Zazen

Cayman Blue

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    5
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Back in 1991, the new age electronic trio Zazen released Mystery School, an innovative blend of Steve Kaplan's crisp synthesizer wizardry, Joaquin Leivano's powerful rock guitar improvisations, and Andy West's fiery basslines. The album was chock-full of simmering jams which built slowly from atmospheric hypnosis to an explosive art rock crescendo, and the band's music was on par with the best work of Tangerine Dream. Somewhere along the line, Zazen lost their vision and now seems to prefer mellow but pretty tracks with exotic titles. Their three previous Miramar albums hinted at an oversimplification of the original sound, but the latest, Cayman Blue, comes full circle in selling the original vision short. As a listening experience, there's nothing really wrong here; these sweetly named tracks ("St. Bart's Chic," "Bahamian Melody") are lush, melodic, and graceful, evoking the intended spirit and imagery. Likewise, the production is solid and smooth. Despite the itinerary, however, Zazen's sense of adventure seems to have escaped them, leaving us with a lot of pretty songs that relax, rather than inspire, us.

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