The downtown New York music scene has shown brilliance for years, and two of its geniuses have now created a unique album together. @ (Tzadik) is John Zorn and Thurston Moore entering a room, coming together, opening the microphones to see what happens. Everything is improvisational (or most of it) so there is a “take it as it comes” approach to it. Zorn will play the sax, bite the reed, then suck, smoke, beat, choke, startle, squeeze and tickle his instrument, and that may be during the first two minutes of a track. Moore will do his Moore doodle thing and play what comes to him. Anyone who has followed Moore’s more adventurous works knows that this isn’t the first time he has made music like this where the structure of the piece lacks structure, but has some sense of construction, even if there isn’t a blueprint. There are times when it sounds as if they are complimenting each other, reacting to what the other does, and I guess for the most part that’s what they’re both doing, just to see what one draws from the other. What I like is how it sounds as if this was recorded in two different rooms during two different times and someone said “okay, let’s piece this together and release it as a an album. It has our names on it, it will sell a handful of copies on that basis alone.” What also works is when there’s deliberate magic to create a song, which comes through in “Her Sheets”. Then in a track like “Strange Neighbor” we hear the metaphorical strangeness of two people in two different worlds, the only thing holding them back is the wall or yard between them, as Moore’s guitar turns into percussion and sheets of metal. One could also say that “Her Sheets”, placed directly in the middle of the album (as song 4 of 7), could be the wall, or the space between friends and what Zorn and Moore are exploring the dimensions and color of that wall before the wall falls, if at all. There are times when what Zorn plays sounds, to me at least, Indian, or considering his roots, perhaps Jewish or Middle Eastern. I just imagined the sound of Kadri Gopalnath within, but as interpreted by Zorn for a moment. @ is not meant to be loved by everyone but then again, if you’re aware of who Zorn and Moore are, then you’re already halfway there.
I will say this: if you are a producer who is looking to sample unusual sounds and tones, or a weird drone or two, there are a few moments here that would be perfect for it. Of course, if you’re going to sample from them, ask for permission first or do some serious filtering.