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Secret Chiefs 3 MALKHUT

Secret Chiefs 3 : MALKHUT
John Zorn's The Book Beri'ah Vol. 10

This is something of a "long lost Secret Chiefs 3 record."

All eleven records that made up John Zorn's "Beriah" cycle got caught up in the disastrous turn of events brought on by the implosion of Pledge Music, an ill-fated crowdfunding enterprise. (You can read about Zorn's rebound from this calamity, here.)

All eleven of those records are stellar. Such an honor to be in such good company.

I guess it's understandable that a lot of people, after realizing that they would have to buy in on a whole box set to hear a record they were interested in, just kind of just turned away quietly and forgot about this release.

When you combine that with the ensuing disaster with Pledge Music, it all added up to this record (a very significant record in SC3's discography) going mostly unheard.

Tragic! because it's a super strong record.

Devastating! because this whole thing took some doing. Like any SC3 record.

YouTube or it didn't happen?
Well, I guess it didn't happen then.

Come on, it doesn't take much mental exertion to figure out that Tzadik Records doesn't subject itself to the facile whims of "the market."

And here's some good news from them: Tzadik has released Malkhut (and all the other volumes) as stand-alone CDs!
And yes indeed, we have Malkhut at our store!

The musician lineup on this record is absurd:
Ches Smith
Eyvind Kang
Kenny Grohowski
Matt Lebofsky
Shanir Blumenkranz
Jason Schimmel
Trey Spruance

It's weird writing this now. Feels crazy to think back on how Secret Chiefs 3 briefly toured with that super killer lineup of musicians (in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Slovenia, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands) on a really good record that no one had heard. Seems like some kind of bizarre parallel universe when you think about it. The musical side of it was like a high-water mark for SC3 as a live band. Youtube or it didn't happen: there's a single live recording from Ljubljana that tells the story respectably well, and it sits in an obscure streaming vacuum next to thousands of badly-recorded SC3 live vids with 1000 times more views. A perfect allegory of the parallel universe this material has existed in since 2018.

A short four years later… (the record was tracked in NYC in 2016, actually, and overdubbed / mixed for a year), and here we are.

The record remains in a parallel universe. Until now.

Confession: now that Forking Paths Studio is on more solid ground, unlike during the tortured financial conditions of 2016-2018 when this record was made, yes sure, like evrything from that decade I'd do some things differently production-wise now. But even after mixing in the box on terrible speakers using crap plug-ins & settling for a few more mediocre keyboard sounds than anyone would have liked, listening back now even I am not hung up about those issues. Because this record has the performances — that aspect just comes through so massively. Kang totally rips on this record. And the dual drum/percussion team of Ches Smith and Kenny Grohowski, trading off on the various duties — talk about a dream team. Also Lebofsky, deftly switching musical hats a million times per song. At live shows he playedthose multiple layers of keyboards — all at once — the goddamned maniac. 

I originally thought that this record's most outstanding ingredient was going to be the way the arrangements compliment John's compositions -- all the lucidity those pieces innately possess, lovingly brought out into the open. But listening back a few years later, you know what? Ok yeah, that's all there, but in the end this record really is about the musicians. For sure I had my arranging/orchestrating fun. Everyone knows that's my thing. And Zorn trusted me with a long leash, even allowing me to fully develop a "Tessellation" process in one of his pieces (Shadim). In kind, I labored hard on behalf of his ever-scintillating compositions, which always carry the torch to the highest of places. It's all over the map --  never a dull moment. But in the end, listening back, I really feel like this record is really about hearing the guys pulling it together and PLAYING all these insane ideas. Pulling it off and then some. Listening back, I just keep thinking "holy hell what a BAND!"

It's a great feeling.

• Buy MALKHUT on CD here •