The musical entity known as Majeure is A.E. Paterra, also known as the drummer for prog rock band Zombi (also one of the coolest band names in recent history). Solar Maximum, Majeure’s second album, is proof positive that all those ignorant cranks who think synth-based music isn’t “real” music are just that: ignorant cranks. The depth of emotion conveyed on Solar Maximum is quite real indeed.
Paterra, according to a review in AQ, has mastered an impressive array of analog synths and instruments on Solar Maximum. Score another point in the “synth music is real” camp. In all seriousness, though, Solar Maximum is a seriously good album.
Majeure takes its name from a Tangerine Dream piece, “Force Majeure.” This should give you a hint as to the kind of music Paterra creates: spacey, synthy, futuristic, minimalist. As an introduction, “Maximum Overture” is appropriate. Even though it’s actually the shortest track on the album, it constantly reaches ahead of itself, aiming for the heights of electronic elation. That is never gets there makes it a qualified success, not a failure.
“Solar Maximum” (listen to it here) sounds like the sunrise, sped up through time-lapse photography, but slowed down to more than an 11-minute running time. Fragments of radiance come and go, then linger, giving the track a wistful, nostalgic feel, despite its stark, sci fi sounds. There is an exquisite passion at play here that would only be destroyed by the inclusion of vocals or guitars. When the drums introduce themselves about halfway through, it only gets better, highlighting how smooth the jittery electronic sounds actually are.
The reggae-inspired “Caribbean King” is almost lighthearted in tone, save for the weird bits snaking throughout that keep it from being too whimsical. Music titled after the Aurora Borealis would seem too on-the-nose, so instead Paterra has called the next track “Extreme Northern Lights.” It builds slowly, even more gently than “Solar Maximum,” but when it hits its crescendo, it is positively ecstatic, like flying without any mechanical assistance.
Named after a geological feature on Mount Everest, “Geneva Spur” conveys the sense of existing at 26,000 feet: somehow not quite part of this earth. It’s the darkest track on Solar Maximum, with an underlying sadness accompanying the raindrop-like beats of the synths. Towards the end it grows even darker, like a thunderstorm approaching.
My favorite is “Solar Maximum 2,” perhaps not the most original title on the album, but the most successful at bringing forth absolute joy in the listener. The tenderness of the opening notes comes on like a slowly increasing fog over water, with crystalline shards of light piercing through above, creating an incredible vastness. The most consistently minimalist track is also the one that ends too quickly.
Solar Maximum is a marvelous achievement, an album which speaks quite clearly—albeit without words—to those willing to listen.
Solar Maximum was released by Temporary Residence Ltd. on October 16 and is available to order from the label’s website.
I can only imagine how fantastic Majeure must be in a live setting, but thankfully US residents will get the chance to see for themselves, as there are several shows slated for November, with one taking place tonight in Orlando, FL at Will’s Pub.
October 31: Orlando, FL; Will’s Pub
November 1: Miami, FL; Churchill’s Pub
November 2: Tampa Bay, FL; Crowbar
November 3: Chapel Hill, NC; Local 506
November 4: Washington, DC; The Black Cat
November 5: Philadelphia, PA; Kung Fu Necktie
November 6: Reading, PA; Reverb
November 7: Brooklyn, NY; Union Pool
November 8: Pittsburgh, PA; The Shop
November 9: Columbus, OH; Cafe Bourbon Street
November 10: Cincinnati, OH; Motr Bar
November 11: Chicago, IL; Empty Bottle
November 12: Milwaukee, WI; Stone Fly Brewery
November 13: Champaign, IL; Cowboy Monkey
November 14: Lafayette, IN; Foam City
November 15: St. Louis, MO; Firebird
November 16: Louisville, KY; Zanzabar
November 17: Chattanooga, TN; JJ Bohemia’s