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4 stars This is the first time I a write review, and I'm doing this because no one has reviewed this amazing album wich deseves to be listenerd by lovers of dynamic, experimental and avant-garde compositions. Zaar's first effort shows a group of great musicians playing amazing music, 9 songs full of experimentation and improvisation, a lot of progressions throughout the album and many jazzy elements, taking obvious influence from the forefathers that created these genres and sounds, but adding their particular touch. The use of hurdy gurdy is great, and it gives a distinctive sound to this french band. Totally worth listening. For me, 4.5 out of 5.
Report this review (#85784)
Posted Friday, August 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The debut album of this French quartet wastes no time in doing what they want to with their unique sound. With two former members of the band Sotos, Zaar plays instrumental jazzy chamber rock that is pretty experimental. The band plays highly dynamic and sometimes downright strange avant-prog that's pretty hard to describe. Probably the coolest thing here is Cosia's hurdy gurdy playing which really helps give the band a more unique sound.

The album is dominated by two epic pieces, "Sefir" and "Omk," both almost to the 20-minute mark. These songs show excellent development of musical themes as the band gives plenty of attention to their composition. The hurdy gurdy really shines in these songs by leading everything along, sometimes leaving the rest of the band in the dust. The rest of the songs are shorter tunes mostly around 2-minutes. Even though they are shorter, the band's ability to cram so many musical ideas into such a short amount of time is pretty amazing.

Hopefully we'll see more from these guys as it's obvious they have a lot of potential. If you're interested in left-field avant-prog, you can't go wrong with this album.

Standout songs: "Sefir", "Scherzo # C"

Report this review (#125810)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars After the great French band SOTOS broke up the guitarist and drummer decided to form a new band adding a bassist and a hurdy gurdy player. Now I must say that the hurdy gurdy has an interesting sound. Actually it produces many different sounds, from spacey synth-like to sounding like a deranged violin. There are strings and keys on this instrument plus a crank that makes it drone. This is dark and all-instrumental like SOTOS but this album is just a step below SOTOS' "Platypus" record in my opinion. Bob Drake did a great job recording and mixing this album.

"Sefir" is the almost 20 minute opener. Some scorching hurdy gurdy for over a minute then the drums, guitar and bass come in. I like the bass here.The hurdy gurdy is back then it turns intense after 4 1/2 minutes. It settles after 5 minutes and some good atmosphere follows as sounds come and go. It's dark. It starts to build before 10 minutes then the tempo picks up before 12 minutes. Some deep bass after 15 minutes. Some smoking hurdy gurdy before 17 minutes. Great tune. "Zolg" features intricate guitar and drums throughout this short track. Nice. "Ce N'est Pas Triste" is a fairly dark and slow moving track. Kind of eerie later with deep bass lines. "Tougoudougoum" hits the ground running. Great sound ! Uptempo with pounding drums. "Discasambo" is relaxed with light drums and guitar that builds as hurdy gurdy joins in with bass.

"Omk" is the other epic at over 17 minutes. This is good as guitar plays in a relaxed way as cymbals clash. The drums start to rise up and are all over the place. Guitar is still laid back and angular. The guitar is crying out 6 minutes in then it all settles 6 1/2 minutes in as hurdy gurdy comes in solo. Drums and guitar return before 10 1/2 minutes then it calms down again 12 1/2 minutes in. It's building again 14 minutes in and we're cooking before 16 minutes. It then winds down as hurdy gurdy carries on. Outstanding track. "Scherzaaaaaaahhhh" is funny with these multi vocal samples that get really loud late as it blends into "Scherzo #C". It kicks in right away with a full sound and angular melodies. It settles some around a minute as the tempo continues to shift slightly. I really like how this sounds. I keep thinking of ANEKDOTEN. "[.......]" is the dark but gentle closer.

I like and agree with what the sticker says on this cd "For fans of KING CRIMSON, MAGMA, SOTOS, UNIVERS ZERO". I was sad to hear that the Yan Hazera the guitarist has passed away. So sadly this might be the only ZAAR release we get. A solid 4 stars.

Report this review (#239683)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Who would have thought that the hurdy gurdy, an antique instrument of such unique design and timbre, could have a place in a rock band? The Hazera brothers and their bandmates thought so, and I'm very glad to be an owner of this great album. Along with Pienza Ethnorkestra's album from the same year, this is one of the two rock albums I know of with prominent hurdy gurdy playing. While that group went for a more fiery approach most of the time, ZAAR knew how to vary their approach from track to track.

What we're presented with here is a varied, creative workout for drums, bass (both electric and upright), guitar and (of course) the inimitable hurdy-gurdy. Gladly, it's done in a decidedly avant-rock style, which makes it all the better for me. The album is all instrumental, except for the short track "Scherzaaaaaaahhhh." The talent of these four musicians is undeniable. Everyone contributes quite a lot to the overall sound of the album, and Yan (RIP) displays some great guitar work throughout. Cosia's hurdy gurdy work can shred your skin to pieces, or melt your heart with its beauty. There aren't many instruments quite as varied as this. The section John mentioned at around 6 1/2 minutes into "Omk" just made me stop everything to really listen to the instrument, a great example of the more "beautiful" side of the hurdy gurdy's sound. This track and "Sefir" are the real highlights for me, though the shorter tracks all have quite a lot to offer as well.

The album is almost a five star for me. As it is, it's "only" a very strong 4.5, and a very treasured album in my collection. It's a very exciting album for fans of avant garde music, and is sure to please most listeners.

Report this review (#405594)
Posted Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars This band came to be after the breakup of SOTOS when drummer Michael Hazera and guitarist Yan Hazera (brothers?) decided they wanted to continue the spirit of the avant-garde chamber rock sound. They recruited the incredibly talented bassist Pairbon and of all things a hurdy gurdyist named Cosia. If you are unfamiliar with a hurdy gurdy I suggest you check out the demonstration on YouTube by the world's leading hurdy gurdyist Matthias Loibner. It is a 7-stringed instrument that is really a mechanical violin with keys like an accordion that you push while you crank with the right hand to sustain the sound. It's capable of creating an amazing diversity of soniferous delight! It can sound like a drone that is similar to a bagpipe, a cello or an organ at times.

ZAAR is basically a avant chamber rock which upon first listen reminds of Univers Zero, Art Zoyd or anyone else in the subgenre. There are two monster tracks "Sefir" and "Omk" which are both over 17 minutes long and ebb and flow through a variety of passages and moods from slow and dreamy to bombastic. The remaining tracks are shorter and more to the point. I really have a hard time differentiating between tracks since the longer ones just feel like a bunch of shorter ones strung together and the continuity of the album pretty much flows from beginning to end anyway. The only track that really differentiates itself is the strange vocal weirdness of "Scherzaaaaaahhhh" which is really an intro for "Scherzo #C."

This band really works for me. If you ever wanted to hear a slightly more energetic version of Univers Zero with interesting new sounds added then this is for you. I have listened to this many times and yet none of the tracks ever stick with me. That means that I feel like i'm listening to it for the first time every time! It's strange and alien enough to be hard to remember but accessible enough to enjoy while you're listening to it. Highly recommended for avant-proggers of all ages! Check out their Live 2006 performance of "Sefir" on YouTube as well. Unfortunately the guitarist is no longer living so the chances of this being the one and only ZAAR album is unfortunately a possibility.

Report this review (#1110745)
Posted Wednesday, January 8, 2014 | Review Permalink

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