"Absinthe is not a symphony. Absinthe has nothing to do with coffee and bagels, denim shorts or the three tenors. Absinthe is not obscene, yet neither is it family friendly. Absinthe is 9 sinister pieces of audio in the guise of a hallucinogenic nightmare. It borders on the insane. It tears through to the imaginative senses and manipulates them to the extreme. It's plagued with a host of sounds which would make anyone feel ill at ease...
Arrhythmic heartbeats, death knells, spectral guitar, thundering skies, whimpering rodents and strange bird calls...tinkling bells, perpetual rumbling, metallic vibrations and clanging, poltergeist-like mayhem.....Allowing Absinthe so much as a single listen might be enough to instill or reawaken a belief in the supernatural. There may even come a time when the listener feels quite convinced that the sounds they hear are coming from somewhere other than the disc.
A track as cryptically challenging as "Fleurs du Mal" is certain to tempt the morbidly curious. "La fee Verte" is bound to beguile those willing to descend to the depths of a dizzying nightmare. And "Notre Dame de l'Oubli" may have a wary listener crouching in fear beneath a darkened stairway listening to the sound of his own heartbeat..."
The bottomless sea of madness
The Pitiful Anonymous | the Acres of Skin | 12/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In all my life I've never heard something as inhuman, cold, unsympathetic, mysterious, violent, black and devoid of light as "Absinthe". Someone commented that it "borders on insane". It is BEYOND insane. It is a reflection of the distorted, utterly solitary world only the insane could perceive. "Absinthe" is the terror of the worst dream you've ever had emerging as an unapologetic cloud from your speakers. The more you focus, the more clearly you can see how each piece fits into some sort of monolithic space that completely dwarfs you and swallows you with its hugeness. Every song is a different expression of this same vertigo, ending with the thankfully meaningless, cleansing and welcome static brainwash of "...Rend Fou" ("...Returns Insane"), bringing you back into reality.
This is often accomplished through odd, minimalistic sounds. And yet it is meaningful without question. I see the reviews here as evidence that my reaction is not unique. It's impossible to imagine "Absinthe" in the realm of ordinary music, composed by a human being, with a thinking mind and feelings. It feels like "Absinthe" is not a human creation; there is no evidence of a soul.
This is the most wicked, otherworldly album I know. And I can hardly imagine that will change anytime soon. It really has little to do with John Zorn's other work, great though it is, or the other Naked City albums, great though they are. The only possible comparison is the 17 minute title track to "Grand Guignol", a masterpiece in its own right.
Recommended to those who think I might be exaggerating. I dare you to listen to this in the dark and really let it sink in. For anyone else, you may not know what you're getting into."
Best Ambient music I've Ever Heard
Quentin Tarantino Fan | nowhere | 05/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Note: This is from The Complete Studio Recordings.
While Absinthe may terrify any happy-go-lucky ditzy person who always see life as Sesame Street, I really don't find this album to be scary at all. This, is dark ambient. And I love it. Ambient music creates moods and emotions, and makes the sub-concious more aware. Yet it's more than just aimless floating made to suit your mood. There is a lot more composition and thought, and changes . Some really do not venture out besides pure ambience, Fluers Du Mal, while some are soundscapes all the way (La Fee Verte).
The music isn't busy at all. This is mostly rooted in ambient, which is a genre that takes some understanding. It's a lot different from what people are usually interested in (rock and roll, pop music). A lot of these could be used in a haunted attraction, which makes sense considering how awesome the scenarios for those things can be. There's even some light in the form of Notre Dame, though I do see a bit of darkness, maybe a gremlin in the darkness looking out at the sky into Notre Dame's light. The band uses interesting instumentation, and this is Naked City's most consist and unique. While I'm not wrapped in beautiful darkness, I find it interesting that it's the same band that made the other albums.
Basically, this album revels in darkness, and it soothes me, among other things. Some people often wonder how people do not get scared of things like this, and the truth for me, is simple. I love it. I really don't love it because it makes me scared. It doesn't. It's dark, and I love it. The music on here is very dark, and I love darkness. So it really clicks with me. It follows the blueprint of what Eno was trying to convey in a sense, and does it gracefully, using the ambient concept in a dark way.
Forget Sunn O)))'s (excellent) Black One. This is the darkest music I've heard. And it's treated like a good thing. It is. Get it.
Unexpected but amazing.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 01/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Absinthe" is probably about as unexpected as could be-- Naked City, having established themselves as a genre bending band blending styles and engaging in terse, loud recordings, having evolved into a looser structure, now let's loose altogether. Zorn's compositional workshop led him to compose ambient musics, soft, tinkling, unaggressive, quite the opposite of the expectations of Naked City.
"Absinthe" actually really not that different from "Grand Guignol", only its taken down several notches in volume, intensity, and distortion. Development is slow, building, and sometimes not at all ("Fleurs Du Mal"). Some of it ("Une Correspondance", "Artemisia Absinthium") does get pretty noisy, but its not noisy the earlier albums were, its dissonant, metallic at times.
Conceptually, its interesting-- it succeeds remarkably well, the material, for something as subdued as this, is quite engaging, you find yourself waiting and anticipating what comes next. There are some remarkably beautiful moments on here admist the dissonance and silence ("Notre Dame de L'Oubli" is a personal favorite), but this is not an easy record.
If you're expecting it to sound like "Naked City" or "Grand Guignol", it won't. If you're not used to ambient music, this is going to be a tough one. But like much of the difficult Zorn material, it will reward repeated and patient listens."