Album Review: White Sun Black Sun by In Zaire

You know how it is, you come across a band and you think they are amazing: but it appears that others had got there first and that limited edition bit of vinyl had sold out long ago. Furthermore, bar a miracle find in a crate somewhere, there’s little chance of you getting hold of this obscure item without having to pay a significant amount to get it.

Such a thing happened to me with In Zaire’s debut album, released last year, but which it one of the best I’ve heard recently. I discovered the band because it was an early sign up to this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest, a major source of new material for me, and they stood out as being a must see.

Redemption, however, is at hand in the shape of a 500 piece repress of the album by Berlin’s Sound of Cobra records, on 180g purple vinyl. So what’s all the fuss about?

In Zaire is an Italian band which describes itself as “a psychedelic tribal quartet” whose  “performance is able to bring the audience into a psychedelic trip”. So far so fantastic. This is only half the story, though, because there is an amazing amount of stuff going on in their music. True there is a kind of Krautrock/ kosmische underpinning to the music: as track titles such as ‘Sun’, ‘Moon’, ‘Jupiter’, ‘Venus’ and ‘Saturn’ will testify. However, they also “mix dub-funk drum rhythms, tribal and african percussions, electrical-indian bass guitar melodies, arabic and psychedelic voices, and minimal-introspective electronic sounds”.

This means you can listen to this album again and again, and you really do need to listen to it as a complete work to get the most out of it, and find yourself taking a different trip each time. This is no cosmic satnav but a magical astral tour taking you to the outer reaches of wherever your mind may be, or not be, at the time.

The album’s progression seems to take the listener from the relatively normal (these things are relative) wig out of ‘Sun’, through the more ethereal psychedelic sound of ‘Moon’, which still has a relatively recognisable prog template. As we get to ‘Mars’, however, we are treated to an almost Morricone-esque Western soundtrack sound, perhaps telling us that we are now at the frontier. We’ve been prepared for the journey: now it’s time to go.

Things start to get far more freaky with the great funky bass-led ‘Mercury’ pulsating into the brain followed by ‘Jupiter’ which is a desolate dub track signifying that we have now arrived at the outer reaches, where no one is going to hear us scream. And scream we may well have done since ‘Venus’ has a kind of post-catharsis atmosphere that suggest that if we had screamed we would now be in the sort of primal state that this tracks suggests.

Finally we get to ‘Saturn’, which is announced with diaphanous sounding gongs and symbols. We have arrived at somewhere special, holy perhaps. It is a destination that is translucent with tribal drums and mysterious sounds. It is the temple, the souk, the jungle. It is recognisable yet other worldly: a ritual space in which we can fulfil the aim of our psychedelic journey for out of these mysterious sounds comes a increasingly heavy droning beat which builds and builds to a huge crescendo. It is a massive ascent which feels as it constantly on the brink of chaos and which eventually, at the denouement, tips over into it. It is a track which worms its way into our heads and lodges itself there.

I would have liked this last track have been much longer with a more dissonant ending, but this really is a minor complaint in the context of an album that really is pretty immense in its scale. I’m certainly looking forward to it being performed live at the Liverpool PsychFest when, perhaps, it will be extended; and now that the album has been repressed, I’m excited about getting a delivery of my slab of purple vinyl anytime soon. Until the next trip…



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