Zorn: All We Can Do Is Enjoy The Ride
Lux Nigra

It's hardly surprising that Michael Zorn's The City's Collapsing (But Not Tonight) is Lux Nigra's best selling title to date, given its remarkably accomplished sound (and a solo debut yet). The only problem is that, having issued such a definitive collection, Zorn now must devise an equally impressive follow-up. He briefly sidestepped that challenge by collaborating with Hans Möller on 2003's Boy Robot release Glamorizing Corporate Lifestyle, even if the album sometimes sounds like The City's Collapsing Pt. 2 (Zorn also partners with Thaddi Herrmann in No Sound No Memories and with Mark Engelhardt in Artificial Duck Flavour). In those moments when the Boy Robot album deviates from that trademark Zorn style (as in the beatific “The Last Dance”), it suggests promising directions ripe for future exploration.

Well, that future has arrived in the form of the forty-five minute All We Can Do Is Enjoy The Ride and, while it's inarguably a delicious exemplar of digital sound sculpting, it largely perpetuates the first album's sound without advancing radically beyond it (though it does seem to have a more prominent Chain Reaction dimension compared to his debut). Like before, Zorn methodically constructs intricate tracks by adding layers in systematic manner; he eschews gradual fades in place of dynamics that accrue in steps. Zorn's gift for skewering one's sense of time remains: what one presumes to be a given song's downbeat eventually flips inside out as rhythm structures come into gradually clearer focus. Consider the dub-techno opener “Cold & Cuddly” as a representative example. Beginning rather unassumingly with tiny electronic quirks laid over a repeating chord, layers of swizzling hi-hats, dub accents, and glissandi glimmers gradually appear. It takes mere seconds for one to recognize it as a Zorn track and, while that indicates the realization of a signature sound, it also confirms that this new work hews closely—perhaps too closely—to that established style. In “This Was Supposed To Be The Future,” Zorn intertwines clanking electronics with a broiling brew of beat flutter and bass throbs in an artfully crafted construction but again one not dissimilar from past work, and the same criticism can be levied against the sleek digi-dub of “Morning News.”

Still, there are also moments to applaud, especially when tracks introduce new wrinkles. “City of Industry” sports an acidy base, and its burbling machine music transforms into a churning groove unlike any heard before from Zorn. Sweetened by a springy machine riff, “It's Been So Long” is tightly coiled dub-funk that dives deep, while “She Lighted A Cigarette And Stops Time” courts a mellower vibe; with its billowing chords, the song nurtures an affectingly delicate melancholy. One doesn't bemoan the quality of Zorn's All We Can Do Is Enjoy The Ride, just its occasional habit of recycling an admittedly high-quality past.

December 2004