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Z=7L

Zao

Zeuhl


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Between 69 and 72, Magma was boiling kettle of French musical talent, but starting from that moment and under Gomelski's impulse (now supposedly rid of Julie Driscoll that had married Keith Tippett ;-))), Vander will take complete control of Magma's musical destiny, leaving many musicians a bit frustrated. Indeed Faton Cahen and Yochk'o Seffer left the band and created the first of Magma's many offshoots. Playing in Seffer's other group Perception, they hired Jean-My Truong a Vietnamese-born drummer that knew how to pound the skins and then Joel Dugrenot bassist behind Jacques Dutronc, who will bring Mauricia Platon and her amazing voice to the group. After some tryout, the violin was handed to Rigaux, although some well-known musos tried for the post. Recorded in six days in March 73, the debut album came with artwork from Yochk'o himself and was released on the Vertigo label.

Musically, the group is still in the Kobaian territory, especially with the opening Marochsek, where Cahen's brooding piano line provides much menace behind the no-less impressive scatting of Platon that provides much drama. In the background "Dud" Dugrenot's bass is all over the soundscape and Seffer's sax is always waiting behind the corner for the best moment to intervene. Halfway through the track, it suddenly speeds up, gets nervous then dissonant (Seffer and Rigaud's violin) and finishes in fireworks. Cahen's Ataturc is much lighter, less Kobaian, but it doesn't mean more accessible as the song privileges almost strident sounds that could irritate some. Funnily enough Seffer's Ronach seems to pick up exactly where Ataturc left things at, but it goes in a different direction, although remaining in the semi-strident mode via Platon scatting vocals.

The flipside opens with Cahen's Atart a track where Truong's drumming shows all of his mastery over his kit. Seffer's Soup is probably the album centrepiece, drawing the group into a frenzied pace down boulevard, often digressing a bit to allow cruising the side lanes For Platon, Faton and his own sax to explore some collateral space. For this first album, Seffer dominates the songwriting with 3 songs to Cahen's two shorter ones, while Dud signs the closing Satanyia that starts on bass drones then explodes with Rigaux's violin and Platon's scatting sounding like Louis Armstrong this time, then going almost quiet, returning to the drones and more scatting.

Although a lot of Zao fan like to claim that there are not that many similarities with magma's music, it is really clear that the Kobaian heritage is damn heavy one to unload, and throughout their career, Zao will bear the unofficial Magma #2 label, no matter how unfair it might seem to all concerned. Let's face Zao's Z=7L is a pure gem of Zeuhl music that happens to be slightly more jazz rock, but the Orff, Coltrane and Stravinsky influences that haunt Vander's mind are also present in Zao's debut.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#30631)
Posted Thursday, January 06, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I like almost all prog, I really do. Search for me on this site and you'll find almost all my reviews are 4s with 3s and 5s scattered around. I like most of what I come across. I especially like the complexities of fusion, but zheul, which is supposed to be complex as well, is lost on me, or at least a lot of it is. I gave this album a chance a while ago and just did not like it. I decided to give it a second shot today. It wa snot a good sign that I was scared the opening second by a shrieking/yelling vocalist..totally did not expect that. This set the tone for the rest of the album as the vocals just are not pleasant to me, and just completely assinine babling in other areas. The music itself is...well, I just couldn't get into it, to much going on..sometimes LESS IS MORE!! - and this is coming from someone who loves fusion, the mahvishnu Orchrestras, napoli centerale, (sorry for spelling errors), brainstorm, lotus and other such groups!!

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Send comments to Carl floyd fan (BETA) | Report this review (#30632)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first work released in 1973 "Z=7L". Jazz-rock as eccentric as MAGMA. Kooky rhythm and minimalism, and, MAGMA influences it in bass. Playing a saxophone and the violin is fresh. The sound is refined by a compact organization. It is a group of the same type as WEATHER REPORT. Technical, racial jazz-rock work. It is a quick, intimate performance. Moreover, the saxophone of Yochk 'o Seffer is a rich sound of the modern jazz. It is a work not original though it has power and the thrill.

The best track is "La Soupe",I think.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#81275)
Posted Friday, June 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Zao was formed by Francois Cahen and Yoch'ko Seffer following their departure from Magma prior to the recording and release of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh. Their departure was at least in part due to Christian Vander becoming the sole composer for the band. Cahen had contributed compositions to Magma's first two albums, so it's no surprise that this album sounds like a continuation of side 2 of 1001 Degrees Centigrade.

Right from the opening bars it's clear that this is very much a Zeuhl project, and one which has interesting parallels with MDK, also released in 1973. Perhaps the most significant is the presence of female vocalist - although Cahen and Seffer had played on early versions of MDK Stella Vander did not become part of Magma until 1973, and prior to that only male voices had featured. Mauricia Platon sings mostly wordless vocals (aside from the opening cry of ZAO!) but the effect is similar to Kobaian. The rhythm section of Joel Dugreno and Jean-My Truong has a distinctly Magma-esque feel, with Dugreno supplying the kind of bubbling bass lines that underpin a lot of the best Zeuhl, and Cahen's electric piano also sounds like a refugee from the mothership. For all that, Zao had their own distinct take on things; the inclusion of a violinist predated Didier Lockwood's brief but remarkable tenure in Magma, while the music in general had a looser, jazzier feel and Seffer in particular gave rein his own distinctly East European style of playing. Although they're quite distinct from one another, the album's 6 tracks flow beautifully and the general effect is of a themed album (as opposed to a fully fledged conceptual piece).

Z = 7L is an intriguing glimpse of what might have been if Christian Vander had been content to share the composing credits for Magma and to play more overtly jazz tinged music. It's also a crucial missing piece in the Zeuhl jigsaw, and as such is essential listening for Magma fans. Newcomers to the genre may prefer one of the subsequent albums, where the vocals are less prominent and there's more of a jazz fusion feel.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#135508)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars As others have mentioned Cahen and Seffer left MAGMA because Vander was now in control of the musical direction that MAGMA would take, instead of it being a band effort as on the first two albums. Seffer and Cahen's last recording with MAGMA would be under the name of UNIVERSIA ZEKT. It's interesting that MAGMA's next album ("MDK") after these two left would emphasize female vocals, because ZAO's first recording that would come out the same year (only sooner) would also emphasize a female vocalist.Two very different records mind you. I think the vocals here and on "MDK" are what will make or break the two albums for you, because they are so prominant. The female vocalist Zao hired was a much in demand backing vocalist named Mauricia Platon, who is nothing short of incredible. Seffer being Hungarian badly wanted a violinist for this project,so they hired Jean-Yves Rigaud. Jean-My Truong was added as the drummer, he had played in a band with Seffer before Seffer had joined MAGMA. Joel Dugrenot was added as the guitarist. The album cover was painted by Seffer.

"Marochsek" starts off rather ominously before Mauricia yells "Zao !" and then goes off into some unique vocal melodies. Unfortunately this would be the only studio record she would record with the band. Keys, bass, sax and drums fill out the sound. Some good guitar after 4 minutes. She is amazing 5 1/2 minutes in with liquid sounding keys to follow. "Ataturc" has a nice jazzy soundscape with vocal melodies. The tempos shift and violin comes in. Vocals stop as the song calms down. The drums, bass and piano become prominant before violin comes back. Vocals are back before 5 minutes. "Ronach" is all about her vocals that sound like another instrument. They are very high pitched at times. In "Atart" it's like Mauricia is competing with the sax and she is definitely holding her own. The bass is relentless. Great tune.

"La Soupe" has a nice little intro before i'm blown away by not only her vocals, but the bass and drums. This is killer ! Some beautiful horn / vocal interplay before we get a sax solo. 3 minutes in the violin comes in. Great sound ! Then some ripping guitar as drums pound. The song calms down as only bass can be heard at first. Vocals are next, then a full sound. "Satanyia" features violin, vocal, bass and drum sounds but not much of a melody until after a minute. Her vocals are deeper here with a fantastic melody to follow. The tempo and mood continues to change. Themes are repeated including her deep vocals. Her vocals are so good 6 minutes in as the drums pound.

Well it took a while, but this became everything I had hoped it would be. I wasn't expecting the vocals that were presented or the violin, but it all worked perfectly. I much prefer this over MAGMA's "MDK", and it's a step better than MAGMA's first two albums in my opinion. Brilliant !

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#141596)
Posted Tuesday, October 02, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Zao's Z=7L is, well...just strange. Sort of like Magma meets Return To Forever and Yoko Ono. I don't find the vocals pleasant whatsoever even if many find Mauricia Platon's voice unique. A bit of a Henry Cow/RIO sound to this Zao recording as well. As another reviewer wrote here, I gave this one more than a few tries and I generally enjoy all fusion. Zao's KAWANA recording is very enjoyable and listeneable, whereas this just sounds _avant garde_ for the sake of it. Maybe the band felt the same as they dumped (or she left?) ZAO after this recording. For collectors of Zeuhl music only.

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#195019)
Posted Thursday, December 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first magma offshoot by the mutinous Francois Cahen (piano) and Yochk'o Seffer (saxophones). Both of whom appeared on Magma's first two jazzy sounding albums. I was pleasantly surprised by 'Z=7L' which sounds like a cheery and bouncy Magma - with a lot of really cool operatic Zeuhl vocals by Mauricia Platon. There isn't the same feeling of impending doom present as you get with Magma. This is far more playful.

'Z=7L', leans more towards the Fusion end of jazz. Refreshingly light and jumpy with quite a few references to '1001˚Centigrade' thrown in from '71. Easier to digest than Magma and not so brain damaging. If you like this, you'll love 'Weidorje' and Yochko Seffer's excellent solo album, both from '78.

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#300697)
Posted Monday, September 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
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.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#388512)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I am really getting into zeuhl at the moment and is hoovering up zeuhl albums at online auctions and other places. So it was only a matter of time before I bumped into this band and this, their debut album.

Zao has been described as a Magma copy. For me, Z=7L sounds like a mix of Magma and Return To Forever with some Hatfield & The North injected through Nordettes, their female singers. Vocally, Zao is dominated by their female vocalist Mauricia Platon.

This is a more than acceptable debut album. It does comes across as a light-weight album though. What I am missing is the rich textures from the zeuhl genre and the debt of the jazz/fusion genre. Z=7L is somewhere inbetween these genres and is lacking the best of both.

When that is said, this is a good album which makes me wanting to pursue collecting Zao albums.

3 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#555975)
Posted Monday, October 24, 2011 | Review Permalink

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