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Zig Zag - Pièces Manquantes 1976 CD (album) cover

PIÈCES MANQUANTES 1976

Zig Zag

Zeuhl


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siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars ARCHIVAL PROG FROM 1976

One of the many French progressive rock bands that existed in the 70s but never found a bona fide release until the 21st century, ZIG-ZAG was formed in Nantes all the way back in 1971 and stuck around up to 1977 and then the only reason the band folded was because of the death of founding drummer Antoine Chagnon due to an untimely car accident. Nevertheless, after four decades ZIG-ZAG finally found a home for its archival material on the Vapeur Mauve label which released PIÉCES MANQUANTE (Missing Pieces) in 2014 with ten outstanding tracks that display not only the genealogical connection of guitarist Jean-Luc Chevalier's love affair with 1970s Magma but also of a band that was much more than a mere clone and exhibited some amazing creative displays of the newly formed zeuhl genre by taking it places where bands like Magma, Zao and Weidorje never dreamed.

Unreleased in its heyday but not because a clear lack of talent for sure, ZIG-ZAG started off on a rather different trajectory. While the album was delayed four decades, the band actually did release two singles like the 1972 titled "My Lady Sun" with a B-side titled "Zigger Zagger." The former was a far cry from the complex Canterbury jazz-rock flavored martial rhythms that grace this archival release but rather was a psychedelic pop song that could've easily been slipped onto the debut album from Aphrodite's Child which was released in 1968. The B-side while sharing the slide guitar characteristics was a completely different beast altogether. While the A-side was a vocal driven pop track with English lyrics, "Zigger Zagger" was an instrumental gypsy swing track with Balkan flavors and together have lingered in the vaults of obscurity until ZIG-ZAG finally got to show the majority of the prog world who weren't in Western France during the 70s what they contributed to the prog scene of the day.

ZIG-ZAG went through a few lineup changes in its seven year run with the core of the band consisting of Claude Le Péron (bass), Jean-Luc Chevalier (aka Gorgo on guitar) and Antoine Chagnon (drums). The band wrote much of the material over the years of its existence but didn't record the material that appears on PIÈCES MANQUANTES until the year that appears in the title which is 1976. Arriving late to the band was vocalist Michelle Sarna who released a few EPs in the 60s as a solo artist but in ZIG-ZAG perfectly lends her divine goddess energies to the martial teutonic origins of the zeuhl rhythms. Her vocals are utilized as another instrument and while ZIG-ZAG didn't exactly invent a new language based around an epic mythology, the enigmatic wordless nature evokes such timelessness nonetheless.

PIÈCES MANQUANTES 1976 displays an interesting slice of the zeuhl universe that has pretty much escaped the world's attention for four decades but shows a band that was clearly creating its own distinct style although undoubtedly influenced by the playbook that Christian Vander unleashed with Magma. Less bombastic and more sensual, ZIG-ZAG was more akin to the softer sounds of Zao although there is more emphasis on other influences creeping in such as a very definitive Canterbury Scene jazz-rock vibe exercised on the dexterous jazz sweeps of the piano and wind sections from the sax and flute. Likewise Sarna's vocals often evoke the Northettes on the Hatfield & The North albums with a slice of heavenly diva sensuality conversing with the divine (especially on "Ballade" and "Complainte.")

While the album starts off more in the traditional zeuhl flavors, by the time it reaches the third track "Variations," the musicians engage in many different approaches such as the symphonic and avant-prog antics that pop in and out of the jazz corridors. The fusion is inventive and sounds like nothing else, zeuhl or otherwise."Hypnose" is a personal favorite as an intricately designed hyperactive bass line provides an avant-garde groove for a trance inducing series of textures and tones to swarm around including jazz guitar and frenetic percussion which demonstrates the band's inclination to create sounds acoustically rather than implement the bombast of the harshness of electronics. This track is a total trip which finds the unique polyrhythms and counterpoints growing in intensity until it almost sounds as if the instrumental roles exist in their own world.

By the time the album reaches "Heitor," it has perfectly married the marital zeuhl rhythms that find slapping bass lines perfectly grooving with Canterbury jazz-rock melodies and the angelic vocals of Sarna along with Chavalier's unique avant-prog guitar playing style. The mastery of the counterpoints of the sepulchral male vocals as well as the juggling of tones, timbres and tempo changes display the band in firm command of its art form clearly in a league that matches up to its influences. The track ends with a rather ethnic flair as a Middle Eastern wind run and rhythmic flows evoke a touch of the band's past where the Balkan gypsy swing was in play. Likewise the two-part "Hommage à JH" finds the perfect marriage between the martial zeuhl rhythms and avant-prog piano angularities. We've reached prog paradise! The closing "Tibet" is just the icing on the cake which in addition to the aforementioned Canterbury elements also delivers an interesting consecution of diverse percussive styles and an exaggerated time signature frenzy before erupting into one of the more energetic tracks.

It's hard to believe that nobody wanted to release this magnificent music back in the day but then again even Magma was starting to feel the shift in the music industry with the focus quickly steering towards punk, pop and disco. Thankfully this musical ecstasy has finally been released as an archival album that includes both a vinyl LP and an accompanying CD. While ZIG-ZAG called it a day the following year after failing to find a host for its recordings, guitarist Jean-Luc Chevalier would actually joined Magma the following year and stick with them until 1985 however everything he did with Magma paled in comparison to the creative mojo on display with ZIG-ZAG. Personally i find this band much more interesting than many other zeuhl bands that actually released albums. ZIG-ZAG is far more diverse and original than either Zao, Eskaton or Eider Stellaire ever sounded. This is a long lost treasure trove of jazz fueled zeuhl with avant-prog overtones. The Vapeur Mauve labor deserves some seriously big clappy hand icons ad infinitum for reviving this all but forgotten chapter of French prog history.

4.5 but rounded up as a reward for the looooooooong wait!

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Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | Review Permalink

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