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Zao - Z=7L CD (album) cover





3.48 | 68 ratings

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4 stars Zao was formed after keyboardist Francois Cahen and saxophonist Yock'o Seffer left Magma. They did not like Christian Vander's growing control over the group, making Magma's music less jazzy. In fact, after the second album Zao becomes less Zeuhl and more fusion oriented. The drummer here is from Vietnam and the female vocalist I believe is from the USA. I have no idea what the album title means. The music is similar to Magma's first two albums, but with more emphasis on piano. There is a violinist as well whose contributions are important. The vocals are either in the 'drunk opera singer Zeuhl' category or in the 'drunk scat-singer Zeuhl' category.

You can listen to the first song "Marochsek" here on PA. Opens with some electric piano and bass with some subdued almost inaudible drumming. Then you hear "Zao!" and some violin and sax blaring away. Proceeds to go into a great groove with "doy-yu, da-doy-yu" type vocals. Changes slightly to a more melodic part before the music and singing gets louder and more intense. Some scat-singing with the sax and violin mimicing the vocals. I love the part that starts just before 4 minutes; a screeching violin leads to a more mellow part with some great vocals and a good drumbeat. Next part sounds very much like Magma with singer Mauricia Platon really belting it out at times. Briefly reprises an earlier section before ending on a dramatic note. Love the feedback at the very end.

"Ataturc" begins very '70s sounding. A nice light jazzy funk groove. First half sounds like a mix of symph prog and fusion. Nice vocal melodies. Music slows down in the middle and changes to a more laid-back jazzy section with great Rhodes soloing. Drumming gets really good before some horns play repetative lines. "Ronach" starts off sounding like a hiphop DJ is manipulating a disco record...and then it gets weird. Some start/stop playing with drum rolls and crazy scat vocals. After gets more melodic and operatic. Double-tracked vocals at one point. Changes to a part that sounds like the much later Koenjihyakkei. More start/stop jazzy playing and scat-singing. "Atart" is very jazzy until the singing starts where it gets more symphonic and operatic. Some dissonant sax and clarinet in the middle. Unlike the other songs, this one doesn't change much.

"La Soupe" begins dramatic and operatic. Then gets almost folky and jazzy with scat- singing and instruments playing in unison. Later gets more operatic fusion. Violin almost sounds like a theremin at one point. Later on goes into a great long mellow groove with electric piano and bass; vocals and other instruments play over top. Music changes and gets more upbeat sounding. Reprises beginning section. "Satanyia" has some bass harmonics and mumbling voices being faded in at the beginning. Full band joins in shortly and it gets both jazzy and folky. The vocals arrive. Later goes into a great symphonic jazz- rock part.Goes back to the jazzy/folky part as the music fades out. Overdubbed sax and violin work their way in. The rhythm section is still going. The music then increases in volume and intensity. Reprises the symphonic part afterwards.

Zao would be a good place to start in Zeuhl if you are coming from the jazz end of things. This is their most Zeuhl sounding album and I also think it is their best. The vocals are very Zeuhl sounding but the actual music only sometimes can be described as such. Nonetheless, whatever this is, it's great. Deserves 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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