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Zoar - clouds without water (Middle Pillar) Buy from MNS

When the music you play is of a style very much associated with one or two groundbreaking acts, you will always face the likelihood that you will be compared to those classic artists and might be found lacking. With this album, Zoar is moving away from the dark atmospherics of his previous work into a more textured and accessible sound. With the introduction of elements of world music, in this case the Masai people of Lake Natron, Tanzania, and elements of medieval music and texts, the comparison with Dead Can Dance is unavoidable.

But, rather than simply forging ahead and trying to ignore this comparison, Michael Montes has gone one better, he's recruited Mr Dead Can Dance himself, Brendan Perry, to sing on a number of tracks. As a result, the echoes of DCD are clear and appealing to their legion of fans and are very welcome in the absence of the band themselves, but it's also beneficial to Zoar's sound. Rather than trying hard not to sound like DCD, Zoar have the chance to work with around that sound and make their own mark on it. And they do so brilliantly.

This is a varied and powerful release, ranging from the spoken word 'our way of life', featuring Matt Johnson from The The reading Charles Bowden's some what pessimistic words about the future of the human race, to the tribal songs of the Masai on 'ashes falling'. Julie Comparini provides some pseudo-operatic vocals to the more ethereal/atmospheric tracks, 'in golden light', 'behind the lake' and 'here the deities approve', while Brendan Perry is his wonderful self on 'winter wind' and 'wakeworld', his deep warm voice as seductive as ever. 'in these rooms', however, errs somewhat, with its dark oppressive sound and a malevolent spoken word performance from Jennifer Charles, it sounds a little too much like some of Alan Wilder's material with Recoil.

However, that's not enough to take away from the varied and interesting sounds put together by Zoar, with a consistently strong musical backing that shifts and changes mood, sometimes dark, sometimes noisy, while at other times soothing and calming. This should be the album to take Zoar out of the Gothic ghetto and bring them much deserved attention from the broader music scene. With any luck, the presence of Brendan Perry and Matt Johnson will attract that for them.

Donnacha DeLong

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