Review & Full Album Stream: Zaum, Divination

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

zaum divination

[Click play above to stream Divination by Zaum in its entirety. Album is out May 10 on Listenable Records.]

Across a three-track sprawl, Canadian duo Zaum successfully manage to stay on theme while significantly expanding their sound. At its core, Divination — which is the Moncton outfit’s third full-length and first for Listenable Records — holds to much the same methodology as 2016’s Eidolon (review here) or even 2014’s debut, Oracles (review here), but the context has shifted as bassist/vocalist/etc.-ist Kyle Alexander McDonald and drummer/percussionist Christopher Lewis have begun to embrace different contours and textures in their work. As with the last two albums, there are some clues to be found in the artwork, in this case exploring the theology and mysticism of Southeast Asia as well as some of the folk influence, but Zaum‘s central purpose has not wavered and throughout the 18:27 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Relic,” they show growth not by moving away from their initial purposes, but by advancing deeper and more complex arrangements.

Like the similarly-minded Om before them, Zaum have begun to push outside the confines of a bass/drum duo, incorporating various bells and other atmospheric elements in order to convey the ambience that is so crucial to what they do now more than ever. It’s worth noting that McDonald and Lewis have furthered the visual side of their live presentation as well, bringing aboard Nawal Doucette as a presence onstage. Whether or not she contributes to the album, I don’t know — there are vocals near the beginning of “Relic” that could be hers, but I haven’t seen proper credits — but either way, “Relic,” as well as “Pantheon” (8:48) and “Procession” (13:58), which follow, bear the mark of this increased focus on atmosphere. Of course, this was not an area in which Zaum were exactly lacking prior to Divination, but it’s a question of balance in their sound, and they have grown more patient in their execution as well as more willing to explore the spaces they naturally create in their material. This has only made them a stronger band and more suited to their aesthetic purpose.

The sense of ceremony is immediate as “Relic” begins to unfold, and it remains prevalent no matter how tonally weighted Zaum get. Echoing voice, flute sounds, finger cymbals and darkly psychedelic textures put the listener precisely in the place the band wants them to be, and though the first few minutes of “Relic” are quiet, the patience they instill in the audience is another triumphant aspect of Divination on the whole. Soon enough, the drones and bass and echoing march will commence, and “Pantheon” as the centerpiece/side B leadoff hits with even more impact ahead of “Procession,” which casts a more strictly doomed pall on the way to its apex topped by righteously harmonized vocals. There are ebbs and flows along the way — plenty of flow throughout, actually — in volume and intensity, but at its most subdued or its loudest push, Divination remains informed by that original showcase of patience, and the temporal slowdown that ensues is all the more effective for it.

zaum (Photo by Pierre Morin)

But Zaum‘s dynamic isn’t just about volume tradeoffs or writing long songs. It’s the feeling of ritualization that helps to distinguish them, and “Relic” shows this as well from front to back, dipping into some spaces that feel born of more extreme metal — thinking just past the halfway point before the vocals drop out. As Zaum have moved toward discovering their own sound, they’ve worked to conjure a singly dark vibe that Divination certainly brings to its most resonant realization yet. It’s not that Zaum are suddenly playing death or black metal — far from it — but as they began by transposing the tenets of doom onto their style, their breadth in that regard would seem to have expanded as well along with the rest of their modus. As “Pantheon” sets its ambient foundation in the first minute and then begins constructing a temple build of foreshadow harmonies and drone metal leading to bleak incantations, it’s hard to tell just with what gods Zaum are communing — all of them? — but clear just the same that the intent is not of this world.

It is a grim psych of the spirit, and the “Procession” to which it leads feels very much like the march to death. The closer isn’t the longest work Zaum have ever done — both tracks on Eidolon topped 20 minutes, there’s “Relic” here and the 19-minute “The Serpentshrine” from their 2015 split with Shooting Guns (review here) — but it might be this album’s highest achievement. To hear Zaum use vocal layering as they do effects and percussion along with the bass and drums as another instrument at their disposal puts them in a different category of songwriters entirely, and it only speaks well for their search as it continues to move forward from here. “Procession” winds down before building back up to its 10th minute, eventually making its way into the aforementioned harmonies, chant-like as they are.

Amid all the nuance of arrangement, Zaum make an easy argument for themselves as a progressive band. The simple fact that they’d work so directly toward an atmospheric ideal does that alone, never mind how they actually get there. But with the ending of “Procession,” and really with Divination the whole way through, Zaum separate from the paths of their influences and find their own way. They are the monk leaving the monastery to create a new path, and the sound they find on that journey is as enriching as any dogma might provide. Again, for those who’ve experienced Zaum in the past, it’s not so much that Divination is a radical reinvention of what they do. It’s not supposed to be. Instead, what it does is to show how malleable their approach is to further growth and how much it’s able to branch out in terms of expression without sacrificing its basic level of impact to that cause. Those who’ve heard them before will still recognize them, but the shape of what’s being recognized has changed and signals in this material that change will be ongoing. So be it.

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Zaum Set May 10 Release for Divination

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I don’t think it’s been a full four days since Zaum‘s Eastern European tour dates were posted here, but here we are again as news comes down that the Moncton, New Brunswick, mantra doom outfit will release their third album, Divination, on April 26 in Europe as they wrap up said tour — they’re in Gdansk that night, which seems as good a place as any for a release gig — and May 10 in North America, both through Listenable Records. No audio, preorders or even a tracklisting yet, but the cover art’s out and there’s a bit of background on the record from the PR wire that gives a sense of some of the exploration at hand in the songs. Certainly there’s no shortage of reasons to be intrigued.

To wit:

zaum divination

ZAUM: Ambient Doom Alchemists To Release Divination Via Listenable Records This Spring; European Tour Announced

ZAUM is a passage toward the dark realizations of the old world; a monolithic, doomy mantra-based meditative experience forged by bass and drums interwoven with sitar, woodwind, string, and synth textures. Based in New Brunswick, Canada, observers experience a tranquil resonance whereby the astral and physical planes can coexist and be understood from a natural perspective.

ZAUM impending new album Divination, set for release this May via Listenable Records, is a direct continuance of the ever-evolving lore and world in which ZAUM has exposed. Conceptually, the album unpacks a transmundane darkness from ancient Burma – touching on conflict, theism, and some esoteric events which play a key role in the developing canon of ZAUM based on their previous releases to date.

Audibly, the album portrays a dense and vivid dreamstate, supplanting the listener into an overseer’s perspective of these aforementioned esoteric depths, reexperienced with a celestial clarity. The soundscapes within encapsulate an unveiled mysticism harnessed to unpack the fluidity of consciousness at the crux of the human condition.

While ZAUM’s meditative “mantra doom” sound stays quite true to what people have experienced to date, their sound and presentation certainly has progressed further into new territory on Divination with the inclusion of recorded instrumentation such as jaw harp, digideroo, singing saw, dilruba, saz, brass bells, brass bowl, and finger cymbals. In addition, their live experience now features a monumental change with the recruitment of Egyptian-Canadian evil queen Nawal Doucette to ZAUM, performing her mesmerizing dark dance rituals entrancing those who observe.

Divination will be released on April 26th in Europe followed by a North American release date of May 10th with preorder options to be available at the Listenable Shop at THIS LOCATION in the coming days.

Prior to the release of Divination, ZAUM will bring their psalms to European stages. The trek will run from April 9th through April 28th. See confirmed dates below.

09/04 – Dresden, DE @ Bärenzwinger
10/04 – Osijek, HR @ Dungeon
11/04 – Thessaloniki, GR @ Eightball Club
12/04 – Athens, GR @ Death Disco
13/04 – Kavala, GR @ T.E.I. Kavalas
14/04 – Istanbul, TR @ Mecra
15/04 – Sofia, BG @ Mixtape 5
16/04 – Timisoara, RO @ Reflektor
17/04 – Bucharest, RO @ B52
18/04 – Cluj-Napoca, RO @ Flying Circus
20/04 – Pescara, IT @ Tube Cult Fest
21/04 – Krško, SI @ Krško MC Klub
23/04 – Budapest, HU @ Dürer Kert
24/04 – Szeged, HU @ Grand Café
26/04 – Gdansk, PO @ Protokultura
27/04 – Wroclaw, PO @ Czasoprzestrze?
28/04 – Warsaw, PO @ Mala Warszawa

ZAUM:
Kyle Alexander McDonald – vocals, bass, textures
Christopher Lewis – drums, percussion
Nawal Doucette – visual performance art, ambiance

https://www.facebook.com/zaumn/
https://twitter.com/zaumdoom
https://www.instagram.com/zaumdoom/
https://zaum.bandcamp.com/
http://www.listenable.net
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs
https://twitter.com/Listenable

Zaum, Eidolon (2016)

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