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Mellotron Storm
5 stars 4.5 stars. This one might grow to five stars eventually. This French band incorporate two Fender Rhodes players, a female vocalist, drums, bass and sax. James MacGaw from ONE SHOT and MAGMA guests on guitar here as well. By the way Udi Koomran mastered this beauty. I swear Udi has mastered about six albums i've reviewed of late. Anyway this album is called "Cycle I" but when you open the cd cover it says "Cycle I...from darkness to consciousness"

"Ombres" opens with atmosphere as piano, sax, drums, bass and vocals build as they all come and go. A very cool sounding way to start. "Tristesse" opens with a light beat, bass and piano. A low hum joins in too. A calm before 3 1/2 minutes as vocals come in softly. Nice. "Intuition" has an ambient intro with reserved vocals and piano that slowly build. The sax before 3 1/2 minutes plays slowly. Drums 5 1/2 minutes in as the sound gets fuller. Vocals are back 6 1/2 minutes in. Sax follows as it builds again. It settles back 12 minutes in.

"Voir" opens with atmospheric keys then these soft vocals take over quickly. Flute, drums and keys come in. This is dark and laid back. It kicks in before 3 minutes but settles again quickly. The tempo starts to shift back and forth. Sax late as it blends into "Ouverture". This is a short but more powerful tune than what we've heard so far. It blends into "Conscience" which has some nice growly bass with vocals, keys and drums also standing out. Sax before 3 minutes as the vocals stop.

"Connaitre" is mellow with piano, sax and drums as vocals join in.The sax starts to lead as the vocals stop. Piano's turn to lead 5 1/2 minutes in. Some nasty bass too. "Etre" has a beat with bass and piano. Vocal melodies follow. I love the sound here. It blends into "Unite which is led by piano and cymbals before the vocals come in after a minute. James arrives with some intricate guitar melodies that go on and on. Nice. It settles after 9 1/2 minutes.

This is a gorgeous Zeuhl album that is very laid back and mellow. There's little in the way of breakouts here. It's like being in a beautiful dream to be honest.

Report this review (#291043)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

French sextet that produced one of the most exciting 90's and 00's Zeuhl album, along with maybe One Shot's debut album; the album's subtitle of From Darkness To Consciousness speaks mountains of the music held within its coded information sealed in some type of silicone matter. Under a very bland artwork, the double Fender-Rhodes attack sextet give you one of the most essential Zeuhl adventures, helped out by a few buddies, namely a third Rhodes player Bugela and especially One Shot's guitarist James Mc Gaw, who offers an amazing and lengthy spine-chilling guitar solo on the closing Unité track. A striking feature of this album is the simply amazing sound of the album, partly due to the awesome work of Udi Koomran.

Nine superb and melancholic mostly-instrumental tracks (even though Natacha Jouet's superb vocals appear frequently) ranging from almost 3-mins to 13-mins bring plenty of musical orgasms to anyone willing to simply sit back and surrender to a spellbinding music. Indeed the early part of the album starts hypnotizing slow with the album-shortest Ombres (shadows), but slowly picks up speed with the awesomely chanted Tristesse (sadness) and reach grandiose status with the amazing Intuition. Incredibly enough Jouet's slightly ethnic chants manage to push even further the spell on the chilling Voir (see), which sets your average Magma track back to the drawing board (IMHO) and the crescendo continues with Ouverture-Conscience, and the intense Connaître where main composer Nicolas Goulay switches to a deep-droning minimoog underlying Laurent's superb soprano sax.

Definitely one of the 00's best oeuvre, one that saw a first sequel into their offshoot project of Xing sa, where three of the Setna members develop a similar but rawer or to-the-bone oeuvre of Création Du Monde. Less than a year after that XS release, Setna will release the second Cycle of their oeuvre, and I just can't wait for it.

Report this review (#428251)
Posted Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars How can Zeuhl be so light and accessible? I went to this album after reading that this band is where Xing Sa are from, and being their currently only album one of my favorite albums of the recent years I went to Setna.

I was expecting something good, but this is more than good. It seems to be conceived as a suite as all the tracks fall continuously one into the other. It goeas from repetitive and hypnotic ("Voir") to jazzy ("Etre") passing by a lot of "impressions", but all excellent and enhanced by the very warm voice of Natacha Jou't.

There's no need, I think, to go track by track or making detailed descriptions of the music. This is in few words what I call "Blue effect music". Something that gives me a sensation of peace and rest after a hard day. Dreams and mental images just before sleeping, music comingfrom the Moon....

There's not the usual darkness as in many Zeuhl albums. There's a lot of jazz, very soft and skillfully played so that I think that if it wasn't for specifically Zeuhl moments, specially when Natacha sings, this band could have been added to JR/F as well.

Just let me mention the closer track "Unite" which features a fantastic guitar riff on a jazzy base that could appeal even fans of Santana. The rhythmic section (bass and drums) support then a keyboard riff that....well, have you present the Camel's most jazzy moments with Richard Sinclair? Just the three tracks that I've mentioned are three good reasons to have this album. At the same level of the Xing Sa one, an album for all the (prog) tastes, even for those who think that they don't like Zeuhl: try it.

The rating? Masterpiece is a very big word, but we don't have a rating that's more than just "Excellent addition", so I want to be a bit generous. Even if not an absolute masterpiece it really deserves more than 4 stars.

Report this review (#749926)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars Ethereal Zeuhl

To the casual prog fan this venture by French band Setna just might be the best way of approaching the Zeuhl brand. The mad and overtly gibberish laden characteristics that often sound like showering opera singers and piano playing walruses here are exchanged for something softer and far sweeter.

That is not to say that Cycle 1 is a diet Zeuhl album, even if I completely echo my fellow reviewer Luca's sentiments, when he opened up his review with: 'How can Zeuhl be so light and accessible?' There is indeed a lightness to this music - a fluid feathery veil of sorts that covers most of this recording with an easy digestible coating, - one that preferably should entice people from far far away who normally frown upon the French theatrics and bands named after molten rock.

Divided into 9 separate tracks, the album still sounds as one continuous piece that ebbs and flows delicately over you like a warm summer breeze. All the individual Zeuhl trades are there, maybe except for the big male choral outbursts, but the classic zooming bass lines throbbing, writhing, propelling the music forward, the clever and intricate jazz stylings of the drums, the electric piano relegating pensive and soothing soundscapes - all of this is here in full. Which means that you folks out there who love Zeuhl for what it is, you'll still find a lot to love on here, even if things tend to unfold abnormally pretty and beautiful.

Oh yes, those two adjectives are at times some of the most terrifying and unwelcome words to the proggers out there who revel in dissonance and the bizarre. "Beauty?!?!??? Hell, I'd rather feck a sheep with flowers in its fur!" Whatever your preferences may be - whatever floats your boat musically - this thing will more than likely hold something to your liking. Apart for the already mentioned ingredients, the vibe here is more than anything: ethereal. That's a first time for me. Ethereal Zeuhl. That's like electronic folk........... Well, as strange as that may sound to you, the combination of this liquidy, oozing - ethereally wafting fusion and those aptly placed Zeuhlish features - does work wonders on Cycle 1. And topping this most delightful mix off - is a big bag of tricks that continues to amaze the listener all throughout the album. Zing!

Firstly, the serene clean female vocals occasionally guesting are downright gorgeous. Feels like listening to a feminine rain cloud singing - something light and wet, a ghost of olive oil, or maybe something entirely made up of ice and sunbeams. Then you have some marvellously placed saxophone parts underlining the odd sections that just need that little bit of extra umphh of jazz and zest. Wonderful indeed, just like the omnipresent Fender rhodes or the seldomly heard guitar that right at the very end peeps out of hibernation to give you something very rare inside a Zeuhl album, which is a heartfelt, bleeding solo - going right through the speakers and into your soft drink - disturbing ice cubes and strange mini umbrellas.

This is music you put on whilst spending time under a waterfall. It's something for a night out on the river. Music for the eternally wretched of us that seek consolation and comfort in the sonic side of life - presenting itself as both complex riveting blood-rushes as well as daydreaming affairs that chill you right down to your very core. This thing does both - incredibly well.

Report this review (#815696)
Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Billed as Zeuhl - indeed, it comes out on Soleil Zeuhl, which I guess makes it a canonical part of the movement - the debut album by Setna is actually something I find even more exciting: an intoxicating blend of zeuhl with the sound of the Canterbury scene (especially the likes of Hatfield and the North). This strange crossbreeding of cult progressive rock subgenres is accomplished by Setna drawing most of their inspiration on the zeuhl side of the equation from the first two Magma albums; the jazzy, Miles Davis-inspired fusion sound opens the door to the lighter, airier fusion stylings of Canterbury acts. It's certainly an experiment, but it's vindicated marvelously on this gloriously sunny album.
Report this review (#984839)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The Zeuhl tradition of French groups continued in the recent years with bands like Setna, practically formed during a night of the year 2001 at the "Beteau Ivre" in Rouen, when the original members Nicolas Cande (drums), Christophe Blondel (bass), Florent Gac (electric piano) and Nicolas Goulay (keyboards) were jamming on stage.The official formation though dates in 2004, when Sylvain Gand'rio joined the band on vocals.After some live concerts, mainly in Jazz festivals, Setna reappeared as a sextet in 2006 with Natacha Jouet replacing Gand'rio and Guillaume Laurent joining the rest on soprano sax.The first album of the band ''Cycle I'' was recorded at the Gare Aux Musiques Studio, featuring Magma's guitarist James Mc Gaw and Benoit Bugeia on electric piano as guest musicians.It was released in early 2008 on Soleil Zeuhl.

Setna's style focuses on the softer side of Zeuhl with strong Jazz hints and minimalistic rock practices.They come close to the ethereal sound of AD VITAM, building their musical ideas on dreamy female voices, smooth sax lines and laid-back electric piano.The music is mellow, at moments melancholic and even obtains a nice, poetic underline due to the crystalline chords of Natacha Jouet, but what should be an advantage for the band becomes its own flaw during the process.This work rarely takes off the ground, insisting constantly on somber textures and relaxing jazzy soundscapes, which could have been easily described as Lounge Jazz, delivering a number of tracks with the same atmosphere and reasonably some strong similarities due to the soft instrumental executions.Some more dynamics were desperately needed, the beautiful electric piano, the lyrical tension and the efficient bass work are all welcome and nicely performed, but the album lacks in energy and noise.The later tracks fortunately contain a fair amount of them, offered either by James Mc Gaw's guitar plays or the more uptempo textures and the more evident presence of some nervous Moog synthesizers, which build a nice dual performance with the electric piano.This is exactly when the French band recalls COS' ethereal but still complex and intricate sound on albums like ''Viva boma'' or ''Babel''.

Second half of ''Cycle I'' appears to be much better than the soft, slightly depressive first one, as a whole though this is a rather uneven album and a band, which will propably satisfy the closed circle of Zeuhl and Jazz fans...2.5 stars.

Report this review (#1194618)
Posted Monday, June 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Never before have I come across a French progressive album I feel comfortable listening to in the morning, right after I roll out of bed and begin the day's activities. Cycle I is the first.

I love music all times of dayl, but morning can be my favorite time to listen. The album I pick can set the tone for the rest of the day - usually I try to pick something less heavy, like background music. Thus far, Celeste's 1976 eponymous debut and Gong's much-maligned "Rubber Riff" are the only progressive albums in my morning list of favorites. If you consider John Renbourn progressive, his "The Guitar of John Renbourn" is at the top of this list.

If you're looking for a dynamic, heavy workout, this probably isn't the album for you, as noted by the reviews for the record. Small segments have quick tempo with furious exchange - the translation "From Darkness to Consciousness" reveals the purpose of the album, and the soundscapes are dark but not ominous, serious but not sinister. Light female voice adds colors to the songs as well as sax.

A classic in my collection, but I can see how other prog fans don't care for the sound.

Report this review (#1342935)
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2015 | Review Permalink

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