AMN Reviews: Red Fiction – Visions of the Void (2020; Tzadik)

Red Fiction is the brainchild of Jason Schimmel, long-time guitarist of Secret Chiefs 3. On Visions of the Void, his first album as leader, he drops 11 tracks that vary dramatically in style and scope from moment to moment. The instrumentation includes, in addition to guitar, bouzouki, sitar, keyboards, bass, drums, saxes, clarinet, trumpet flugelhorn, accordion, viola, voice, and contrabass.

Under Schimmel’s eye, Red Fiction touches on so many genres that it is easy to get lost among them. Metal, jazz, math rock, improv, klezmer, Eastern European folk, and even a touch of spaghetti western and noir are represented. Underlying the tracks are instrumental experimentation, including field recordings and unconventional studio techniques. The album exhibits a progression, from frenetic circular themes reminiscent of John Zorn’s Masada books played with heavy guitar, to tenor sax wailing over baritone sax and arpeggiated guitar chords, to shades of Mr. Bungle, to a spacious and melodic pair of tracks to cap things off.

Thus, at first blush, Red Fiction may sound as if it is another Zorn offshoot playing in a similar jump-cut fashion. But Schimmel and company are so much more. Visions of the Void has the same short-attention-span appeal and yet also tells a coherent musical story. Don’t hesitate to give this one multiple listens – you’ll find it rewarding.

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