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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Aaron Novik - Secret of Secrets (Tzadik, 2012) ****½

By Paul 

It's about half way into the first song 'Secrets of Creation (khoisdl)' on Aaron Novik's Secret of Secrets and after a long classically influenced passage, the strings have interlocked with the keyboards in a dark and moving groove that makes me feel like I'm discovering an unknown chamber in my soul. The sounds takes on an earthy hue and I can feel my heart being pulled from my corporeal being as the strings draw the song up to a tight finish.        

Now prepared, I embrace the powerful entrance to 'The Divine World (terkish)'. The persistent and powerful rock like intro is a multi- layered affair with a klezmer melody atop a weighty rhythm played by the strings. The guitar contributes a swirling line over the dark and churning tempest below, until the strings soon help usher in the next movement and lighten the whole affair with a folk tinged melody.

Throughout the recording, rhythms, countermelody, and complex harmonic movements that reveal great attention to detail and thoughtful construction. While Novik's compositional approach has yielded  lucrative results, his talented cast of musicians really help bring these compositions to life. Novik plays electric clarinet and his group is Matthias Bossi on drums, Cornelius Boots playing the utterly fantastic robot bass clarinet, Carla Kihlstedt on electric violin, Willie Winant on percussion like the timpani, vibraphone, glockenspiel, gong, and tubular bells and Fred Frith on guitar. He also features Bay Area guests Ben Goldberg on contra-alto clarinet, Lisa Mezzacappa on bass and Aaron Kierbel on dumbek. The Real Vocal String Quartet and Mafia Brass help round out the contributers.  

Besides the strong musicianship and intriguing song development, there is a third element to the album, which is its inspiration. The album is built around mysticism and reference to 12th century Kabbalistic writings (for a more in depth explanation I refer you to Eyal Hareuveni's excellent review). Suffice to say, I am simply listening to this dark and stirring album as just that, a dark, stirring and electrically charged album, though I'm sure an understanding of its roots and inspiration could shine in some light while deepening other shadows.    

A fantastic work that draws on elements of classical, jazz, rock and electronics to great effect. Certainly worth checking out!

Check out an excerpt here:


joesh said...

Nice review.

I'd thoroughly recommend this to anybody who likes composed 'downtown' music (ex: Zorn's Bar Kokhba, Eric Friedlander's Grains Of Paradise). In fact when I think about it it sits well with King Crimson, Gentle Giant etc, if we'd been in the 70's it would be called 'prog-rock'.

Great record - *****

Anonymous said...

Agree, it brings back memories of music i listened to in the 70's. This album is truly astonishing and original.