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Zwoyld - Zgond CD (album) cover




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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The oddball progressive rock band ZWOYLD from the Clare-Ferrand region of France quietly released their debut "200 000" back in 2014 which kind of went unnoticed but eventually attracted me simply by its bizarre band name, which i have no idea what it means if anything. Four years later they release their sophomore album titled ZGOND, a title which i also have no idea what it may signify if anything. As ZWOYLD's music is heavily steeped in Magma inspired zeuhl rhythms, i would assume that they have also created their own fictitious vocabulary regarding some breakaway society that exists on planet utopia. Since the cool and surreal album cover has two pyramids, i'll just pretend that what it means!

ZWOYLD is unusual in that its leader is not one of the musicians. Gilbert Brown created the band and is only the director of the project. The debut album consisted of five musicians and on this one that number has increased to six with a seventh adding the saxophone on "Jolitude." ZGOND contains five tracks all ranging from eight to ten minutes in length and continues the unique mix of zeuhl rhythms, psychedelic keyboard workouts and heavy rock guitar antics all strewn together in a semi-angular avant-prog sort of delivery. Overall ZGOND is a bit more straight forward than "200 000" with an incessant bass groove, guitar parts fluttering around it and drum and key interplay following suit but that's a mere generalization.

ZGOND carries on my like its predecessor with slow chilled sounds ratcheting up their intensity slowly until the music graduates into a full psychedelic rock frenzy with retro sounding keyboard parts and heavy guitar stealing the show. While "200 000" blew me away with its unbridled intensity and creative edge over many other modern takes on retro prog, ZGOND seems to have tamed the most progressive outbursts down a few notches in order to create a slightly more accessible sound, or maybe i'm just accustomed to ZWOYLD's sound enough for it to have lost its initial impact. Either way, ZGOND dishes out a veritable smorgasbord of retro prog in the form of psychedelic zeuhl laced with hard rock, funk and avant-prog.

One of the aspects i loved about the debut was the inclusion of various instruments including the flute, sanza and bottleneck which all seem to be missing. While mostly instrumental ZGOND has a few vocal surprises such as the whimsical organ heavy "Jolitude" which finds the band in a playful mood however it does evolve into an ominously sounding attack of guitar riffs, John Zorn-esque sax attacks and chaotic noisy outbursts of noise. The ending sounds a lot like some of the newer avant-prog bands such as PoiL with schizoid Zappa-esque vocal styles. "Riravaler" is the most frenetic track with over nine minutes of stylistic shifts drenched in classic prog organs and keyboards along with nice guitar bombast including some stellar surf guitar at the end. "Tutti Quanti" ends with another excellent prog workout with double guitars and detours into weird psychedelic freakiness.

While ZGOND doesn't blow me away like the debut, it is still an excellent slice of zeuhl driven progressive rock that incorporates King Crimson inspired guitar outbursts, ample doses of bizarre time signature deviations, stylistic and dynamic shifts and exquisitely tight musicianship as they meander through the various passages. While the bass does point to a Jannick Top styled bass groove (but not always), the music is much too playful to categorize as a mere Magma clone since the avant-prog and jazz-rock elements completely change the overall feel of the album and takes it in completely new directions. Perhaps not quite as adventurous as the debut but still quite satisfying and highly recommended to all the hardcore prog lovers who love a little slice of the underground.

Report this review (#1943132)
Posted Wednesday, July 4, 2018 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Jazz rock bordering on avant-garde from Le Massif Central de France but this is far more digestible than some of the other angular and obtuse stuff that comes out of ce beau pays. Many of the sounds and tones used in individual instruments have very 1970s familiarity as do some of the stylings, but all of the songs are completely original with quite diverse and changeable twists and turns.

1. "Zundia" (8:47) nice, engaging intro section is developed slowly and interestingly before flaming out with two lead guitars flashing over hypnotic steady rhythm section. (9/10)

2. "StarShoo" (9:26) interesting instrumental sounds blended together with sophisticated performances in a disappointingly uninteresting way. The uptempo middle section has some nice guitar play and interesting melodies in a FZ kind of way. I must comment on how solid and yet creative this drummer is: playing within the music, not above or below it, and always holding strong to the tempo; he's not super flashy but his occasional flourishes are subtle and yet remarkable. (8/10)

3. "Jolitude" (8:57) opens with cymbol play and bouncy organ before plucked and delay-echoed electric guitar takes on the lead. Vocals (fairly heavily treated) enter sealing the fact that this is a carnival-like piece. (I'm reminded of a mild version of a NEGRESSES VERTES-style song played in with an ATOMIC APE kind of theatricity). (8.5/10)

4. "Riravaler" (9:19) a slower, more subdued start with organ and slow-picked electric guitar gives way to a rolling sound which has the band's best blend of sound and instrumental cohesion yet. At 1:54 there is a shift into bit more of a staccato approach to all instruments except the rolling fretless bass, organ in the lead. The next shift in the fourth minute displays a more unusual time structure with the band rocking a little harder before it thins again in the fifth (just in time for the guitar lead). The second half is full of classic rock instrumental clichés, which can be fun. If you like that kind of stuff. (8.5/10)

5. "Tutti Quanti" (8:52) opens with an emotionally moving two chord guitar arpeggio before drums and bass and second guitar join in. A bit of a MARK KNOPFLER sound, feel, and dexterity to this guitarist's play. Quite nice! A spacey mid-section makes one think of the confusion one feels walking through a house of horrors or a house of mirrors, but the original foundation returns at 5:30 with the other guitarist taking a turn in the lead. He's got a thick, early SANTANA-like tone. It's awesome! At the seven minute mark a thick synth wash enters with two alternating chords as, eventually, the other instruments fade out, leaving a fun calliope-like carnival organ to end the album. (9/10)

Four stars; a very good, solid representation of creative, retro-inspired jazz fusion.

Report this review (#2024143)
Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2018 | Review Permalink

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