, free-thinking piano by Medeski. Zorn also delves into his work with his Dreamers project, with the crystalline "The Dream Machine" and the atmospheric "Git-le-Coeur," and in stitching together Latin music, the influence of Ray Charles' rumbling left hand, and gently atonal improvisation in "The Third Mind" (the second tune is driven by inventive interplay from Dunn and Baron). Still elsewhere, the composer charts more angular classical works in the spacious and tentative "Light Chapels" and the knotty, arpeggiated exploration in "Note Virus," with wonderfully complex exchanges between pianist and vibraphonist. Finally, he references the Jewish and Middle Eastern folk melodies and modalism performed by some of the groups assembled to play his Masada composition books in the exotic "The Conqueror Worm" and "1001 Nights in Marrakech." Dreamachines does vary widely in terms of style -- especially for a chamber group -- but Zorn is a magician when it comes to creating compositional, dynamic, and textural balances -- when he wants to be. And here, in using multiple styles and through careful strategic sequencing, he delivers an exciting sonic tapestry.