13 Nov 2021 - Stephan
Avantgarde | I, Voidhanger Records | Release date: 05 Nov 2021
Oh, it’s that guy again! With a ginormous three discs album, a spectacular Roadburn Redux performance and an equally impressive live record the monolithic Drone Metal / Free Jazz fusion of his Neptunian Maximalism arkestra has left an unmistakable imprint on the scene of artistically charged heavy music during the last two years. In 2021 I’ve so far skipped his more blackened project Sol Kia, but his solo work Junkyard under the abbreviation CZLT was my personal review debut here on VoS. Now Belgian multi-instrumentalist Guillaume Cazalet strikes again with yet another project, which is called Zaäar and describes itself in biblical manner as “a collective born from a rib of Neptunian Maximalism”.
It’s an odd wording, since it could suggest this new group being the Eve to Neptunian Maximalism’s Adam. Yet since the line-up is a hundred percent boy band, this certainly is the rather less female of the two entities, right? Honestly I’m not sure there’s even been any necessity to break Zaäar out of the bigger thorax, because there are certainly much more similarities than distinctions between the two:
Four out of the five Zaäar members are or have been active in Neptunian Maximalism. (Only about the bass player I’m not sure.) The golden hand in picking amazing paintings as cover artwork totally fitting the theme and sound of the album is obviously the same. The exploration of prehistoric themes is similar, as the album’s track titles suggest that’s it’s devoted to the genesis of life on our planet; from bacteria over the development of reproductive organs to the Cambrian explosion… all told in French song titles, while the album name Magická Džungl’a is in… Czech? This multi-lingual evocation of a context greater than our little human regionalism marks yet another similarity.
At last beyond all those things there’s of course the mere music. And albeit it’s not exactly the same we’ve heard before I cannot find one moment in these monumental ninety new minutes which I wouldn’t accept as being from Neptunian Maximalism if you sold it to me as such. So what exactly is the difference? What is Zaäar?
If Zaäar is the rib (if the rib is Eve), then maybe we are indeed talking about femininity, about fertility and the origin of all life. About trying to go as far back to our cradle in the magic of the jungle as we can. We’re talking about a trancendent primitivism, which isn’t defined by playing without reason or focus, but by shedding the burden of genre, musical history and convention, about aiming to find universal truth through the gate of pure uncompromising expression.
So consequently, since this collective is exclusively thinking in terms of bigger and biggest, I did the same when I scanned my record collection for the ultimative representative of that exact idea. Well, no need to search actually. If there’s one artist of the previous century whose playing is unmatched in going beyond what is expressible in words, it’s saxophone legend John Coltrane. After A Love Supreme - one of those giant jazz titles even the biggest genre sceptic knows at least by name - Coltrane evolved so fast and ventured so deep into completely unmapped and unchained musical freedom that many of his contemporaries couldn’t follow him any more. The maximalist free jazz blueprint Ascension, the spiritual flight of Meditations, the tribal mysticism of his compositions “Africa” or “Kulu Sé Mama” - if you’re acquainted with any of these, you’ll immediately find familiarity in the huge jazz influences on Magická Džungl’a.
Add to this an ominous deep Drone and you’ll travel from the walls of sound of John’s widow (and genius on her own) Alice Coltrane, and through the pure energy of No Wave right into the gloom of modern Avant-garde Metal typical for labels like I, Voidhanger Records. Add the collage nature and the reminiscences to the merging of Asian and European traditions which WV Sorcerer Productions stands for. And finally dive deeper and more blatantly into pure nebulously philosphical esoterismn represented by Homo Sensibilis Sounds. There you have the three record labels which collaborativly released this album, as they have done with CZLT before - and it makes perfect sense on each of them.
Of course you could anatomize this double album in much greater and nitpicking detail purely by its sounds. How much is just jungle noise and ambience? How much is actual music? Is the differentiation between noise and music even a relevant thing? Of which artists and genres does the music remind you at what given time? But no matter what result you get at the end of such an analysis, it will hardly be anywhere close to an adequate objective description anyway. For that Zaäar’s work is just too vast and relies too much on your individual perception.
In the end I can only offer you Trane as my personal key to unlocking this freeform behemoth of creative primal force. But I’m not naive. Most of you will either love or hate what Zaäar are doing here. That comes with the uncompromising nature of Magická Džungl’a. It’s unlikely to leave you indifferent. If everything I’ve written makes you guess that this would be too exhausting and too out there for you, you’re probably right. And I won’t ever be able to sweet-talk you into not experiencing this album as lengthy, overblown and chaotic.
Actually I wouldn’t even disagree. This absolutely is an exercise in exaggarated, wildly sprawling chaos. But that is creation, that is the magic of life. If you can welcome and and embrace it, you shall find bliss! Thus spoke Zaäar!