Sheer Zed – Unalome: Album Review

Artist Sheer Zed presents an audio trip through a Thai Lanna Buddhist Sak Yant ritual. Simon Tucker reviews.

Release Date: Out Now

Label: Self Released via Bandcamp

Format: DL

It’s easy. Throw everything under the pandemic umbrella. Allow the last 12 months to frame your thoughts and everything you see, touch, hear. It’s easy because the sheer weight of putting one leg on and then another has been a daily chore as your anchored brain sludges through the gears slower than ever. It’s easy. The smothering of everything in death figures, inept Government officials and the constant agony of brazen corruption has obviously affected the way we approach our listening and viewing habits.

Social media calls me out for being a coward just for the nerve of being afraid that I would lose a loved one. Talking heads on the television scream over each other. The noise is just relentless. Are we actually hearing things anymore or is everything drowning in Yorke’s fridge buzz? Static is our background noise. Where can we carve out some rest and some beauty? Who will hold our hands and soothe us? Is this the moment where I finally snap? Is Unalome the balm I need or the push over the edge?

It’s easy but it’s unfair. It’s unfair because Sheer Zed didn’t write these three transcendental pieces as part of some exploration of our diseased island or as a commentary on modern (half)life. The three instrumentals here “focuses on my (Sheer Zed) initiation by Ajarn Daeng under the spiritual guidance of Ajarn Suea of the application of a Soisangwan chest tattoo”. Unalome is ritual music built from the experience of pain and spirituality. A tapping into a realm beyond our vision. The thread that runs through these pieces is transport. You start with Unalome One as as the pieces unfurl they start make your ears dizzy as flourishes and scattered noises invoke aural hallucinations. Like watching Derek Jarman’s Blue, Unalome creates tricks for the mind. It is incredibly beautiful.

It’s easy. Relate Unalome’s static and hiss to the 24hr news cycle. Tell yourself Sheer Zed is making you sometimes uncomfortable on purpose. Why is he doing this? Why, on Unalome Two are we dragged into a hellish cycle of disconnected and scrambled voices that feel like humans trying to reach us as we struggle under the surface. Is this what drowning sounds like?

Unalome Two is hellish and bleak…sound familiar? Yet Sheer Zed always has some element of light that keeps you from fully going into the drink. He is an artist that is unafraid to show the darker side to ambient esoteric music but it is always for your own good as the dark makes the light shine brighter and Zed is as keen to show you the sun as much as the moon. The ritual of the chest tattoo must have had moments that felt unbearable and this is what Sheer Zed gets so right. He allows you to feel the pain as well as the euphoria which anyone who has experienced such things will tell you go hand in hand.

It’s easy. It’s easy to think of Unalome as a downer of a listen. It is deep and sometimes disturbing however to throw these labels at it would be lazy. The album is a deeply affecting and moving listen. It shakes concrete sunk emotions and allows them to return to the surface. Unalome relies on your openness and trust. It gives as much as it takes. The closest comparison would be the disturbed beauty of Sleazy’s The Threshold Houseboys Choir project which shares a ritual darkness and metallic beauty.

With Unalome, Sheer Zed has made a work that is complex, beautiful and intelligent. It works on a multitude of levels and is both abstract yet emotionally direct. It is an important work that deserves many ears and it is anything but easy.

Get a taster with Unalome One here:

Sheer Zed online: Website / Bandcamp / Twitter

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