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Zoviet France - Shadow, Thief Of The Sun  CD (album) cover

SHADOW, THIEF OF THE SUN

Zoviet France

Progressive Electronic


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3 stars This Zoviet France recording is quite a departure from previous releases being far more ambient in nature.

'In My Secrecy I Was Real' comprises one long continuous airborne chord as hugely reverbed male vocals shimmer and flurry in a wordless haze. The almost Tibetan sounding horns are a useful addition but overall this should be half of its eight minute duration as very little changes despite the pleasant whipped reverse notes. This is as minimal as Zoviet France sounded during their previous nine years worth of output. Everything sounds hot and steamy from here on until the central defining track 'Come Infinite'

'Feel The Warmth' is full of vocals that are so heavily treated that they don't even sound human. They're looped continuously as a booming echoing clap of thunder rattles from ear to ear.

Surprisingly the production on this one is poorer than anything since '87. The quiet parts are fine, but all loud noises sound a bit distorted. The eight minute 'This Moment Obscure' continues with another one chord floaty keyboard note. This time however, there's a lot more activity involved. A multitude of lop-sided and backward objects are at play along with some pretty cool, almost tuneful droning vocals.

Do you remember in the old days when cassettes used to mess up and distort so badly that certain segments played in the opposite direction? Well that's probably the best way to describe 'Shadow, Thief of the Sun'. Here, however, it's all very clear sounding and very deliberate.

'A Democratic Smirk' - displays the more 'musique concrete' side of the band - very much like 'Cair Camouflet' from 88's 'Look into Me'. There's some annoying distortion on the louder parts which distracts and in all honesty isn't one of their more memorable moments. It sounds like a heavily amplified version of someone rubbing the rim of a wine glass with their finger.

Thankfully the highlight of this album is also the longest with 'Come Infinite' clocking in at a respectable 20.46 mins. Huge horns bellow and caterwaul from the outset whilst puny flutes tunefully but morbidly whistle away in a downbeat atmosphere. It's like the sound of dying whales where the electronics used remind me of waves crashing on an empty beach. After 7 minutes it all becomes rather beautiful and ambient where echoes and drones are at the forefront along with a few clanking objects that are electronically decayed beyond recognition. At 10 mins there's some wonderfully breathy horns that are at once tuneless and beautiful at the same time. They sound like the pipes used in the film 'Aguirre Wrath of God' - the bits where Klaus Kinski goes completely bonkers. They are however progressively and heavily manipulated by extreme filters leaving us with a more industrial 'Stalingrad 1943' sort of feeling. If the whole album sounded like this it would have been a dead cert five star effort.

'Thin Air' is played almost entirely in reverse. Idiosyncratic vocal grumbles, more horns (only this time muted) and a wildly flailing single electronic bass chord are what you get here.

Messed up South American Aztec percussion is the best way to describe what happens in 'Cahl-Yn-Yan'. They've still got that pretty little flute thing going on, but things sound decidedly creepy with those phased and morphed vocals.

Things get a bit on the dreary side with a tune that outstays its welcome with 'Static Fields'. It's pretty enough, but doesn't really add to anything that has gone before. Bloops and wheeps and more reedy electronic pipes see things to a conclusion.

Pleasingly 'Shadow, Thief of the Sun' has an excellent closing tune in 'Ciels Tenebreuse'. A mellow, shimmering mirage with almost Jon Hassell sounding horns and yet more backward vocals. One thing's for sure - they certainly became calmer and more ambient towards the end.

This was pretty much it folks... Robin Storey left afterwards, they released a few live albums all of which were pretty good, and a couple of studio albums too, but their best years were behind them. A window of nine years in which some of the most wonderfully original and unusual music of the 20th Century was recorded. Not by a big name in a flush studio with promotional backing, but by a small outfit of a bunch of ordinary guys from Newcastle. It makes you think doesn't it?

I've got around 5000 cd's, and I have to say that Zoviet France are quite probably my favourite band of all time. Oh - and If you want to buy this you can virtually write it off as a no hoper. This is one of of the most difficult to find in their entire discography. Sorry for wasting your time...

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Posted Sunday, August 11, 2013 | Review Permalink

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