October Starlight - G, D, B, D
Chimes - C, A, C, E
A Whisper in Time - D, G, C, F
Heartbeat Lyrics - B, E, A, D
Elements - E, A, C, E
Oracles of Her - A, D, G, C
Canon in D - B, E, A, D
Kinetic - D♭, G♭, B, E
Music Box - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭
Constellation - C, F, B♭, E♭
With 'Saturn Return', I've aimed to continue developing as a composer, exploring different timbres and textures while keeping melody as the main focus. There's been lots of changes along the way and each piece on this album has definitely been on its own little journey. For example, 'October Starlight' started out being played on an acoustic bass guitar before I decided that my VB4 was the better choice (I needed an adjustable bridge for intonation due to the altered tuning I was using). The ideas behind 'Elements' and 'Constellation' were conceived two years before my first album, 'Sonorous', was released, and they have very much evolved since then. And 'Oracles of Her' was originally written on guitar and performed as a duet with a violin!
So, it's been quite a windy road leading to this end result; and in a way, this is a testament to the title. The Saturn Return represents a period of change in a person's life. Basically, it refers to Saturn returning to the same place in the solar system that it occupied during the person's birth, which happens roughly every 29 years. I think astrologers believe the Saturn Return 'phenomena' occurs between the ages of 28 and 30; during this time period, some believe that as Saturn returns to this point in its orbit, significant choices may present themselves in the person's life, resulting in important changes and new directions for that person. Around the time of my Saturn Return, I was actually going through some extremely important transitions - personally, professionally and musically. So, the concept of a Saturn Return resonated with me. Musically speaking, 'Sonorous' was released at the start of my Saturn Return, and since then I've focused on composing nine new pieces for this album, including three 'orchestrations'.
On one of these orchestrations, 'A Whisper in Time', I'm playing the cello. I began taking cello lessons when I was seven, before switching to the bass when I was 17. I love classical music (which is why I was so keen to do a solo bass version of 'Canon in D'!) and I felt this musical upbringing really helped to develop my ear, which I'm very thankful for. It's been a challenging transition back to the cello, but I feel the tone and texture of the instrument really adds to the composition. I'm playing an electric cello on 'A Whisper in Time', and when I pluck it, it almost sounds like a hybrid cello/fretless bass! I also play a bit of piano on the composition 'Music Box'. My girlfriend is an amazing pianist, so she's inspired me to play around with it. Again, the piano is there to add a different texture and timbre to the composition. Finally, 'Oracles of Her' is all bass, but features some different effects, including echo and distortion. I was quite into rock when I was younger and still love the sound and energy from this type of music.
I really enjoyed composing all three of these pieces, but of course, my main passion is solo bass. The instrument is capable of so much within the solo context, and if there are any boundaries on its possibilities, then perhaps they only enhance the creative process.
Click below for my 'Track by Track' discussion of the album. Thank you to NoTreble for the feature!
Reviews / Quotes:
Stunning! Sounds beautiful… (Nick Wells, iBassMagazine)
Very sensitive music, as expected. This guy is a real genius on soprano bass. (Gregor Fris, BassTheWorld)
This incredible new recording contains nine new compositions from Zander, all highlighting his mastery of the solo bass guitar genre. (Stuart Clayton, Bassline Publishing)
Zander is a remarkable solo bassist, incorporating piccolo strings, alternate tunings and effects with unique compositions and arrangements. And while his technical ability is undeniable, his musicianship comes through loud and clear.
(Corey Brown, No Treble)
Zander is recognized as one of the most notable contemporary solo bassists who continues to explore new sonorities through altered tunings and expand the repertoire of solo bass music. (Cliff Engel, International Institute of Bassists)
Saturn Return is full bodied, rich, well rounded bass. Real tunes. It’s not just aimless sampling or study. Each piece means something in the bigger picture... (It is) a deeply moving, emotional album. Very satisfying to the heart - highly recommended. (Elmeaux, Thunder Row)
"His music shows a great a attention to detail, subtlety and musical phrasing, and his impressive technique always serves the song rather than being a showcase in itself. (Rob Martino, Chapman Stick Artist & Wave Arts engineer)
"After 'Sonorous', this young bassist from London with the pseudonym referring to his endorser releases his second solo album, expanding on his established concept of adding interesting adapations of classical or popular tunes to his own ones.
As one of the few Youtube phenomena with actual substance, Zander has cultivated a distinct tapping technique alongside regular experimentation with altered tunings, the latter providing him with an expanded palette of overtones. Without these, a track like 'Chimes', for example, would hardly be possible in its lushness. The fretted instrument ('A Whisper In Time' apparently draws from a fretless effect) by manufacturer Zon sounds rather high-end, yet Zander makes it seem warm and may be well able to make himself heard, but above all draws from gentle playing.
In terms of songwriting, 'Saturn Return' is an outstanding album, particularly as far as harmonies are concerned: 'October Starlight' or the aptly titled 'Heartbeat Lyrics' are just as deep from a compositional point of view as Johann Pachelbel's 'Canon in D'. In general, it takes Zander four to five minutes to get his emotions across with a capability to write both "songy" and more meandering, even expressionistic tracks such as 'Elements', which could almost have been performed on a harp, or 'Music Box' with its touching piano arrangement.
In conclusion, Zander Zon as a one man show can evoke moods just as well as he may shine with his chops. However, these are indeed only tools - as they should be for any serious musician striving for timeless material. 'Saturn Return' is not only recommended for bass players, but a real treat to friends of melancholic, acoustically tinged music in general."
- Andreas Schiffmann, Musikreviews.de
Another full review: http://www.thunderrow.com/content.php?1952-Zander-Zon-And-Saturn-Return