GROUND ZERO – Revolutionary Pekinese Opera, ver. 1.28 (1996)

Review by: Tristan Peterson
Album assigned by: Tom Hadrian Kovalevsky

Okay so, something needs to be cleared up before I begin this review. This isn’t an opera. Do not think it is an opera. No I’m serious, things will not end for you if you think it’s an opera. Don’t fuck up and think it’s an opera.

Anyway, Revolutionary Grand Pekinese Opera is an album (read: their third) by Japanese noisers Ground-Zero*, who were an ensemble led by Otomo Yoshihide, who is in my opinion one of the greatest turntablists ever.  The first incarnation of this band was formed for a John Zorn album (Cobra), so that should very well sum up the sound this project has (read: fucking insane). 

Even though I am really big into the harsh noise, free jazz, marching, sound collage and other such territories which this album not only treads upon, but completely steamrolls over, I did not like this album on first listen.  I thought that it was just thoughtless sound collage, no real effort put in, and if there was any, it was quickly squashed by what seemed to be needless fuckery. Really, it was a noise album that was noisy for all the wrong reasons, and it just made no sense at all.

But on further listening, the record began to click, in a way. All the nonsensicalities began to align themselves in such a way that it creates a rather beautiful sonic hellscape. The first opening tracks all sort of build into one huge cacophonous din which has elements of progressive rock, the inevitable noise and free jazz, spoken word, military march, and even classical music. Of course many of these elements occur at the same time more often than not. But all of this gets released into Paraiso – 1, a very dark and minimal melodic piece which is actually extremely beautiful and calm, compared to the rest of the first “movement” of this record, if you will.

The next half of this album is far more free form in nature, but it also incorporates more ethnically diverse music, incorporating free jazz explosions over salsa motifs, and tortured screams over newscasts and the literal assault of a violin. Of course, this half of the album takes the idea of an increasingly cacophonous roar to the next level, going even more batshit than previously, before again ending on an eerily beautiful Paraiso – 2, which ends on turntable noise and a slow fade of an organ playing Disney music, which kind of sums up the record perfectly.

Although I didn’t know until well after my first listen, this is actually a conceptual record about the clash between Maoist China and Western culture. To be quite frank, know that this was the concept of the record greatly enhanced my listening experience on repeats, because the record does reflect those themes when you can pick them out of the mess of sound it creates.

I would say don’t expect to enjoy this album on first listen. You need to give it a few chances for it to really seduce you into its world.

Overall: 7.4/10