[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(46:14 / Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Pillars of Birth 6:34 2. Majnuns 5:42 3. The Old Ones 5:48 4. The Thing In the Walls 1:48 5. Fabric of Reality 3:13 6. De Thriumpho Naturae 8:27 7. Do What Thou Wilt 10:06 8. Station 9 4:25 LINEUP: Olivier Tejedor - keyboards, ocarina; violin Gregory Tejedor - bass Michael Anselmi - drums With: Cyril Malderez - guitar Sebastien Carmona - guitar Vincent Boukefa - clarinet
Prolusion. "ZePTO" is the third album by French band NeBeLNeST. I only received this disc recently (along with Far Corner's brand new CD "Endangered"), although it was brought out six months or so ago. Well, better late than never, as I am really fond of their second release, "Nova Express" (2002).
Analysis. Since I haven't heard NeBeLNeST's eponymous debut effort from 1999, I only can draw parallels between the hero of this occasion and "Nova Express". Precisely half of the eight instrumental tracks that form the content of "ZePTO", the first three and the sixth one, all reveal few digressions from the band's previous course to surprise me, overall blending well with the vision of their music which I've formed as a result of my long-term friendship with their second album. Getting down to the point: Pillars of Birth, Majnuns, The Old Ones and De Thriumpho Naturae each find the group furthering their innovative modification (and, at the same time, obscuration) of '70s classic symphonic art- and space rock landscapes, using dissonances, counterpoint melodies, improvisations and so to say ferroconcrete constructions whose singular angularity does certainly not depend on the laws of Euclid's geometry. Traces of Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Zao, Present, Runaway Totem and even Genesis (the latter connection is manifested only in some Mellotron designs though) can be found on each, but most of these in a strongly modified form, as the band has carefully processed them through the prism of their own vision of music. IMHO, it's only Yes who can serve as a more or less, well, integral reference point in this particular case or, to be more precise, The Gates of Delirium from their "Relayer" album. I believe it was mere formality, which up till now defined that bizarre, vertiginously eclectic composition as belonging to the category of Symphonic Progressive. Many years passed before it came to me that it is woven throughout not only of symphonic textures, but includes elements of many progressive genres: from Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion to space metal-like forms and even RIO-related constructions, the approach of the rhythm section there having a certain common ground with the one that probably only zeuhl bands were at that time armed with. There is a rather similar picture on the pan-stylistic plane of each of the said four pieces, all of which consist of multi-layered (in terms of both composition and style of course), ever-morphing, at times positively wild, amazingly unpredictable arrangements where the fervently soloing keyboards, bass, drums and guitars plus, occasionally, clarinet and violin intermix with each other like different streams in a maelstrom. Bass and drums are definitely dominant rhythmic forces, maintaining a very high-level intensity everywhere it is essential. As for the cuts' most striking peculiarities, Pillars of Birth and De Thriumpho Naturae both include one movement where jazz-fusion tendencies dominate, while Majnuns and The Old Ones both in places manifest clearly oriental tunes, whose sound instantly bring to my Asian:-) mind Surnai, a wind instrument widespread among Turkic nations. I just wonder whether it is provided by a clarinet? On the rest of the material, the group equally shines with their mastery and inventiveness alike, but here they rather strongly dislodge their focus from composition to improvisation and experimentalism. Well, Fabric of Reality begins and develops smoothly, as a whirling dervish of a piece, with only congas and clarinet both drawing oriental patterns. The track's other two fifths however, for the most part alternate the billows of dark synthesizer effects with a sort of caterwauling produced by a bow sliding and scraping on a violin. I see Station 9 as a mini-concerto for drums and sequenced keyboards where the former are both diverse and impressive, and the latter are just what they are. So while really liking those fine moments that are present on each of these two, I must say some of their contents are beyond me. Music that is clearly avant-garde, full of dissonances and atonalities much better suits my taste, and this is just what the disc's shortest track The Thing In the Walls is about. In a way, this cut also reminds me of a heavily condensed version of Do What Thou Wilt, which in turn is the longest track here. The music combines improvisational, though at times fully-structured RIO-like maneuvers somewhere halfway between King Crimson in 1973-'74 and classic Univers Zero, and what should probably be labeled as Noise Rock, the latter canvases now resembling a more or less well ordered chaos, now a pure cacophony (which is certainly not the same as dodecaphony). Most of this track's structures seem to be as unstable as those of neutrinos, particularly in the episodes with ragged improvisations, when the picture loses its multicolored integrity, giving way to the alternation of highly dissonant and just totally anarchic sounds. There is nothing negative in the previous two sentences; they're just merely remarking on the peculiarities of the track, which - overall - I like almost as much as the four described first.
Conclusion. Being a strong adherent of the formulation "music must be composed", I definitely find "Nova Express" a more integral recording than "ZePTO", which however, doesn't mean at all I don't enjoy NeBeLNeST's latest release, which I hope is clear from the review. Furthermore, this album shows that its makers are still far from stagnation, which is a very important matter, as this is a really outstanding collective. At least overall, "ZePTO" is a fascinating journey and appeals to fans of the band and all the adventurous listeners alike. Are you ready to meet the dark avant-garde entities face-to-face? If so, don't miss this CD.
VM: April 20, 2007
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]