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Zaar: Zaar

The French RIO band Zaar were created from the crumbled ashes left behind after the demise of Sotos, a fine band that were around in the late 90's playing music with a sound not unlike bands such as Univers Zero, Magma, KIng Crimson, Present, Gentle Giant, and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. With the formation of Zaar, the RIO and chamber rock sounds remain, and leaders Yan Hazera (guitars) and Michael Hazera (drums) decided to find a new bass player in Pairbon, and replace the violin/cello player from Sotos with someone on hurdy gurdy, that person being Cosia. The end result is no less complex, with majestic passages mixed with dissonant harmonies, as the musicians weave intricate lines around each other, giving the music an overall mysterious and ominous sound.

The CD was engineered by none other than Bob Drake, himself a well-known recording artist on the ReR Megacorp label and also producer to such acts as Sotos, Nebelnest, Thinking Plague, and Hamster Theater. Zaar couldn't have found a more perfect fit for their debut. If you have the patience for this sort of music, the album will work wonders for you if you give it a few spins, as the oddball melodies and complex passages merge with the crisp production to give the listener a sense of warmth not heard on many releases these days.

I'll be the first to tell you I have no idea of how to play a hurdy gurdy, and until compiling information to do this review I had never even see one. Thanks to some wonderful web pages on the Internet I was able to get an idea of the workings of this instrument. Needless to say, once you listen to Cosia's playing on this album you will wonder how someone can get such lovely and soaring sounds on what looks like a very cumbersome instrument. Basically, the hurdy gurdy sounds like a combination of a violin and cello, but it is shaped almost like a large box with a small neck on it, a little bit larger than a violin with a beefy wooden body. However, if you didn't read the liner notes of the CD you could swear the band had a cello and violin player. Cosia opens up the epic opening track "Sefir" with ragged, almost distrorted lines on the hurdy gurdy before the band lurches in with plenty of dark and dissonant melodies, punctuated by the effects laden bass notes from Pairbon. From there it's a long and adventurous ride through "rock in opposition" and "Zeuhl" heaven. There are two main epic tracks, and a batch of shorter pieces, plus the hard rocking, almost King Crimson-ish "Scherzo # C", which is a really good workout for guitarist Yan Hazera as he gets to show off his muscular side.

If you are open minded in regards to avant-garde instrumental progressive rock, then give this debut from Zaar a try. I think this band will be around for a while, maturing and honing their brand of experimental and dark music for today's modern prog audience. Good stuff!

Track Listing
1. Sefir (19:52)
2. Zolg (1:57)
3. Ce N'est Pas Triste (2:42)
4. Tougoudougoum (1:29)
5. Discasambo (3:17)
6. Omk (17:16)
7. Scherzaaaaaaahhhh (0:38)
8. Scherzo # C (4:41)
9. {.......} (1:32)

Added: April 8th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Zaar Website
Hits: 4448
Language: english

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Zaar: Zaar
Posted by Greg Cummins, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-06-18 23:50:25
My Score:

Zaar is, right out of the box, one of the more challenging pieces of music you'll experience if you have a penchant for the odd, eccentric and difficult sub genre of progressive music. The music is for the most part very discordant with any semblance of melodies rather thin on the ground. The songs have been meticulously put together and are played with unparalleled excellence with particular mention of the drummer whose work is severely cut out for him by trying to keep all of these tangential movements from straying too far from the edge. The pieces exhibit an extraordinary amount of imagination with odd time signatures, weird riffage, an omnipresent droning and a miasma of strange sound effects that all add to the allure.

This is certainly not for the faint of heart as it will require repeated listens and a steady nerve to interpret everything that is going on but despite the steep learning curve, the rewards will surely follow as is so often the case with music of this nature. It would be impossible to highlight any outstanding track as there really are none per se, however, it should be emphasized that to fully appreciate what these musicians are trying to achieve, it will require an uninterrupted listening session, preferably under headphones before the concepts become even a little clear.

Featuring Yan Hazera on guitar, Cosia on hurdy gurdy, Pairbon on bass and the spritely Michael Hazera on percussives, Zaar have delivered a powerful musical statement that is a total contradiction to what the big record labels would have us pushed down our collective throats. Forget your bog standard song structures, throw away your verse-chorus-verse format, ignore any preconceived idea that songs require melody, accept the mish-mash of musical mayhem and you might come close to understanding what these talented people have to offer.

The droning effect is obtained by using a medieval instrument called the hurdy gurdy and while most music using this instrument is normally of a Celtically inspired nature, nothing could be further from the truth here. A similarly sounding instrument is called the Chanter and is the mouthpiece used on a set of bag pipes, minus the hot air. Much of the music contains a rather sinister feel and is perfectly accentuated with the bass growling away in a thunderous and threatening manner on many of the pieces.

As far removed as this is from what I normally prefer to listen to, it is hard not to be impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer imagination and deft musicianship these people have displayed on this unusual but riveting release. This is recommended for those who enjoy some of the more exploratory work that is often released on the Cuniform label.

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