Thursday, October 30, 2014

Z—Visions of Dune (InFiné)

Based on the liner notes for this album, Bernard Szajner (aka Z) sounds like an all-round genius—a visual artist, musician, inventor, and engineer. As the creator of light shows for Euro-prog outfits like Gong and Magma, he specialized in transforming sound to image. With Visions of Dune, originally released in 1979, the transformation is reversed: Szajner’s own visions of Frank Herbert’s universe are translated into sound. The sounds themselves are quite spectacular. Szajner bases everything on his all-powerful synthesizers, and employs a team of guest musicians to fill out the picture with guitar, bass and drums. It’s planetarium music for sure, but unruly and unsettling enough to plunge into some truly dark matter. Z’s cosmos is not necessarily a harmonious, friendly environment. The tracks are relatively short for this kind of exploratory music, especially compared to Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze’s side-long excursions. However, they often crossfade to provide seamless stretches of listening. The drones and sweeps of “Dune” are like an approaching wall of fog that give way to the percolating sequences of “Bashar” and the following tracks. Drums enter the picture on “Bashar” and “Fremen” to lay down a funky beat. The chaos and overlapping elements remind me of Heldon’s anarchic approach. The feeling of barely reined-in circuitry is very similar. Who’s winning—man or machine? The mp3 download included with the vinyl adds two bonus tracks that were originally left off the album for being “too futuristic.” Indeed, the moaning, scraping bleakness of “The Duke” and droning menace of “Spice” are interesting diversions from the main programme. Jodorowsky shouldn’t have bothered trying to cajole Pink Floyd into making the soundtrack for his own vision of Dune. If he’d waited long enough, he might have stumbled on this music instead. I’m betting Jodorowsky and Szajner would have been a good match. This album is a brave new world to discover, even 35 years after the fact.