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Zao - Z=7L CD (album) cover





3.48 | 68 ratings

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4 stars Zao was formed by Francois Cahen and Yoch'ko Seffer following their departure from Magma prior to the recording and release of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh. Their departure was at least in part due to Christian Vander becoming the sole composer for the band. Cahen had contributed compositions to Magma's first two albums, so it's no surprise that this album sounds like a continuation of side 2 of 1001 Degrees Centigrade.

Right from the opening bars it's clear that this is very much a Zeuhl project, and one which has interesting parallels with MDK, also released in 1973. Perhaps the most significant is the presence of female vocalist - although Cahen and Seffer had played on early versions of MDK Stella Vander did not become part of Magma until 1973, and prior to that only male voices had featured. Mauricia Platon sings mostly wordless vocals (aside from the opening cry of ZAO!) but the effect is similar to Kobaian. The rhythm section of Joel Dugreno and Jean-My Truong has a distinctly Magma-esque feel, with Dugreno supplying the kind of bubbling bass lines that underpin a lot of the best Zeuhl, and Cahen's electric piano also sounds like a refugee from the mothership. For all that, Zao had their own distinct take on things; the inclusion of a violinist predated Didier Lockwood's brief but remarkable tenure in Magma, while the music in general had a looser, jazzier feel and Seffer in particular gave rein his own distinctly East European style of playing. Although they're quite distinct from one another, the album's 6 tracks flow beautifully and the general effect is of a themed album (as opposed to a fully fledged conceptual piece).

Z = 7L is an intriguing glimpse of what might have been if Christian Vander had been content to share the composing credits for Magma and to play more overtly jazz tinged music. It's also a crucial missing piece in the Zeuhl jigsaw, and as such is essential listening for Magma fans. Newcomers to the genre may prefer one of the subsequent albums, where the vocals are less prominent and there's more of a jazz fusion feel.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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