Review of John Zorn Marathon at UCLA, May 2, 2015



I was dragged to this concert by my wife.

Of course, I could have been dragged to worse things, so no complaints here!

Background: I’ve never been a regular listener of John Zorn, and only owned one cassette (Naked City) in the ’90s, which I did enjoy at the time. All the noisy saxophone and gargling / screaming by Yamatsuka Eye made my teenage self laugh. There was obviously some technical skill happening, too. But I mostly liked it because the majority of music I had heard at that age could be considered “safe” and did not express my feelings of anxiety and alienation. Thus my interest in Avant Garde, Experimental, Noise, Extreme Metal, and Punk. Those musical genres felt “rebellious” to me.

At almost age 40, I don’t consider it rebellious to sit in a fancy theater at a college (with people my age and older) and listen to noise.

I could write a lot about what I personally did not enjoy about Abraxas and Bladerunner, but I’ll just summarize those two — then tell you what I DID like about Secret Chiefs 3.

Abraxas: Blocks of cliche surf / spaghetti western guitar glued together with blocks of noise and screechy telecaster. Was this earlier John Zorn material? I don’t know. It sounded similar to that Naked City record I mentioned earlier.
Bladerunner: Dave Lombardo of Slayer playing beats. Bill Laswell playing pseudo-oriental / pentatonic scales. John Zorn’s saxophone screams. Then devolving into white noise jams. A lack of conceptual development, mostly just banging on things.

We got up and left after 4 of those Bladerunner “songs.” If I were age 14 and forcing my high school classmates to experience all that chaos as a form of revenge, it would have been a dream come true. But at this point in my life, it’s definitely not my scene.

But Secret Chiefs 3? I can appreciate them.

They performed music from something called Xaphan: Book of Angels, Vol. 9 a.k.a. John Zorn Masada Book 2. Allegedly composed by John Zorn.

It had been years since I had seen SC3 live, so I was immediately re-impressed by Trey Spruance’s beautiful “arrangement” skills. The degree to which he customized the John Zorn compositions? I don’t know. But it sounded very much like original Secret Chiefs 3 material. All of the instruments existed in their own space, with elegant transitions and counterpoint. A central “theme” was passed back and forth, morphing between voices and timbres. The music contained actual melodies, and even though it was a bit too phrygian dominant for my tastes, it was solid and sensible material. There was forward motion and change — the beginning, middle, and end of a composition sounded similar and related to each other — not simply cut and paste repeats of an identical verse and chorus. And the dynamics were far more nuanced than the usual Velocity 127 and Velocity 0 of modern 1-bit rock music.

As you can tell, I don’t have a deep artistic appreciation of the music from the SC3 set — but I do very much respect it from an academic standpoint, and enjoyed that segment of the show. It seemed to have more in common with classical music than rock music.

Would I put myself through it again? No. I’d invest the $20 in something else. But at least the theater was clean and had chairs.


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Review of Dovetonsil “Chant Unchant” by Nils Rurack

Dovetonsil: Chant Unchant

Nils Rurack is a fusion guitarist from Germany. Now he lives in Missouri and he is still a fusion guitarist. He wrote this.

You can buy Dovetonsil “Chant Unchant” in the Carl King Shop.

• • •

The last time I visited with my friend Carl he gave me a CD before I left. He asked if I would mind giving a review. It was a CD written, recorded and performed by a man named John Citrone a.k.a. Dovetonsil named “Chant Unchant.”

Since I like discovering new music I said yes. I had no idea what I signed up for.

A week after I made it home I still hadn’t listened to the CD and I started to feel bad because I made a promise. So I put the CD in the player and waited for the music to start playing.

“Holy mother of Batman, this is awesome!”

That was my initial gut reaction during the first of 35 songs. The first 5 minutes of two and a half hours of music. And this was just the beginning. I haven’t listened to the CD often enough yet to write
a review. As a matter of fact I still haven’t heard the last 5 songs on disc two. You may ask why I haven’t since I am apparently smitten with this album. Because the music demands your attention. This is not a set of discs you start playing and then turn your attention to your kids. Or wife. Girlfriend. Video games. You name it. This music make you not only listen but explore. There are little gems hidden in the songs that make you giggle or laugh like a maniac.

“Chant Unchant” from Dovetonsil takes you on a musical journey. Rarely have I heard an album where so many different elements and styles fly by yet it all works and goes well together. The main genre is rock music. It contains any number of influences from experimental, prog, funk, Zappaesque to folk music and singer/songwriter genres. There are odd meters and tuplets, “speech” rhythms. There are stories and anecdotes.

Chant (Disc 1)
Git Outta My Face Sucka does exactly what every opening track should do: Give you a glimpse of what to expect with an attitude of taking no prisoners. Reminiscent of Vai during the Flexible era this tune adds funk, odd meters and even a hint of polyrhythms in the most playful of ways. Dovetonsil is here and there is no going back.

Followed by a beautiful, mellow rock song there is an element of surprise in every corner. Beautiful vocal melodies and harmonies.

The Jellybean Fiasco takes you into the realm of groovy Fusion with a Zappa inspired guitar solo which introduces you to another dimension of music and influences on this album.

This is where things get weird. Or do they? Dr. Nikolas J. Buttergurdy’s Magikal Elixir announces itself in the Zappaesque fashion but then quickly turns into one of the best rock musical songs I’ve ever heard. Yeah, it’s that good. I could write a review of that song alone and it would exceed a single page.

Vermillion Falls keeps the influence from Frank Zappa alive. Mind you, when I say this you can hear that John had listened to his share of Frank Zappa. However, he uses some of the typical elements and builds them into his own songs.

Which is why Gundown takes you straight into a Spaghetti Western. John creates all these different styles of music with ease and an appetite for perfection in arrangement. Another tool he handles perfectly are dynamics. The music supports the storytelling in intensity and dramatic effect.

Antahkarana. You’ve got to listen for yourself. I can’t even describe what I want to say. Non-traditionalacapellagospel. Is that a word?

I Am The Scorpion is a heavier Fusion song with some nice soloing. If this was food or wine tasting you would call it a palet cleanser. Perfectly executed music that appeals to the ear in a more conventional way. Let me use this opportunity to mention the superb musicianship of all players and singers on this album.

Stockard Channing takes you down the road to Prog Rock. Full of changes in rhythm, harmony and melody it delivers a mix of bits and pieces you already experienced on this album with something entirely new.

Let Kudryavka blow you away. Don’t even think about it or analyze it. Prog Rock Fusion at its best.

How It Used To Be. John has a knack for meaningful mellow rock songs with a message.

Moon is another venture into improvised Jazz inspired music. Very atmospherical while A Very Important Bicycle takes an instrumental ballad to a whole new level.

Rocka Rocka Rolla takes you into Punk Rock honoring artists that contributed to this genre. You didn’t expect that. Well I sure didn’t. And again it is done well and very authentic.

Kitty With A Man Face is a nice jingle which takes you to the final track Salem: 1692. A dark, bombastic and dramatic moment in history.

Wait, that was only disc 1? I just sat through an almost 80 minute tour de force of creative music and it was only have of it? That is a lot to digest and I need to get another drink before I continue.

Unchant (Disc 2)

1971. What a great grunge inspired rock song with little touches that make it different like the vocal harmonies. This is also another example of great storytelling.

War Is The Answer is probably my favorite song of the entire album. Together with this and that and …etc. In all seriousness, this song is very reminiscent of the mid-70s Zappa era yet it is only loosely arranged that way. Great vocal and musical performances. Hammer Fight is a quick grunge rock song to give your ears a little rest before Morpheus Blues keeps you guessing where
all these elements came from.

On the Unchant side you will find a great number of different genres that are all well executed and support the lyrics where applicable. John goes from Country to Electronic and Jazz. There is a short phone conversation that probably every musician in the world has experienced at least once.

Be Love and Emily are another couple of alternative or mellow rock songs that stand out through their vocal arrangements.

Biology is one of those short experimental songs that takes you by surprise before Blackberries unleashes the beauty of a folk song. The story element is very prominent again.

Another example of matching the lyrics to a genre is Seaside which turns out to be a Surf song.

I Believe is a very authentic bluegrass/blues song with harsh social commentary that turns quite dramatic…and exciting.

I’m a little baffled where She Was Alive When I Left came from. It’s a fantastic solo piano piece and even I cannot argue why it should be on this album. Except that the title is awesome.

At this point it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a funny piece left, Rudy’s Rock And Roll Jam, and an experimental noise/sound piece The Tiresome Ghosts.

Last but not least John adds an audio thank you card which he claims wasn’t his idea but is a neat idea nonetheless.

What a trip. Seriously. After 5 years in the making you get two and a half hours of pure excitement and entertainment. The musicians and vocalists are highly skilled professionals, the songwriting is exquisite and versatile. John Citrone is a great story teller and he has a knack for placing the right soundtrack to the right story.

After enjoying this album it seems like I got to know John probably even better than sitting with him in a bar for two and a half hours. I can highly recommend this album. You should buy it.

• • •

Nils Rurack is a fusion guitarist from Germany. Now he lives in Missouri and he is still a fusion guitarist. He wrote this.

You can buy Dovetonsil “Chant Unchant” in the Carl King Shop.

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Aristocrats “Culture Clash Live” Added To Shop


Hey Aristocrats nuts: I just added the latest Live CD + Live DVD combo pack to The CarlKingdom Shop. 8-Song CD, 9-Song DVD. All Live, and shrink-wrapped.

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7-String Bassist, Jeff Hughell

Here’s a video I made for Seymour Duncan at NAMM 2015. It’s a 7-string bassist named Jeff Hughell. His music reminded me of Behold… The Arctopus.

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Morgan Agren’s Solo CD

Batterie Deluxe

Hey folks, I recently bought a batch of Morgan Ågren’s first-ever Solo CD from the label in Japan. It’s called Batterie Deluxe and it’s got guest appearances from Devin Townsend and Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah. And of course, Morgan’s other weird friends!

If you’re in the US you can get Free Shipping on it by entering the code: import

Go check it out, and hope you love it!


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Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante (VINYL) Added To Shop


I’ve just added a very limited quantity of Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante on VINYL to my shop.

This was a significant album that contributed to my understanding of “the elements of music” when I was in college. It is also one of the few albums that brought 20th century “film scoring composition” to rock audiences.

Go get it in The Shop!


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PHOTOS & REVIEW: The Aristocrats @ Alva’s 020115

Marco Minnemann

Alva’s is the best venue for watching complicated music.
Plenty of parking.
Early shows: 5pm.
You get to sit down.
No drunks.
If you forgot earplugs, they’ve got some at the front desk.
The hollow floor resonates, so you can experience the low frequencies through tactile sound.

The Aristocrats (Marco Minnemann, Guthrie Govan, and Bryan Beller) are recording a new album.
They decided to rehearse the material in front of an audience for 4 small shows.
I went to see it with Chuck Parker.
The band sounded great!

You can order their previous albums in my Shop.

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Music of John Williams Performed On Piano!

Enguerrand-Friedrich Lühl-Dolgorukiy

You’ve got to check out this French pianist named Enguerrand-Friedrich Lühl-Dolgorukiy.

He has an album on iTunes called John Williams – Piano and a few others, including long-form works for TWO pianos! I’ve been listening to it and am blown away — it gives me that vibe from Steve Vai Piano Reductions by Mike Keneally. Except this is of course very famous musical cues from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., etc. It is quite detailed.

His stuff is also on Amazon. You can preview it on this iTunes player:

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New Marco Minnemann CD is HERE!

EEPS Cover

I declare: Marco is the strangest of the virtuoso drummers — a studied master of percussion on every level, yet he’s not afraid to record and orchestrate whatever weird sound he wants — and this is his latest CD for 2014! (It’s called “EEPS” for some reason.)

The first 10 orders through my shop will also receive a free Autographed Marco Minnemann Glow-In-The-Dark Flying Saucer.

Listen To A Song And Order The CD Now!

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Levin Minnemann Rudess (Video Review)

Order the CD here:

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