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Steve Hegede
5 stars "4 Visions" is another masterpiece from the French scene. But this band doesn't play theatrical prog. Rather, ESKATON were influenced by Zeuhl inventors, MAGMA. For those of you unfamiliar with Magma's sound, their music combined Wagner-esque grandeur with Eastern European rhythms and melodies, Germanic-like chanting (keep in mind that MAGMA sang in a made-up language), and almost ritual-like repetition (slowly building grooves to a frenzy). Unlike MAGMA, ESKATON emphasized quick and furious theme development, and less repetition. They also sang in French rather than Kobaian. ESKATON consisted of a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, and two female singers. The most impressive musicians in this band is the bassist. He is a monster on the instrument, and effortlessly spits out grooves that are fast, funky, and absolutely danceable (some part of your body will move to his grooves). The reissued CD consists of the 4 original tracks, and a bonus track. "4 Visions" is one of the top Zeuhl albums out there.
Report this review (#30628)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the best albums of progressive rock of all times! André Bernardi with the bass is incredible of groove. The music of Eskaton, typically Zeult, exceeds in beauty and virtuosity the founder group of the kind (Magma); it pulsates like the c?ur of an untiring athlete and plunges us in a world of rhythms and furies. It is a masterpiece unfortunately still not republished.
Report this review (#30629)
Posted Tuesday, February 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For those of you who couldn't get into Zeuhl the first time around...

Eskaton's 4 Visions is one of the easiest album to get into when talking about the Zeuhl genre. If you didn't like the repetitiveness of Magma, the darkness of Shub-Niggurath or just think that the Zeuhl sound is too weird for your taste then this is the band for you.

Let's start with their sound. This band is one of the grooviest (if not the grooviest) band I've heard from the genre and its all thanks to the excellent bass player, André Bernardi. His furious, pompous and groovy playing will keep you hooked from start to finish and it's virtually impossible not to move or dance while listening to this album. The vocals are very typical from the genre with two female vocals singing and chanting in French, they don't get as harsh as the vocals in Magma's MDK though. The rest of the band are pretty much in the same caliber without anyone showing off. Their sound reminds me a lot to that of their fellow English men from the 70's era. Even though they have three players on the keys, but they aren't a keyboard driven band. As typical from Zeuhl bands, the leading force is the drum and bass players so expect excellent rhythm sections through the whole album. Their songs are fairly long all between the 8 to 13 minutes, but they don't drag along or try to bore you. Every song is full of energy and life with catchy yet complex melodies and skillful playing. Also, their sound isn't really "out there" or adventurous at all so it's very melodic, bombastic and accessible even for new comers into the prog genre.

I can't recall any bad moments in the album or any drawbacks at all and it's consistent all the way through. I highly recommend this album for every single prog fan out there specially for fans of the bombastic and pompous side of prog and for those who don't enjoy the Zeuhl genre, this album might possibly change your minds about the genre. I'm too picky with my 5 star albums so I'm going to give it 4.5

Report this review (#108759)
Posted Wednesday, January 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Eskaton (or le Eskaton Kommandkestra) were roughly contemporary with Magma so this is a rather late release in terms of the band's development. Contained within is music akin to zeuhl but with more immediate thrills and less build-up. To this reviewer, anticipation and suspense are vital parts of good music and so the potential to be majestic is traded for the likelihood of excitement. That's not always a bad thing by any means - at their best, Eskaton perform daring and compulsive zeuhl-rock, driven by truly propulsive bass-playing (you'll note that every review so far has been understandably enthusiastic about this element of the music) yet this reviewer has always felt there was some small element missing, one that would render the music complete and the album a masterpiece.

Perhaps it is simply the Kobaian mythology that is missing; although Eskaton have strong zeuhl ties and a great name, their music does not feel cosmic and the lyrics are in a relatively mundane language. Together with the aforementioned lack of patient hypnotism that Magma thrived on, these small failings tie Eskaton to planet earth and it's impossible to suspend disbelief.

Don't let my misgivings discourage you (I mark them down for having followed much of Magma's musical lead but not their spirit) because this is a fine album containing some almost-momentous musical ideas.

Report this review (#109777)
Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars This was my first taste of Zeuhl and from what I understood this would a great place to start as ESKATON decided to sing in French instead of using the Kobaian lyrics in order to be more accessible. I don't think that really matters but I still think that this is a great album to experience Zeuhl with for the first time. This record took a couple of spins just to get used to the dual soprano female vocals but now I really like them.You could describe their vocals as trance like chanting. I can't really tell the two ladies' vocals apart and they often sing together.The music itself is uptempo and energetic with the vocals, bass and drums dominating. Some great synth work as well.

"Eskaton" has a spacey intro as the drums start to build.The uptempo vocals come in as synths and keys are added. Lots of tempo changes as the guitar comes and goes.The first 4 minutes are fabulous and then we get some disturbing vocals (haha). "Attente" opens with the wind blowing and some spacey noises. Drums, vocals and bass come in to create a good beat and sound. Some good aggressive guitar and the drums are prominate later in the song. "Ecoute" has some good outbursts of guitar and the bass is incredible ! The vocal melodies are terrific later in the song as well.

"Pitie" is my favourite song on this album. A spacey intro with synths as keys play. Nice. Reserved vocals come in. The song starts to build in volume with heavy drums and lots of guitar melodies. It all sounds so amazing.The mellow, spacey soundscape comes back from the intro 7 minutes in. "Le Cri" is a mid paced tune with some great bass and drums. The synths 4 minutes are played quite aggressively. The sound becomes quiet with cymbals and bass before the soundscape rebuilds with some more prominant bass, vocals, keys and some intricate drumming.

If you want to try some Zeuhl this really is the perfect place to start. Highly recommended. Well here I am on November 14th, 2011. Hard to believe this was my first Zeuhl album. I remember the vocals were what I had my focus on but over time it's the bass and incredible drumming that blows me away. Love the added synths too. I just got the Soleil Zeuhl re-issue re-mastered by Udi Koomran and it sounds amazing ! The bonus tracks are just as good as the regular album so i'm on happy guy. I've bumped it up to a well deserved five stars.

Report this review (#119920)
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars French band Eskaton (consisting of no less than eight musicains) is an unique musical formation. Often their gigs ended up with discussions between the band members and the audience because Estakon their message is" to call a meeting of minds". The sound is influenced by the seminal fellow Frenchmen Magma (Zeuhl music) but they refused to follow Magma's elitism like cerating an own language: "No esoteric twaddle but music of the people for the people" as I read in the booklet.

This CD contains five tracks, four (between 8 and 14 minutes) are taken from a cassette entitled Four Visions (1979) and the LP Ardeur (1980). The final song is a bonustrack entitled Le Cri, it is from the unreleased album I Care (1985). The bass is unusually dominant (magnificent and very propulsive) in combination with two female vocalists, very special to say the least or more specific "pleasantly hysterical"! The keyboards sound very melodic with a lot of Fender Rhodes piano and spectacular synthesizer play in Le Cri. This intricate prog will not appeal to many progheads but I am sure the Zeuhl fans will appreciate it. By the way, strange to notice that this French band is on a Swedish label, where was Musea?

Report this review (#126719)
Posted Sunday, June 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4 visions is a fantastic and underrated album that got me into Zeuhl, I strayed away from the genre mainly because I was never a big fan of magma - the forerunners of the genre but on a whim I decided to get DUN's Eros album along with 4 visions and it was one of the best musical choices I have ever made.

4 Visions has some serious groove, mainly because of the bass, it's often the focal point of the music and carries it to some amazing places. The drums are just as good if not better, drummer Gérard Konig lays down some seriously jazzy beats, you could really dance to this stuff thanks to this amazing rhythm section (personally I prefer lying in bed at night listening to it) and it quickly becomes apparent.

The fat driving rythmn makes it easy for the melodic components of the music, they often occupy the realm of subtlety but they are extremely relevant and interesting in their own right, the guitar is amazingly competent and there are some great synth and organ moments to be had.

The vocals are an interesting point I was at first a little turned off but the female operatic style vocals (even though they are sung in French and are quite sexy) but in time I grew to like them and eventually stopped really noticing them as a separate entity from anything else in the music, they certainly do fit in.

With music such as this where everything seems to be connected and flowing into one song but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Attente with it's particularly fat bass driven groove although it really needs to be said that every song on 4 visions is a thoughtfully crafted and well executed work.

Overall this is an excellent album and I can't really fault it, I thoroughly enjoy it every time I listen to it (on that note ESKATON's entire catalog is well worth checking out), highly recommended for fans of zeuhl or darker symphonic prog.

Report this review (#139962)
Posted Sunday, September 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Really good surprise from another Zehul band named Eskaton. The sound is very clear. I'm able to recognize here a lost of influences (jazz, electronic or opera) but not in an evident manner and more in a smart and elegant way. From the first moment I was able to listen to this beautiful album I was sure that it will became a favorite and so it is. Every songs follows a certain pattern by mixing female voice driven parts(a la Carmina Burana) with very good rhythmic parts or other electronic/jazzy/improvising like sections. Every band or musical styles is based on something which already exists by combining the old elements with some new ideas and sometime using new instruments. Sometimes an idea could generate a new style and sometimes the introduction of a new instrument. Apparently Eskaton on this release were able to mix with enough power and imagination different influences and the result is a very well done album which deserves your attention especially if you never listened to Zeuhl music before.Highly recommended !
Report this review (#151545)
Posted Saturday, November 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Eskaton is probably regarded as the best Zeuhl band after Magma, and it's haed to deny that they are indeed among the better ones in the style, but if you are to include Art Zoyd, Univers Zero and Present into the ball game, this position is likely to be challenged. The group was named after an old Germanic legend of god's cyclical creation of humankind, and their first album, only ever released in cassette in the 70's, was reputed really rare. Until the mid-90's when the mis-titled Ad Perpetuam Memoriam label (now long defunct) released a Cd version of this album, which has become almost as rare since. Apparently (I have no confirmation of this, but APM had not found the master tapes, so their reissue was taken from a cassette. Graced with a superb artwork and lyrics sheet, Four Visions has yet to receive another legit release (a boot version is out there)

If musically Eskaton is undoubtedly Zeuhl, and their themes are not exactly about the joy of sunbathing (more like bathing in the Sun), the tome of their music is not nearly as oppressive as in Magma's albums. Starting with the eponymous track, the group plunges into a mas world of crazy bass thumps, topped by some of the most bizarre lyrics (just Imagine Gong's Camembert gone French), Eskaton brings a much wider spectrum of mood than Magma's terribly fixed, sombre mythology. Don't get me wrong, Eskaton has its own mythology, but it's more accessible, partly because sung in French (instead of the seldom-used Kobaian) but the music is more moody as well and this group pretends to some real solos from the front instruments, namely Blésing's blazing and fiery guitar. Attente is another 10-minutes epic, which will ravish Zeuhlheads. Both the lengthy Ecoute and the shorter Pitié are again small tour de force where the Fender Rhodes layers help hide and conceal the powers of Eskaton unleashing mayhem with Bernardi's bass sounding like cannonball blasts whizzing by your head. Both Paule and Amara's voices manage to pull their own advantages over a raging background as well as in the quieter moments.

Clearly one of the evident flaws of Four Vision is the lack of real good production, but there is absolutely nothing shameful on the album proper. This is however not the case with the bonus track (from a first session) where it sounds like a really dirty vinyl playing with the stylus needle filled with dust and hair, even stopping at once. And the real sad part is that Le Cri is yet another beautiful moment and the real audible problems occur in a solemn and quieter moment. Whether APM could've done it better in restoring the track is up to the listener, but overall, the album proper is indeed well transcript-ed enough to digital for most Zeuhleads to achieve a least a few Aural orgasms.

Report this review (#156660)
Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is one of the albums recommended to all Zeuhl newbies. So I went ahead and bought this album.

Easy listening, it ain't. That Dun album is far more accessible than this album. The opening track Eskaton is almost opera with some insane jazz and marching band rhythms thrown in. Zeuhl in other words and pretty similar to what Magma is doing. Attente is a typical piece of Zeuhl. Ecoute has a good jazz theme as it's major asset. Pitie is much more a pastoral piece of music than a Magma clone. Le Cri is also a good jazz/zeuhl song.

My gripes......... Nothing really. Maybe the Zeuhl genre is a bridge too far for me. Jazz and Post-Metal is OK for me. Zeuhl.......maybe not. I still think this album is good though. Ecoute, Eskaton, Le Cri and Pitie is for me the best tracks here on an album I have spent a lot of time on. I do not fully understand Attente and I have some problems grasping the whole Zeuhl genre. That is my problem and not Eskaton's problem because 4 Visions is in essence a very good album. I give this album three stars and reserve my rights to come back and up it to four stars if I finally grasp this Zeuhl thingy.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#264222)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars An underrated album. Thanks to PA, 4 Visions was my first Zeuhl album and I'll never regret that I started my exploration of Zeuhl universe with this and not Magma. This is actually one of the best records I've ever heard so far, Zeuhl or otherwise. Being obviously influenced by Magma*, Eskaton managed to create their own original, unique sound. The result is subtle interplay of stunning music and charming female vocals. It Is Magic. And I love it. Very much. It's true that Eskaton is far more accessible than Magma, and the main reason is the music being very expressive. The reasons that made 4 Visions exactly expressive music are extreme quality of arrangements, outstanding musicanship, softer vocals (compared to Magma of course), and absolute lack of flaws on the whole album (try and you won't find anything that seems or sounds 'wrong'). Plus, the overall effect somehow managed to be not as weird and out-of-this-world as it was with Magma. Actually, it came up as a surprise to me, because I do think that actual musical content here is, at the very least, not less complex than Magma, definitely more complex than, say, MDK, which was a totally opposite case - quite simple in terms of musical structures, but extremely difficult to listen to (for many, not for me though; in fact, I 'got' MDK at second listen, 4 Visions - at third one). Faster musical development, lots of non-recurring themes (as opposed to repetitions) and overall effect being pleasant and 'weird' in positive way rather than scaring and 'weird' in neutral way at best, so isn't Eskaton's music less 'deep', but more 'progressive' and complicated? From a certain point of view, maybe. Nevertheless, the truth is that Eskaton's music is easier to listen to and to get into, and I already explained why (music being expressive), so the true is also that 4 Visions is a PERFECT introduction to Zeuhl genre. If I needed to scare or really impress someone, I'd go with MDK. To get into Zeuhl? 4 Visions. That's it.

* - Continuing comparing Eskaton to Magma, the closest Magma's album I can think of, regarding actual music, is Udu Wudu. Ultimate comparing? I prefer Eskaton's masterpiece much over that Magma's album which was nevertheless an oustanding one.

I'm going to try to explain how this works by going track-by-track.

Eskaton. How would I describe this in one word (and the whole album as well)? There's a word - 'Psychedelic'. Eskaton isn't going to bore you. This music and these women, being an organic part of the music, will not only make you an active listener. In fact, if you're like me, the bass line will make you move. Bernardi is an outstanding bassist and the other musicans are more than compitent as well. The vocals sound rhytmic rather than melodic. Groovy, rhytmic, and 'weird' (in the best possible meaning; but again, it's not out-of-this-world weirdness). 4,5/5

Attente. I have no suggestions regarding 'conceptual' value of the first 'spacey' minute. The rest is amazing. This is probably the most complex composition on the album, regarding whether musical complexity or hard-to-get aspect. The composition can be possibly divided into four conditional parts and the best one is definitely third part. At this time, the vocals are more melodic and start to reveal their beauty. The mood of music vary from charming beauty (cortesy of vocals) to subtle weirdness, whether it is about how intsruments/vocals sound or what they play/sing. I do not insist that the greatness is this, "only" that this composition is great. 4.7/5

Ecoute. Somehow, a tremendous blend of the first two songs. All the best is here, in these 13 minutes of pure Joy/Zeuhl/Prog/Music. Maybe a bit too weird 'joy' for some, I don't know. A detail for an Eskaton hardcore (if one exists): listen to the melody at the intro (0:00-0:33). Did you ever notice that at the central part, where the composition starts over, at 7:30-7:59, she* sings exactly same melody? The reason why it was so hard to notice is that there was no rhytm at the intro and thus the melody was being perceived in absolutely different way. That was an amazing discover for me at the time. And finally, once you've passed that amazing chord progression... what can I say about the obvious emotional pinnacle, part at 4:46-6:13 and its further even more tremendous repetition at the end? This is some of the most charming, catchy and hypnotic things I've ever heard (the reason is the way voices sound and the melody they sing). While my mind still considers it being emphasized on form rather than content, this is one of the few things that likely got stuck in my mind forever. A part like this was enough to make this album masterpiece. 5/5

* - What a magnificent duet, the singing graces, Amara and Paule. One has...'stronger' voice, and the other one - 'softer' one. Their voices interplay with each other just as perfect as they do with the music. The shame is that I actually don't know who sings what. So that's it.

Pitie. Slower, softer, even more melodic, vocals start to play almost dominant role. For me, it is an ideal example of 'relaxing', and yet the music. 4.5/5

Le Cri (as a 'bonus' track; it shouldn't spoil the 'Four Visions' concept). Still a great pleasure, even if lesser than the four previous terrific visions by any means. 3.5/5

4 Visions has been recently reissued by Soleil Zeuhl label. All the tracks have been remastered from the origianl master tapes (so I guess the 1995 release was based on that 1979 tape and not the master tapes then), the reissue also includes four previosly unknown bonus tracks from the Icare era. I have to get it soon.

If this is not a masterpiece of Zeuhl, then only MDK and nothing else is. The reason why 4 Visions is exactly masterpiece is that, no matter what you talk about - superb musicanship or outstanding compositions' structures, beautiful vocals or 'weird' mood, the result, being definitely progressive, manages to remain The Beautiful Music, from my point of view. Undoubtful 5 stars.

Report this review (#277736)
Posted Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 4 Visions is one of those albums that hits the floor running. A heavily pulsating distorted bass guitars and commanding pounding jazz-drums wipe out any doubt about this bands message: "We're here to take Kobaia by storm!"

It took Eskaton 8 years to record their debut and 2 more years to get it released, as a result it sounds very indebted to Magma, but upon closer inspection there are some elements setting it apart from Magma and announcing a tighter and more rocking type of Zeuhl/Avant-Rock, reminding me as much of Magma as of more recent bands such as Guapo, Nebelnest and Nil who gave the heritage of Magma a new breath of life in the 00's.

The basis of the sound borrows heavily from Magma: prominently pounding drums, a frenzied bass attack, 2 piano's, organ, synths, female vocals and tasty guitar accents. There are no trumpets, no male vocals, no violin. Nevertheless it's an impressive orchestra and the best thing is how Eskaton managed to make it sound tight and direct. Eskaton put much more focus on the songwriting and chose to only develop their best ideas instead of throwing in every idea at hand. Of course, words like 'tight', 'direct' are relative things in a Zeuhl context.

The dual soprano vocals are decisively Zeuhl but are more accessible then Magma. I wouldn't say 'catchy', as classic pop formulas don't dare to come anywhere near to this album, but due to the use of French and the slightly more melodic approach, they are certainly more digestible. Again, take 'accessible' and 'digestible' for what they are with regards to Zeuhl

A last note to point out is the spacey atmosphere of this album. The organs, synths and guitar give the music a more psychedelic feel then Magma and turn this album into prog heaven for me. Just imagine, a hybrid of Zeuhl, dark rock and space-rock. On top, each of the tracks has a very distinct character, making for a varied listening experience. There's even some synth work in Le Cri that sounds like Marillion's Mark Kelly joined for a jam. Great work from keyboard player Gilles Rozenberg who shines on all moments that he touches on this album.

Highly recommended, both as an introduction to Zeuhl or as an extension beyond your Magma records.

Report this review (#283171)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If you are only going to get one Zeuhl album in your life, make it this one. Eskaton was my second exposure to Zeuhl(Magma being the first, obviously), thanks to PA. This album was recorded in 1979 but not released until 1981(on cassette only!). A lost gem that thankfully has gotten more respect as the years have passed. The music here is light years ahead of anything Yes or Genesis were doing between least as far as 'prog' goes. If Magma scares you, you might find this more appealing. Listen to the stream of the song "Attente" here on PA; if you don't like that, chances are you will never get into Zeuhl. Eskaton are on the more accesible and rockin' side of Zeuhl, as opposed to the more jazzy and avant end of the genre. This album was recently remastered and re-released. I have yet to hear the new version, but I don't think the older version needed much sonic improvement.

The music on 4 Visions is a mix of hard rock, jazz rock, symphonic rock and electronics. A lot of the time there is an energy and intensity here which rivals some fusion and metal. All the singing is in French and is done by two women. Although slightly operatic at times, there is nothing here as crazy as some of the vocals you will find in Magma or Koenjihyakkei for example. The songs "Eskaton" and "Attente" were re-recorded in different arrangements for the band's second album Ardeur; why I don't know, the versions here are a perfect example of "if it ain't broken, don't fix it". There is a nice blend of keyboards here: electric piano, organ and synthesizers. The bass has a sound that could rip your face off. The drumming and guitar playing never really stands out, but is well played. "Ecoute" and "Pitie" are not quite as good as the first two songs, but they are still great nonetheless. The newest version of the CD has a few bonus songs; I haven't heard these but the version I am familiar with has the song "Le Cri" added. It's a good song but not as good as the four songs on the album.

Unfortunately, Eskaton's next two albums are not as good as 4 Visions is. But as far as prog music in the early '80s goes, there isn't very much that is better! If you can't really get into Magma and are thinking about giving up on Zeuhl, I suggest you listen to this album or Weidorje's only album. Magma may have invented this genre but they are not always the be all, end all of this kind of music. Highly recommended. I just can't give this anything less than 5's that good.

Report this review (#305218)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4 Visions by Eskaton is an incredible album. Something that I've always liked about most zeuhl is present in full force on this album: some straight-up funky-jazz bass playing with some nasty grooves. Each of the four tracks on this album flows through multiple of these amazing basslines, usually at high speed. The tone of the bass is even incredible and thick, and stands right out in the mix.

Aside from the great bass, the rest of this album is equally enthralling. Probably one of the most accessible zeuhl albums, 4 Visions features mostly catchy and repetitive melodies with straight forward yet powerful drumming with great energy and power. The experimental synthesizer effects also add a unique element to this band that I don't remember hearing from Magma or Shub-Niggurath. One thing about zeuhl that I've never enjoyed much has been the vocals, because they're usually overbearing with exceptionally headache-inducing vibrato. However, the two female singers on this album sound great, and they actually sound kind of cute. The French language is what I consider to be the most musical of all languages, and French is the language that these vocalists are singing in - think an operatic Edith Piaf. Very beautiful, even if the music backing them is somewhat dark and moody. Actually, it's very dark and moody, but not so much as Shub-Niggurath. 4 Visions is also light on the avant-gardist touches that sometimes make this already eccentric genre seem like "too much, man", if you know what I mean.

This is one of my favorite zeuhl albums, as it's completely captivating. Every single element on this album is 100% theatrical funky awesomeness. When George Clinton brought Parliament- Funkadelic to planet Earth, Eskaton was the band that decided to stay on their home planet.

Very super highly recommended.

Report this review (#440659)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars I was only introduced to Zeuhl three years ago (Thanks, ProgArchives!) through the mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, uplifiting, and mesmerizing experience of hearing Magma's Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh. Such is my reverence and awe of MDK (which I consider one of the three greatest albums ever made) that I was almost afraid to try any other Zeuhl albums, much less try any other groups, listed under the Zeuhl sub-genre. After Köhntarkösz, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré, and K.A. I have finally 'risked it.' And I am SO glad I did! ESKATON, XING SA, JANNICK TOP, BONDAGE FRUIT, DÜN, UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA, GUAPO and KOENJI HYAKKEI are all wonderful. While I have yet to hear an album with the energy and impact of MDK, I am so glad to discover that there is diversity within the sub-genre. This album, 4 Visions, from way back in 1981, is probably my second favorite of the Zeuhl albums I've heard. (Clue: I keep choosing to play it over everything else in my collection right now.) I love the bass, French vocals, drums, and more extensive use of electronics than I've heard elsewhere within the sub-genre (yet). Plus, the album's finale, "Le cri" (9:02) (10/10) is amazing--among my favorite Zeuhl 'songs;' perhaps second only to "Da Zeuhl Wortz Mëkanïk." Great listen start to finish. And I love that I can make out and understand the lyrics. Plus it has an awesome album cover!

Best songs: 1. "Eskaton" (10:24) (10/10); the space-funky 2. "Attente" (10:12) with its lyrics being sung by an awesome female choir (10/10); 3. "Ecoute" (12:54) (9/10); 4. "Pitié" (8:46) with its nearly liturgical feel (10/10), and, of course; 5. "le cri."

Without a doubt a 5 star masterpiece of progressive music.

Report this review (#459418)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A charming and accessible starter album for anyone exploring Zeuhl, Eskaton have the compositional approach of Magma down pat but particularly excel in incorporating synthesisers into the Zeuhl sound - and not just raw Heldon/Richard Pinhas-esque squawks, but rather beautiful and gentle synthesiser lines too. Though they couldn't match the massed choirs of Magma - having only two vocalists - their compositions and performances on 4 Visions are no less powerful than their inspiration's. Recorded before Ardeur but published after, 4 Visions is the true debut of Eskaton, and as others have pointed out is not an unreasonable way to begin exploring the Zeuhl sound, though they do drift dangerously close to being Magma clones at points.
Report this review (#560569)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars An exciting, fast paced and complex Zeuhl album which is full of French female vocals that sound very uplifting to my tired and weary ears.

This is however, lightweight compared with the mighty and monstrous creators of Zeuhl - 'Magma' who are a far more difficult and heavy listen at the best of times. That's not to say this is a bad thing for Eskaton. Far from it, '4 Visions' will sound very accessible to all those who may say to themselves 'What the hell is this Zeuhl thing anyway, where on earth do I start?'

All 8 members of this idiosyncratic French band give it their all for the duration of this recording. It skips about all over the place like an ice skater who's about to fall flat on his face but miraculously stays upright. Things are just kept under control, where every beat and note sounds carefully placed and considered.

Unlike most Zeuhl albums there's a fair chance you may actually have a tune swimming about your head that won't go away after listening to this album. Yeah, I know, I find it hard to believe as well.

Eskaton, like many bands of that time were heavily influenced by the entirely unique sound of Magma, but have produced here a playful and lighter outing that all adventurous and inquisitive souls should find rewarding.

Almost 20 years later the mighty 'Koenjihyakkei' will revive this sound in an even more frantic and heavy manner.

All three of Eskaton's albums are excellent and well worth checking out if you can get hold of them, however this one is probably the pick of the bunch. I can see no reason why this shouldn't receive the full whammy of 5 stars, somewhat reluctant though I am. Aaah sod it... It's a masterpiece...

Report this review (#589526)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Adding a bonus track to an album containing four tracks and entitled "4 visions" means altering its meaning, so even if I have the CD with the bonus tracks, I'll consider the original tracks only.

The band is more than influenced by Magma but probably helped by the absence of brasses they have taken a little different path that can be considered "The bright side of the Zeuhl".

Not an easy album, as most of the Zeuhl albums, but more approachable than Magma themselves, full of jazz passages on which the soprano voice of Amara Tahir sounds like a scat vocalist more than operistic.

The first track is in line with the Magma standards as it's made of several different and not recurring parts with smooth transitions, obsessive drumming and vocal repetitions. A Magma track I'd say if it wasn't for the jazzy mood and the non-kobaian singing. Eskaton is a greek word which means the end of the Creation, the death of the whole Universe.

"Attente"(Careful) follows opened by winds, but instead of Roger Waters' bass on One of this day what follows is one of the darker parts of the album. The first passages of this song are more in line with the Magma style but the French language lightens the atmosphere. The mixture of French and German of the Kobaian is an element that makes the things darker, and Eskaton don't use it. After the first impact, the music becomes easier and if you don't consider the hard drumming the part at around minute 5 has chords very similar to Camel's Lady Fantasy. At minute 6 we are back into classical Zeuhl, anyway so to be able to say that this is a good track for Magma fans.

"Ecoute" is a very particular track. There are vocal parts with a folk flavor, a country-rock tempo behind a dark vocal melody or better, Konig and Bernardi play drums and bass on a standard rock basis which touches several genres, even metal, while the rest of the band is deeply into Zeuhl and this creates an amazing contamination. Classic Zeuhl moments with unusual signatures are present as well, so I can say that what is really impressive on this track is the very good and hard work of the rhythmic section, not that the other instruments and the vocals are bad, of course.

"Pitie'" has a slow and dreamy intro consisting in a subtle keyboard and electric piano. The first 3 minutes are very evocative, far from the obsessive rhythms of Magma but even when the drums are more present the music remains in a quiet environment. The bass makes an impressive work also on this track that I think is the best of the album, and also the last of the original edition.

It's a very good album but I don't hear the "masterpiece" element, probably because I'm just fallen in love with Universal Totem Orchestra. Some time ago I would have rated this album with the maximum. Today for me it's "only" a 4 stars addition.

Report this review (#723511)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Much closer to five than four ! Maybe it's due to the distance in time that presents the content as somewhat exotic, (music from the past that feels great nowadays), and I don't take the lyrics very seriously. But I do with the music ! Amazing rythmic ingredients, spicy harmonic effects, changes of mood all well balanced, with both power and subtelty. I was made for listening to that masterpiece ! It is also one of the very rare music I rate very high that has female singers. I wonder why there's very little infos on some of the members, as if they did shy away and couldn't contribute to great music again. Thanks to them, this Eskaton 1973-80s was the magic band ! Nowadays the new efforts have their own ways, but it's more about the message and meeting people than the very music.

I've enjoyed the trip several times and can only look forward for the next listening session !

Report this review (#2084949)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Incredible bass playing. Brilliant drumming. Lots of keys. Dual soprano vocals. Electronic elements that seem way ahead of its time. For Zeuhl that isn't Magma, look no further than this album. Sung in French for extra accessibility, 4 Visions avoids the gradual-build suspense characterised by Magma, for the most part utilising a furious groove from the bass and drums, with abrupt changes in tempo keeping you on your toes. The jazzy vocals blend together seamlessly in and around the rhythm passages. Highlights are the first track, and the crescendo in the middle of track3. Without doubt a 5 star example of the style of Zeuhl.
Report this review (#2436474)
Posted Monday, August 10, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars What a masterful way of playing music!

Eskaton is one of the pioneering bands of the Zeuhl scene, but one that took a long time to start releasing studio albums due to their early years being dedicated to experimental live music (they formed in 1970 and their first album was only recorded in 1979!). In the mid 70s, the band broke up for about a year due to government recalls of some of the band members, but then they were easily reinstated and, all the previous years of experience and effort together with the energy to return, bore fruit in the creation of a masterpiece.

4 Visions is an album so wise, sober, deep and delicate at the same time that it is easy to digest for those who have not yet descended many stairs in the Zeuhl world, so it can function as a gateway thanks to its perfection. What makes this album great is that it maintains a very high standard all the time, the consistency is very professional and, no matter how many twists and turns it may take, everything will remain stable and entertaining.

André Bernardi's bass is absolutely protagonist and responsible for the rhythmic work and the changes that may arise. The expert level of this man's bass playing will remove any doubts. When it comes to singing, Paule Kleynnaert and Amara Tahir: voices that were definitely born to do Zeuhl! Their religious and existential singing fits perfectly with the galactic atmosphere that builds as the minutes go by. By the way, the percussion is impeccable! By Gérard Konig (who also plays all the flutes on this album), the listener's brain is moved everywhere in the mental sphere. Brothers Gilles and Marc Rozenberg are in charge of spectacular synthesizers that stand out all the time, and Eric Guillaume handles (also together with Marc) the electric piano only on two out of four tracks, being the least protagonist member.

Is it instrumentally comparable to Magma? Well yes, the influences of their first albums are definitely here. Is it comparable to Magma lyrically? Not at all! The spiritual direction and message of this album is totally disconnected from Christian Vander's story. 4 Visions talks about man standing on Earth as a thinking being, individual and constant antagonist of his struggle, his existential problems and everything that prevents him from growing spiritually. There are no invented stories or invincible superior beings intervening here. "Life is already too short to be careful: the heart of stone is already smiling at us".

The melody has never been so neoclassical and exquisite!

Report this review (#2639260)
Posted Friday, December 3, 2021 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Recorded first but released second, 4 VISIONS has been a zeuhl classic for ESKATON who lurked in the shadows of the underground all throughout the 1970s hot on the heels of fellow Frenchies Magma but didn't find a proper release until 1980 with its second recording turned debut album "Ardeur." I've never read a satisfying explanation as to why 4 VISIONS emerged as a second release despite it having been recorded as far back as 1978-79 but what is known is that all three original ESKATON albums only appeared on cassette and remained so for decades until they finally saw a proper re-release on CD by the Soleil Zeuhl label. Rightfully so 4 VISIONS received a makeover in the cover art department transmogrifying from a rather amateurish New Wave of British Heavy Metal type logo for the moniker to the darkened "Prometheus" style album cover that suits the music much better.

Despite initial appearances form the original cover art though, ESKATON consisted of seasoned veterans in cranking out their own stylistic adaption of the zeuhl that Christian Vander and his army of Kobaians cranked out during the 1970s. ESKATON had actually formed as far back as 1970, the very year Magma released its debut but didn't find an outlet to release its own music until 1980 however with a decade's worth of a head start to hone and tighten their skills. ESKATON emerged as one of the more successful zeuhl bands to follow in Magma's footsteps. While the Magma influences are about as obvious as can possibly be, the rather limiting nature of the zeuhl sub-genre of progressive rock makes it more difficult to deviate from the tight knit instrumental interplay and at least during this era the differences were all about the subtleties.

ESKATON was definitely a much more direct action band than Magma who structured its music more in the vein of classical music particularly the world of Carl Orff and his classic score "Curmina Burana." ESKATON in direct opposition to such sophisticated compositional fortitude opted for a fire setting stampede of zeuhl fueled passages without much room for down time. Particularly impressive is the incessant bass thumping prowess of Alain Blésing who must've had arms of steel to sustain such lengthy bass virtuosity for lengthy periods of time. Of the four tracks that were featured on the original version of 4 VISIONS, only the closing "Pitié" was less than 10 minutes but still almost hit the 9-minute mark. The music fires on all pistons for its incessant 42 minute plus run.

After a bit of light jazzy keyboard tinkling, the opening "Eskaton" wastes no time jumping into high tempo frenzies with blistering bass antics and the dueling contrapuntal vocal dynamics of Paule Kleynnaert and Amara Tahir. Basically an album's worth of Magma at its most climatic moments, ESKATON distinguished itself by remaining Earthbound and employed its native French language instead of some self-constructed lingo however with such frenetic fast playing verbiage it's really impossible to understand anything therefore the vocal parts come off as nonsensical additional instrumentation. Another differentiation from Magma was a heavier use of guitars with no qualms in engaging in raucous guitar solos and avant-prog angularities as heard from of the chamber rock bands like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd. The sense of dynamics is fully implemented with thundering rhythm sections pacified by chilled out atmospheric backdrops.

While ESKATON has become one of the more successful in terms of recognition in the mondo-ziarro world of zeuhl, for my tastes they have always been a bit too close to the parent tree from which their fruit dropped. Despite the idiosyncrasies to separate themselves from Magma, they still end up sounding too similar for my liking especially given the infinitely more creative zeuhl acts who existed simultaneously that found startling new ways to implement the martial rhythms into their own twisted musical world. For many this second release from ESKATON is an exemplary masterpiece but for whatever reason this band just doesn't get me quite as hot and bothered. Despite any personal preferences, there is absolutely no doubt that 4 VISIONS is a powerhouse of musicianship with an energetic display only comparable to the world of heavy metal at the time. With much more diversity than "Ardeur" and a knack for keeping things in the extreme drama zone, 4 VISIONS is indeed an excellent display of zeuhl firing on all pistons.

Report this review (#2652070)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 525

As many of we know, the name Zeuhl comes from a word in the Kobaïan language, created by Christian Vander and used by Magma. It's a mix of classical and contemporary music, jazz, heavy metal and Jazz fusion. It has a melancholic and intense tone in the songs, very hypnotic bass lines, ethereal keyboards and metals and complex vocal harmonies.

And as many of we know too, Magma is a French band led by the classical trained drummer Vander. The band is known for the vocals sung in Kobaïan (language created by Vander himself), for the live performances and for its intensely idiosyncratic sound. This unique style has a strong influence on the music scenes in Japan and continental Europe.

Said this, let's talk a bit about Eskaton. Eskaton is a French progressive rock band formed in Paris, France, in 1970, under the name Eskaton Kommandkestra. But, in 1974, they became simply Eskaton. In the 80's, Eskaton recorded three albums that bear a similarity to Magma, no doubt helped by the fact that several of the band's members were also members of Magma, "Ardeur" in 1980, "4 Visions" in 1981 and "Fiction" in 1983. But, despite Eskaton kept the Zeuhl tradition, they dispensed the made-up Kobaïan language. Instead of that, they sung in their native French language.

Besides the use of their native language, there is another significant difference between Magma and Eskaton. Magma writes lengthy epic compositions in a made-up language that told a story. But Eskaton, on the other hand, write songs that were long, yes (all songs on "4 Visions" are roughly ten minutes long), but that are individual pieces, not part of some larger whole. There's no mystique aura that was replaced by a down to earth music. But, that is invigorating too.

So, "4 Visions" is the second studio album of Eskaton released in 1981. The line up on "4 Visions" is Amara Tahir (vocals), Paule Kleynnaert (vocals and synthesizer), Alain Blésing (guitar), Gilles Rozenberg (Fender electric piano and synthesizer), Eric Guillaume (Fender electric piano), André Bernardi (bass guitar) and Gérard Konig (flute and drums).

"4 Visions" is one of the greatest French progressive music's successes. The rhythm section is certainly in the Magma style, circa 1975, yet the melodies and dissonances of Eskaton's music are entirely their own. Vocalists Kleynnaert and Tahir often express themselves in unusual sounding chromatic scales that come closer of the sound to the new music groups like Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. The keyboards also have a distinct Magma influenced style with a conglomerate of influences. The four long tracks are very dynamic and filled with an incredible spiritual intensity that range from ethereal to a harsh angst. All four songs are incredibly intense, only in "Pitié" there are moments of rest, but at the same time it is very sophisticated music, showing the great possibilities of all these musicians, which they skilfully use.

The original tracks are four: "Eskaton", "Attente", "Écoute" and "Pitié". The four tracks have between 8 and 13 minutes. "Eskaton" starts and ends with overwhelming energy with analog synthesizers, Fender Rhodes, female vocals, mind-blowing rhythms, heavy bass and drums. This is what awaits you. "Eskaton" is one of the best compositions of the band, with the recording of the drums with incredible stereo. "Attente" has apocalyptic atmospheres, with a sharp wind at the beginning of the track until the attack of synthesizers, vocals, guitar, bass and drums ready for battle, phrases repeating vocals, dotted by the electric piano. "Écoute" starts with female vocals, without accompaniment, until the guitar enters followed by the overwhelming rhythmic session. A difference from Magma is the use of synthesizers to make electronic effects and noise here and there. But, the best is its growing development with a guitar propulsive solo with a truly annihilating ending. "Pitié" is calm and brings some peace to the album, with an intoxicating kaleidoscopic development of great beauty. This lasts only up to half of the track, when the vocal game starts to intensify, the rhythm gets heavier, the strident noises are noticeable and the strength of the music too. That's Eskaton with the best of Zeuhl.

"Le Cri" is a piece added to the re-edition from 1995 to 2003. It doesn't stand out in terms of level, but differs in sound with a much wider use of a synthesizer. At first it's characterized by a more melancholy feel that is emphasized by nice bass lines and single synthesizer sounds. But with time it gets more intense, getting closer to the music of "4 Visions".

Conclusion: Eskaton was one of the greatest of all French progressive rock bands. Magma references seem incidental in the light of the very powerful music that they created for themselves and their audience. "4 Visions" is one of the few Zeuhl albums that can actually be placed in a row with the greatest achievements of Magma and is among the best progressive rock releases, in general. "4 Visions" is almost the perfect introduction to Zeuhl. It's more accessible than Magma, but still conveys the trademark Zeuhl sound. And for those who might not enjoy the general weirdness of Magma, at least in the beginning, may still appreciate Eskaton, especially "4 Visions". It's highly recommended to both, Zeuhl newcomers and Magma fanatics alike. If you are interested in knowing Zeuhl, this work is the right place to start.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2738143)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2022 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, progressive subgenre Zeuhl is a kind of, how could I say, WEIRD. It is not my favorite subgenre, but I knew I should try it. This was exactly what I did, in the same way I did and commented in a review of Obscura, from the band Gorgut poste even today here.

Will I visit this album frequently? In the same way of Obscura, the answer is NO. Does it prevents me from considering it a masterpiece of progressive music? Definitely NO.

Musicianship here is very strong, and the vocals are in French. This is very good when you are normally used with English or Italian/German; it adds variety to your musical diet. As long as it is less visited and explored subgenre, it deserves your try. Repeating Mr. Chamberry in his review from January 2007, it is one of the easiest album to start exploring zeuhl.

A final recommendation is to consider that Magma is the zeuhl monster. If you do not deals frequently with it, probably you limit yourself to Magma. Do not go this way, give also Eskaton a try, and 4 Visions is a recommended masterpiece of progressive music

Report this review (#2883325)
Posted Sunday, February 19, 2023 | Review Permalink

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