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Weidorje - Weidorje CD (album) cover





4.21 | 212 ratings

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5 stars Review Nš 422

According to Zeuhl definition on Progarchives, Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaian, the language written by Christian Vander, drummer and founder of the French band Magma. But, Zeuhl is much more complex to define. In reality, Zeuhl is a much elaborated prog genre. Zehul is a kind of a combination of some strong repetitive bass lines, loose and wild drumming, a sense of improv and fevered chanting in a made up language. In the loose sense, maybe we could describe Zeuhl as an offshoot of prog rock, a little jazzier and a lot wackier, with a less structure and a more spirituality.

When considering the legacy of Magma, one must recognize the huge impact they left behind. Many of France's best musicians were once members, or associates of members, or somehow were touched by their influence. Thus, their pervasive effect on the French scene cannot be understated. After Magma, it would never be quite the same again.

But, as many of we know, Magma was never a very stable band, turning around most of their line up on what seemed like a yearly basis. A lot of this had to do with Christian Vander constantly moving the band's goalposts. In 1976, their fifth studio album, "Udu Wudu", went in a direction that was more fusiony and bass-heavy, and just like that, Vander decided to turn the band into some kind of alien funk outfit. Thus, two members of the band, Bernard Paganotti (bass) and Patrick Gauthier (keys), decided to split off and continue in that direction themselves. So, Weidorje was born. But, unfortunately, Weidorje only released a single album, their self-titled album. For some people, "Weidorje" would be a follower to "Udu Wudu". Though it's based of Magma's sound, I really think "Weidorje" is a better album than that one.

"Weidorje" is certainly a treat for all Magma's fans. Essentially, the album sounds like Magma, especially in the "Udu Wudu" phase. The music is mostly instrumental and the voices that are present are mainly scat, leaving our ears free to listen to the wonderful music being played. The really exciting factor about Zeuhl is the fuzz-bass. Bernard Paganotti is a master of that style. So, naturally, when I first heard this album, I was immediately struck by the thumping bass. But, there's more on "Weidorje" than just the fuzz-bass. Another former Magma personality is present on this album, Patrick Gauthier. He and Jean-Philippe Goude add some very dark and gloomy polyrhythmic sounds which add a superb atmosphere and rhythm, as does Michel Ettori on guitar that plays along with Paganotti's bass lines in many places.

Side one is encompassed by "Elohim's Voyage". Its title is the Hebrew word for "Gods". From the beginning, there's no doubt about the connection to Magma. It starts with a crunching bass sound but soon the keyboards add a chilling touch. The main rhythmic charge then begins, with the aforementioned scat vocals, the slowly increasing heavier drumming and then the guitar. This assault continues on throughout the sixteen minutes but with added surprises, such as the avant-garde saxophone. Approaching the halfway mark, the band is in full flow and, then, everything slows down once more, yet the track keeps together solidly. With four minutes to go, the tune reprises with trumpet and saxophone accompaniment. This reflects the classic Magma, but feels darker and more disturbing. It's a strong track to start the proceedings. "Vilna" named after the Lithuanian city, is a highlight. It's the strongest track on the album, beginning with a catchy keyboard riff that leads on until the bass. "Vilna" isn't as heavy as "Elohim's Voyage", yet is just as catchy, continuing on in true Zeuhl style with a relentlessness of rhythmic sound. "Booldemug" is a softer track. It's jazzier than the previous tracks, featuring much more saxophone and guitar and is a welcome break from what has gone before, making the band sound more diverse than we initially expected. It's here when we realise how much the keyboards dominate "Weidorje" sound without overwhelming all the rest. Ettori also unleashes his guitar skills here.

The 2008 reissue of "Weidorje" contains a couple of live tracks, presumably of pieces of what was to become their second studio album. The music itself is also great, even though it's too poorly recorded. But, what it's true is that they never got the chance to release them in studio properly. But, we were in 1978, a bad year to playing this kind of music.

Conclusion: Despite the use of catchy rhythms, "Weidorje" never get dull or boring, continuously and subtly changing things. The changes are often so subtle that you don't notice them. It's perhaps a lot more palatable than Magma tends to be. All of these tunes tend to hold onto their grooves, rather than constantly moving around, which I suppose is the result of having a bassist writing the music rather than a drummer. "Weidorje" is a great introduction to the genre, as I think it shows of what Zeuhl is capable. Though the group floundered out of the gate, the album was at least well known enough to get two CD reissues. This is a gem of an album and is an essential release for those who have discovered Magma, or who want to discover Magma in the future and a great introductory level album, if not the easiest of listens. If you're a great fan of Magma, this is a must hear. This is a brilliant avant-garde rock album and it's highly recommended.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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