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2021-05-29

NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM - Solar Drone Ceremony

Their 3CD (or 3LP) mammoth debut album "Éons" was without any question an album of the year 2020, and Neptunian Maximalism are already establishing themselves of one of the most impressive driving forces in heavy music in the year 2021 also.

Along with the commissioned performance of Gold their show "Set Chaos To The Heart Of The Moon" was probably one of the most talked-about and rewatched streams of the phenomenal Roadburn Redux online festival. (The closely related Les résidences du Botonique show, which was streamed a week later can still be watched on YouTube.)

And now - in the wake of this glorious amalgam of Mount Fuji Doomjazz CorporationAlice Coltrane and heavy psych we are blessed with yet another live recording of the group, which now fully embraces the example of Sun Ra and dubs itself the Neptunian Maximalism Arkestra.




NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM - Solar Drone Ceremony (orange/blue merge vinyl + DVD) (2021)

But let's not confuse ourselves here: When I say now, I mean then of course.

Because obviously "Solar Drone Ceremony" predates the Roadburn Redux livestream. This recording is in fact even older then "Éons".
Is it too early to consequentially draw comparisons to the way Miles Davis' electric phase saw the day of light? As a mixture of actual live shows and studio live performances, which were reshaped and enhanced later, all from a period of several years, but released in only loosely chronological order? We'll see I guess.

What is more than appearant by now is that the Belgian collective around Guillaume Cazalet is not at all about cutting specific songs in stone for eternity. There rather is a reprise, development and re-creation of motifs and movements, not wholly unlike the way the "Seer" Swans incarnation worked or how many of Magma's opuses transformed over time.


NNMM live at Roadburn Redux
"Solar Drone Ceremony" itself, a single fifty-minute chunk of music, is a radical rework and magnification of the the band's first EP "The Conference of the Stars", which I honestly have skipped so far, because there was just so much to unpack on "Éons".
While that album was only built by four people with Cazalet basically playing everything apart the saxophone and two drumkits, the Arkestra's line-up here is almost similar to what we saw at Roadburn: nine members, including two drummers, sax, lots of guitar, synths and "digital soundscape".

Stylistically this performance is much easier to pin down, especially since the role of the jazz part isn't as strongly developed here yet. Just like "To The Sun", the third part of "Éons", this sun-themed epic is a celebration of majestic, slow-building drone doom.
My personal Holy Grail of this genre is the colossal "Live at Roadburn 2010 - 2012 - 2014" triple of Bong, where with each show the band grew larger and broader in sound. "Solar Drone Ceremony" almost sounds like a succession of this series in 2016 or 2018 with even more colours added to the palette.

Starting in occult, almost dungeon synthy ambience, Neptunian Maximalism take a lot of time for a slow, a very slow, but therefore all the more powerful build-up, which takes the whole A-side of the record to grow to its full size and eventually find a resolution leading into the more "catchy" doom metal and psychedelic rock half of the composition, which also brings Cazalet's voice chanting in ominous, shamanistic proto-language more to the foreground, invoking a sense of deep cross-cultural spirituality, which combines the ancestral Jupiterean sources of Sun Ra with the self-flagellating, cleansing urgency of Michael Gira.

The finale of the piece merges untiring krautrock with orchestral glory, seemingly weaving soundscapes from all of human civilization, melting them together within the core of the sun. 

After the standards set by the previously released and performed material of Neptunian Maximalism "Solar Drone Ceremony" holds up in a surprisingly sovereign manner.
Not only is the music just mind-blowingly GRAND in capital letters, but also the stellar artwork of "Éons" has found a worthy successor here with a very beautiful vinyl colour variation, atmospheric live photographs and above all the detailed cover painting by Hervé Scott Flament.




The only thing which is not larger than life about this release is the audience attendance in Brussels in March 2020, right before live shows in general became a rarity. If people would have known how long they would be denied of that experience, the room would have been packed.

The DVD that's included does not try to hide that fact, but drenched in trippy camera work, effects and overlappings, it clearly doesn't attempt to be a regular live music documentation either.
No, also with visuals, this remains much more a journey of the consciousness than just a piece of music by some dudes and dudettes.

One could conclude that by right the future should belong to Neptunian Maximalism, which might or might not happen. In truth though, even after only this couple of years, this Arkestra exists in a place beyond the shackles of past, present and future.







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