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Neptunian Maximalism – Solar Drone Ceremony Award winner

Neptunian Maximalism
Solar Drone Ceremony
by Andrew Graham at 26 May 2021, 12:41 PM

As a reviewer, occasionally one stumbles across a musical artefact that defies the kind of listening that applies to most music. Just occasionally what is required is a radical reorientation of the ways and mechanisms one uses to listen to music. This is one of those occasions. Belgian experimental music project NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM, fast off the heels of their 2020 release Éons, return with a musical meditation of epic proportions – by any reasonable measure, a single 52 minutes is pretty damn epic!

The track opens on subdued, ambient tones. There’s a distinctly meditative quality to this music, hypnotic even. You can quite reasonably lose yourself in the ringing tones, and the waxing and waning waves of sound. After the six-minute mark flurries of synth and the group’s signature baritone sax make themselves heard. What began as an almost relaxing audioscape now begins to take on a more distressed flavour. Drums then begin to appear, with flurries on toms and playful symbols appearing like splashes of paint on a canvas, but nothing like a rhythm appears quite yet.

The jazz influences are already obvious, even to the unscholarly listener. Rising tones and a sense of increasing urgency accompany the appearance of a drum rhythm, which is by no means straightforward. All the playfulness and improvisation we have heard so far is retained, but with enough structure to begin to enable the listener to grasp on and craft sounds and tones around it. Vocal chants and other layers begin to appear, with a more palpable sense of regularity and structure becoming evident. This only strengthens the hypnotic quality, drawing the listener further into this strange and alien canvass.

The rhythm further strengthens and crystalises as time goes on. By the half-way point we have plenty of material to consider and familiarise ourselves with. Contrasting beats and rhythms appear periodically, yet never interrupt the flow of things as they have been established. The hold on the central beat is so well established by now that rather than throw off the listener, these ‘diversions’ simply add flare and flourish to the proceedings.

At the half-hour mark the drum beat ceases, leaving the listener in a heightened sense of suspense as to what is approaching. A little after the 32-minute mark a new beat emerges, commencing what feels thematically like at ‘second movement’ – slower in tempo than the first, but nonetheless retaining the richness of layers. A repeating guitar theme appears here that underlies all the flurries on other instruments that appear, really cementing the idea of a second movement. Some variation in drums occurs with tempo increasing after 42 minutes. Slowly this increases in speed, with accompanying synths, sax, and other instruments rising in urgency.

There are few key changes throughout the 52-minute odyssey, so on the rare occasions they do appear there is a tangible importance about them. Several of these occur in the last ten minutes leading to the finale of the piece. A little after the 49-minute mark the beat cuts out and the eventual climax of this experimental symphony sounds out, with chanting supplementing the long notes on sax, synths, and flurries on drums before fading away.

Let me be clear: this is not for everyone. Experimental or avant-garde music by its very nature is a niche scene. For most people it strays too far outside the comfort zones of most. But that’s okay, because there will inevitably be those devout few adventurous musical explorers who are willing to devote the time, effort, and mental acrobatics necessary to appreciate such music. What NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM have created here is truly transcendental, akin to a musical religious experience: an acid mass. Quite simply this is inspired, a creation of bonafide mad genius.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Solar Drone Ceremony
Guillaume Cazalet – Amplified guitar, vocals
Jean Jaques Duerinckx - Baritone sax and sopranino
Didié Nietzsch – Digital soundscape, spectral
Reshma Goolamy – Amplified bass guitar
Joaquin Bermudez – Amplified guitar
Romain Martini – Amplified guitar
Lucas Bouchenot – Percussions
Stephane Fedele – Drums
Alice Thiel – Synth
Record Label: I, Voidhanger Records


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Edited 03 October 2022

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