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Art Zoyd - Musique Pour L'Odyssée CD (album) cover


Art Zoyd


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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Art Zoyd's second album picks up where the debut had left things to rest and is seen as their crowning achievement by many specialists. For this album, the group is joined by two members of Univers Zero, Daniel Denis on percussions and Michel Berckman's on oboe and bassoon.

The sidelong title track is an impressive, solemn, very tense piece of music with war-like ambiances, where once again main composer Hourbette is alternating Bartok, Stravinsky with later XXth century modernists (not quite Stockhausen but there are moments where atonality is very close), but the results are again not far away from Univers Zero, which is hardly surprising since both Denis and Berckmans are in the fold. Great dynamics, sombre ambiances, an almost totally acoustic sound (bar the electric bass), Kobaian-like tribal chants are on the main tour programme of this musical Odyssée.

On the other side of the album is Zabotzieff's first composition for the group and it is clearly homage to Magma (referring to the poem Terre on the back of one of their early albums), as in the second movement he grabs his bass guitar and gives one enormous bass guitar thrashing that can only make you think of Magma bass-thumping. Lettre D'Automne is more reflective and seems to be an answer to Stravinsky's Sacre Du Printemps (Spring's Rites).

Certainly as good as its predecessor, this album is yet another outstanding album that every classical music fans must hear, yet Art Zoyd's work is hardly easily accessible, and is only recommended to RIO and Zeuhl fans.

Report this review (#81179)
Posted Thursday, June 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars At the moment, there is only one written review for this album, which is too bad, because it deserves much more recognition than it gets. In essence, this album is my introduction to the RIO division of prog. While I own (or owned) Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante and Frank Zappa - Hot Rats, neither one got me jumping for joy, yelling, "I finally get RIO!" But that is about my reaction to Art Zoyd's 1979 work, Musique Pour L'Odyssee. RIO in general is overlooked by most prog fans (and probably unknown to most non-prog fans), and that, in my mind, is quite sad. Art Zoyd, at least for the moment, is my favorite RIO band, since they are the only one that I enjoy. According to Sean Trane, this album is widely regarded as their peak, and I can see why, even without having heard their other albums. Musique Pour L'Odyssee is an "odyssee" of its own, a voyage through the depths of avant-classical chamber rock, and one of the most refreshing listens I've had in quite a while.

As I've indicated in the first paragraph of this review, I don't know RIO well (yet). Despite this, I will do my best to capture the sound of this album without any reference points that I can compare it to, and hopefully I will succeed. The basic sound of this album is, as I've said, avant-classical chamber rock. For the most part, the album is instrumental, though certain sections do contain some chanting (wordless, I believe). The album consists of three tracks, each one excellent, with the highlight being the 17-minute, sidelong title track that opens the album. As a whole, the album is relatively short, clocking in at just less than thirty-five minutes, but as PFM, Le Orme, and now Art Zoyd prove, quantity of music does not determine quality. There may not be much of it, but this album is full of high-quality music. This is not music to relax to, as it is jarring and full of twists, but I believe that most prog listeners look for music that challenges them (at least, I do), because, as a general rule, prog is more challenging than non-prog music. This is not to be a snob, it simply is the case that RIO, Krautrock, and Zeuhl are some of the most challenging music around, and other, more "traditional" types of prog are quite challenging as well. I can certainly say that if you want easy listening, you will find no solace here. If, however, you are prepared to be challenged for 35 minutes, this is an album you MUST purchase.

The album opens with the epic title track, Musique Pour L'Odyssee (Music for the Odyssey). Right from the deep and throbbing beginning, the ominous atmosphere this song exudes digs underneath your skin, an effect only heightened by the jarring violin that comes in within the first few seconds. It sounds like there are two violins going, and they are both dueling to see which can shred your ears (in an all too good sense) fastest. One is high and wailing, the other deeper and more ominous, more of a tone-setter, while the first really carries the track. For the first two minutes and fifteen seconds, the song continues in this vein, before some additional textures subtly change the track. The saxophone begins to dominate, though the violins misbehave gloriously like before, though they sound different (better, in my opinion). Around four and a half minutes in, the song changes again, getting harder for me to describe with my limited knowledge of RIO. I have a feeling that if I spend too long discussing every moment of this opener, no matter how wonderful it is (and it's quite wonderful), I'll lose you, so I'm going to skim over the rest, picking out highlights. Near the six minute and forty second mark, the intensity of the song really, builds, especially on saxophone, leading into the wonderful and fitting chanting that follows shortly after. Behind this part the music is quite high in intensity, and simply sucks you in. A violin section reminiscent of the beginning returns, followed again by the chanting. About twelve minutes in, the song starts moving towards its climax, with the background music coming in first, setting the stage and building marvelously, and then the eerie violin that is some of the best on the album. The rest of the instruments follow, and the overall effect is incredibly powerful, perhaps the highlight of the entire album. This song doesn't let up until the ending, keeping the listener engaged and attentive throughout, and leading the listener on quite the journey. The sheer power of this track is incredible, and the album is worth owning for this song alone.

Thankfully, however, the rest of the album, while not quite in the same league as the overwhelming opener, doesn't disappoint. Bruit, Silence - Bruit Repos (Noise, Silence - Noise, Repose). Violin gets us started here, soon joined by instruments I do not recognize. Here, Art Zoyd manages to be avant- classical without completely scaring off the listener, giving a false sense of accessibility. The tone is slightly less ominous than on the title track, but this isn't by any means the happy birthday song. This aura of accessibility increases in the second minute of the song, before our first short period of silence. At this point, all notion of accessibility is dropped as Art Zoyd heads into pure RIO territory. The tone gets darker, carried by haunting violin (or perhaps something else, I don't know my instruments well). As the song progresses, the intensity builds in a way only Art Zoyd could manage, as violins, saxophone, and bass combine to form some of the most inaccessible music on the album, and yet, at the same time, some of the best. Shortly after five minutes in, Art Zoyd shows their ability to make the listener feel, with a very sad section that would bring you to tears if you weren't petrified by the music assaulting your ears. Like with the title track, I could go into more detail, but I will spare you the extra words, and simply say that you are in for quite a surprise (and a lovely one at that) around the 9:30 mark of the song. RIO at its very finest right there, a solid reminder that RIO is not for everyone (though, thankfully, if this album is any indication, it is for me).

Trio 'Lettre D' Automne gets started right off that bat with some whining violins that really sets the tone, and gets the listener prepared for a third piece of RIO magic. This may be the weakest track on the album, but that means only one thing. that Musique Pour L'Odyssee and Bruit, Silence - Bruit, Repos are simply amazing. The textures used in this song are odd, and quite hard to describe. Like the rest of the album, Trio is ominous, weighing down on your mind, and quite effective at building in intensity. But as for the actual music, I find it hard to convey in words the effect of this music on the listener. I cannot even say how it makes me feel, because listening to this song, and indeed this whole album, does two things. You get a tumble of emotions that mesh as they race across your mind, and then, as you delve deeper inside, you lose all capability for emotion, for the music demands your full attention, and no part of you can be spared for the sake of measly emotions.

This is not an album that you listen to. This is an album that you experience. It grips you, it twists you, it mauls you, and, once it's done, you get a sense of sheer bliss that is indescribable, it really is. This album is not for everyone, only the adventurous, but I advise all of you to find the adventurous side of yourself and purchase this album. It is a unique experience; no other album has had this effect on me. Unfortunately (though this may change with future listens), I cannot call this album a masterpiece of progressive music, but it is certainly a masterpiece of RIO. I strongly urge you get your hands on this album, an excellent addition to any prog music collection.


Report this review (#107950)
Posted Friday, January 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. I've been trying to decide which of the first two ART ZOYD records I like best, and it really is a toss up for me. Too close to call right now. Both have their different strong points, and both are must haves as far as i'm concerned. It's really cool as well that UNIVERS ZERO members Daniel Denis and Michel Berckmans play on here. Interesting as well that they would release "Heresie" the same year this record by ART ZOYD was released.

"Musique Pour L'Odyssee" is the side long opening track. Lots of tension to open as it begins with heavy bass and violin then another violinist joins in. The tension subsides after 2 minutes as horns and other sounds come and go. Lots of intricate sounds 3 1/2 minutes in, especially horns. A calm a minute later. Vocal chants with sax blasts after 7 minutes. Another calm 8 1/2 minutes in. More horns with chanting with deep bass lines and violin 10 minutes in. These guys are amazing. Yes it calms down again, this time 12 minutes in as we get lots of atmosphere. The intensity starts to build with violin and horns. Another dark calm 14 minutes in and then it's building again. Chants after 16 1/2 minutes to the end. Incredible ! Such a dark and intense track.

"Bruit,Silence-Bruit, Repos" is a brighter track for the first two minutes and then the song stops as violin comes in slowly, although the tempo picks up. Lots of violin after 4 minutes as we get some fat bass and horns. Aboe from Michel Berckmans before 6 minutes. Certainly after the first 2 minutes this song becomes dark and at times atmospheric. A frantic outbreak after 8 minutes. More fantastic bass and violin 9 1/2 minutes in. "Trio Lettri D'automine" really has it's focus on the violins as they almost echo at times, they really dominate this dark and intense track.

I really like the cover art for this one as well. Dark, intense and stormy just like the music.

Report this review (#176119)
Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After the pleasant initiation offered by their debut, Art Zoyd continued with equally convincing bravura on Musique Pour L'odyssee, a challenging chamber rock album with a small classical chamber ensemble, forceful rhythmic electric bass and crazed vocals. More then once, those elements bring Magma to mind, but apart from some sparse percussion there is no drumming whatsoever on the album.

The title track is a storming piece, featuring 17 minutes intense and dark music. The musicians build up a chilling tension that reminds of the modern classical composers Stravinsky and Bartok. But it's not blind worship, the integration of the Zeuhl elements make it into something very new and refreshing. The composition is superb.

Two relatively shorter pieces complete this concise album. Bruit, Silence-Bruit, Repos continues the Zeuhl attack on Stravinsky and nicely follows the structure promised by the title. Frantic noise, quiet countered by nervous atonality, and a relatively peaceful ending. The dreamy Trio is my favorite here. The repetitious violins give it a minimalist Philip Glass touch but the dynamic composition and touching melancholy easily surpass Philip Glass for me.

An amazing album opening with two brilliant compositions and closing with a masterpiece. Recommended listen for all lovers of early modernist composers and Magma.

Report this review (#286841)
Posted Thursday, June 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars First of all I have to confess that this is my first approach to Art Zoyd and to their music and I have listened to this album only few times.

My very first impression is that the contamination with classical music is as strong as in Magma, with the significant difference of being contaminated by chamber music and contemporary classics more than by opera, unlike Magma, however the epic side long track which gives the name to the album has a lot of Zeuhl. In particular I have enjoyed the second part of the epic with slow tempo, strings and brasses in a smooth crescendo and obsessive percussions. Is this really inspired by Odyssey? Giving that the poem is full of very dark moments I think yes even if the "Hey" cried by the choir at the end let's us suppose a live crew instead of the hero's homecoming and the final battle in his house.

"Bruit, Silence, Repos" is able to give me the same sensations of the best Magma albums and in addition the classic element is even more relevant. When I sometimes turn to classical music, "The Rites of Spring" is one of the things I listen to more often and I see many contact points specially after the short pause of silence after 2 minutes. This track gives also the opportunity to Zaboitzeff to show how skilled he is on bass other than on viola. The thin flute which follows is incredibly dark. Incredible in the sense that an instrument which in classical music is often used to represent birds and nature here sounds dark. The violin and bass part which later leads to a short uptime section with brasses is the highlight of this track.

Trio "Lettre D'Automne" closes the album with 7 minutes dominated by violin and viola with a very "classical" structure. It's the most approachable of the three tracks but is in line with the others in terms of mood. I have a particular feeling when I listen to this kind of music. Have you present when you are relaxed, about to fall asleep but still awaken? Thoughts suddenly come and go as well as hypnagogic images. Your mind is ready to start a trip to a mysterious land full of soft colors.

This music (as well as Stravinskij) is able to put me in a state like this. If your mind is in the same conditions it's the right moment to listen to this "excellent addition".

Report this review (#529087)
Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars With a couple of Univers Zero members in tow, you'd think Art Zoyd would win me over with this one - after all, I love the other major creepshow chamber rock act in town so why not the Zoyd? And it's true enough that the foreboding bass work and angry chants on this album are clearly well put-together - the chanting in particular, promoting the sort of rhythms Magma used to accomplish in their more martial moments - but despite all this the album remains one where I can look at it and acknowledge that it's a well-executed piece of work and yet I just don't feel anything when I listen to it. Three stars seems fair - it's worth a try, but be aware that it may fall flat.
Report this review (#560928)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2011 | Review Permalink

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