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Zao - Z=7L CD (album) cover

Z=7L

Zao

 

Zeuhl

3.42 | 43 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Between 69 and 72, Magma was boiling kettle of French musical talent, but starting from that moment and under Gomelski's impulse (now supposedly rid of Julie Driscoll that had married Keith Tippett ;-))), Vander will take complete control of Magma's musical destiny, leaving many musicians a bit frustrated. Indeed Faton Cahen and Yochk'o Seffer left the band and created the first of Magma's many offshoots. Playing in Seffer's other group Perception, they hired Jean-My Truong a Vietnamese-born drummer that knew how to pound the skins and then Joel Dugrenot bassist behind Jacques Dutronc, who will bring Mauricia Platon and her amazing voice to the group. After some tryout, the violin was handed to Rigaux, although some well-known musos tried for the post. Recorded in six days in March 73, the debut album came with artwork from Yochk'o himself and was released on the Vertigo label.

Musically, the group is still in the Kobaian territory, especially with the opening Marochsek, where Cahen's brooding piano line provides much menace behind the no-less impressive scatting of Platon that provides much drama. In the background "Dud" Dugrenot's bass is all over the soundscape and Seffer's sax is always waiting behind the corner for the best moment to intervene. Halfway through the track, it suddenly speeds up, gets nervous then dissonant (Seffer and Rigaud's violin) and finishes in fireworks. Cahen's Ataturc is much lighter, less Kobaian, but it doesn't mean more accessible as the song privileges almost strident sounds that could irritate some. Funnily enough Seffer's Ronach seems to pick up exactly where Ataturc left things at, but it goes in a different direction, although remaining in the semi-strident mode via Platon scatting vocals.

The flipside opens with Cahen's Atart a track where Truong's drumming shows all of his mastery over his kit. Seffer's Soup is probably the album centrepiece, drawing the group into a frenzied pace down boulevard, often digressing a bit to allow cruising the side lanes For Platon, Faton and his own sax to explore some collateral space. For this first album, Seffer dominates the songwriting with 3 songs to Cahen's two shorter ones, while Dud signs the closing Satanyia that starts on bass drones then explodes with Rigaux's violin and Platon's scatting sounding like Louis Armstrong this time, then going almost quiet, returning to the drones and more scatting.

Although a lot of Zao fan like to claim that there are not that many similarities with magma's music, it is really clear that the Kobaian heritage is damn heavy one to unload, and throughout their career, Zao will bear the unofficial Magma #2 label, no matter how unfair it might seem to all concerned. Let's face Zao's Z=7L is a pure gem of Zeuhl music that happens to be slightly more jazz rock, but the Orff, Coltrane and Stravinsky influences that haunt Vander's mind are also present in Zao's debut.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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