Album Review of Zanov: Chaos Islands
Pierre Salkzanov (aka Zanov) is a French electronic music wizard who has been on the ground floor of the synthesizer-driven music field since 1976. From 1977 to 1983, he produced three albums for the Polydor and Solaris labels. After a 30 year absence from the scene, he returned in 2014 with the album Virtual Future and in 2016 released Open Worlds. Both of these recordings came out on his label Zanov Music.
This latest release is a continuation of electronic exploration and sound design that is cut from the same cloth as fellow artistic comrades such as Tangerine Dream, Maurice Jarre, Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze and Eberhard Schoener. As is the tradition with much of progressive and experimental music of this type, the album follows a conceptual path. That path is comprised of seven signposts or tracks that are built around the perspective where order and chaos combine to generate surprising beauty. Hence, each track is rooted in melody and rhythms, but there is a pervasive serendipity and unpredictability there as well.
Track one is called “Edge of Chaos Island.” According to the liner notes, the tune describes Chaos Island as a region, or state of mind, where “creative and decisive changes are taking place in the transition from order and chaos.” Zanov’s synthesized wall of sound envelopes the listener from all directions. What keeps the music flowing and together is an oscillating mid-tempo loop that ebbs and shifts, with changing themes and melodies.
On “Inception Island” there is a surreal soundscape that’s created inspired by the cult film Inception. Nothing is what it seems with this track. It’s kind of cerebral, with fractal bits of thematic material and obscure sounds weaving in and out. Subliminal sounds permeate underneath other sonic layers on top.
Track three is called “Strange Attractor Island” and has an almost meditative or sci-fi feel to it. The mid-section is in ¾ time while various melodies emerge, build and fade away. But as soon as one melody diminishes, a counter theme develops.
“Three Body Island” sounds semi-classical. It’s rather slow and pensive, with mood shifts at the half mark that surrender to multiple counter melodies and arpeggiated chords.
On “Phase Space Island” the liner notes state: “At a glance one can see all possible states of a system, leaving out time.” The piece is a nice mix of a swirling sonic wash, with recurring themes and bubbling rhythms. True to its title there is the swell of phase shifting here.
“All roads lead to bifurcations, some of them leading to perpetual change,” on “Instability Island.” To a degree this is true. But the overall track harbors a smooth and calming melody that is woven within. This provides an anchor that keeps the entire piece intact.
In regards to the seventh and final track “Emergence Island,” Zanov states it is “very complex and beautiful where surprising structures can emerge from a very simple iterative process.” This piece sounds somewhat reminiscent of German outfit Kraftwerk’s early work on their international hit “Autobahn.” There is a strong rhythmic undertow that consolidates this whole conceptual package in an assured and mechanized manner.
Zanov creates music that is lush, fills your speakers, expands your mind and transports the listener to another level of consciousness.