Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Zander Zon And Saturn Return

Album Review
Zander Zon - Saturn Return
Genre - Bass

An album like Saturn Return allows the listener to immerse completely into the music and decide what moves them the most, based on personal experience. If the music takes you to a sad place, you will feel it differently to someone whose reminders trigger happy memories.

The absence of lyrics deepens the personal experience - there are no words to direct you. Remember Depeche Mode’s song, “Enjoy The Silence”? A couple of the lines in that song have always struck me as important:

“Words, like violence, break the silence. Come crashing in, into my little world.”

And later in the song:

“Feelings are intense; words are trivial. Pleasures remain; so does the pain. Words are meaningless and forgettable.”

A little ironic that words are used to describe how words don’t mean anything when compared to feelings, but the point is that Zander Zon walks the talk. If words are truly meaningless, leave them aside and let the feelings speak. (Enjoy The Silence is one of my favourite DM songs, BTW, despite its betrayal of its own theme. It works perfectly in the video, though, so I forgive them).

Saturn Return is full bodied, rich, well rounded bass. Real tunes. It’s not just aimless sampling or study. Each piece means something in the bigger picture. Yet there remains an element of rondo to highlight the particular styles. Repeating themes to imprint the message in your mind.

If you like Leonard Cohen, you might see a similarity in musical purpose. Cohen is a poet who puts his verse to music. He doesn’t always create “songs”, but rather mood music to give his message more depth. I see Zander Zon in a similar vein, but without the audible verse. His songs are “mood music” to life, and in this case, to the Saturn Return. He thinks of an event, experience, place, or person, and gives it meaning through the bass (and other effects and instruments). The fact that he uses piccolo strings (and alternate tunings) gives the atmosphere a gentler touch than a regular bass sound. As Pink Floyd might call it: “The Delicate Sound Of Thunder.” You can still hear the deep resonance, but it’s not as threatening as the boomers that loom overhead. The harmonics and chording are nothing short of jaw-dropping; I am sorely unqualified to address the true musicianship of this project. How it makes me feel is enough. Quite enough, indeed.

It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite song; each one touches a different place in the soul.

October Starlight features deep, rhythmic undertones, layered over with melodic chords and harmonies. This is the first one that made me think of Cohen, particularly his instrumental, “Tacoma Trailer”.

Chimes is both melodic and percussive. Very musical and well rounded.

A Whisper In Time is the best song on the album, by far. So heartfelt. If you think of the title, “Saturn Return”, and it’s meaning (*see below), this song makes you look to the sky, the Universe, to God - wherever you look for your answers - and give a brief moment to that cause. Gorgeous work. The electric cello makes an appearance here and gives the song a true crying voice.

Heartbeat Lyrics - the bass has that pulse that beats, then slows, and relaxes you. It really works. But what are the “lyrics”? What does your heart say to you? In music? What is said to you when listening to someone else’s heart?

Elements is a mysterious, almost Latin sounding tune (strummed). Very introspective.

Oracles Of Her is a more intense song with effects and a bass that, at times, sounds almost like a Spanish guitar. Further into the song, you hear familiar deep, thumping bass beats that give it its heavy tone.

Canon In D - the Pachelbel classic we know and love, done up Zon style. Very moving, especially about three minutes in. Ever hear a bass sound like a mandolin? Fast fingers.

Kinetic reminds me of something, but I can’t find it in my memory locker. The range from high to low sounds and the harmonies trigger something not quite close enough to grab. Very forceful, strong-willed piece.

Music Box is beyond belief in its diversity. There’s a hint of electric piano to give the bass some counter-balance.

Constellation finishes the album, and the theme, with an eye toward Space. Where to next? When Saturn returns again, where will I be? Another melody of introspection. Very moving thunder, just below the surface.

All in all, Saturn Return is a deeply moving, emotional album that saturates your ears with a multitude of bass sounds both high and low. Very satisfying to the heart - highly recommended.

From Wikipedia:

"In astrology, especially horoscopic astrology the Saturn return is an astrological transit when a transiting Saturn planet returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person's birth (natal chart). In Hindu astrology, it is known as Saade saati, as the transit in a birth chart and takes approximately 7.5 years to complete. It is an alleged phenomenon which is described as influencing a person's life development at 27 to 29 or 30-year intervals. These intervals or "returns" coincide with the approximate time it takes the planet Saturn to make one orbit around the sun, i.e. 29.4 years. It is believed by astrologers that, as Saturn "returns" to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood. With the second return, maturity. And with the third and usually final return, a person enters wise old age. These periods are estimated to occur at roughly the ages of 28-31, 56-60 and 84-90. A fourth return occurs for only a few people, at age 114-118."

Used a lot in music, it is usually themed to express a phase of completion or transition of/from one phase of life to the next.

To read a very in-depth, technical analysis on this album, check out this piece on

To calculate your own Saturn Return schedule, click HERE.

And don't forget to visit Zander Zon online.

© 2013 C.L. Seamus for Thunder Row

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