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Art Zoyd


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Art Zoyd Häxan album cover
4.46 | 111 ratings | 13 reviews | 43% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Glissements progressifs du plaisir (extraits) (30:42) :
- Ubik 1 / Ubik 2 / Ubik 3 / Allez ā Des Moines / Drama / Ralentando / Ubik 7
2. Nuits (7:26)
3. Häxan Phi (5:37)
4. Häxan Xi (2:10)
5. Häxan Psi (4:25)
6. Épreuves d'acier (17:57)
7. Marche (3:45)

Total Time 72:02

Line-up / Musicians

- Thierry Zaboitzeff / cello, bass, vocals, keyboards, samplers, percussion
- Patricia Dallio / keyboards, samplers
- Gérard Hourbette / keyboards, samplers, percussion
- Daniel Denis / percussion, keyboards, samplers

Releases information

Soundtrack for the film "Häxan" (1921), directed by Benjamin Christensen.

Artwork: Unsafe Graphics (design)

CD Atonal Records ‎- ACD 3023 (1997, Germany)

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ART ZOYD Häxan ratings distribution

(111 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(43%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(25%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

ART ZOYD Häxan reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Logan
5 stars Art Zoyd's Haxan has been one of my favourite albums of the 90s, by what may be my favourite band In Prog Archives, for years because the patterns that Art Zoyd weaves best fit my 'neuralities' and neuroses. In some ways I see Art Zoyd as antithetical to the Prog aesthetic set by the likes of ELP. If Art Zoyd is Prog (genre) rather than simply progressive rock (and rock related), then it is Prog in Opposition -- Art Zoyd makes art music, but not I would think very inaccessible music. Haxan is melodic. To me it sounds much more natural and organic than a ton of music in the Prog universe. It's not really weird, but it is wonderful.

They paint a picture with their textures. It is band of contrasts, and Haxan presents lows and highs. It can be mesmerising and hypnotic, but depending on the listener's state of mind, it could also be largely irritating and boring.

First off, some background info: HÃxan was commissioned by the city of KøBenhavn as a soundtrack for the 1921 Benjamin Christensen directed film "Haxan" (Witchcraft Through the Ages). Art Zoyd has hardly been a stranger to making soundtracks to silent films, and have written ballet music.

I don't think many would appreciate its mostly cold, quite ambient -- although atmospheric is the better term for it --, quite repetitive (like me), and long nature (also like me). It also has what I would consider something of the same 80s aesthetic we see in other Art Zoyd albums such as Le Mariage du Ciel et de l'Enfer This is not 'on the whole "action music". To draw a film analogy, this being a soundtrack, this is much more Art House Cinema than Hollywood Blockbuster, which is not stating that it's high art -- for high art look to stoner music.

If you're looking for arena rock, blistering guitar solos, and plenty of head-bang for your buck, look elsewhere. If you want rather contemplative, atmospheric, and rather paranoid texture-weaving, then this might be for you, but it would require a lot of patience for most to appreciate. And if you're thinking this is going to be a really creepy album considering the subject matter, well no. It is actually quite light listening on the whole.

This album is also notable as Thierry Zaboitzeff's final Art Zoyd album, and I believe that all pieces save the first track were composed by him.

This is silly breaking down the tracks, but I'm going to do it anyway, especially since a warning is in order..

The first track, "Glissements Progressifs du Plaisir (extraits)", composed by Gerard Hourbette is long and frigid, and many would find it very tedious on the whole. I find that it presents a brilliant atmosphere, and is highly nuanced. The music does build in unusual ways even if it may sound rather static at times to some.

"Nuit"" has light opera moments and can be a very upbeat piece. It's quite humorous (rather recalls Beethoven's 9th to me in part), and I might call it fun and lively with sombre moments. Delightful.

With the "Haxan Phi" titled pieces we move into somewhat darker territory, but the music picks up pace. "Haxan Xi" is sombre and contemplative. "HÃxan Psi" is quite wonderful, sombre, with bartone? operatic vocals. I tend to turn up the volume when listening to it, which can be dangerous because the next track kicks in loud.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, my ears!

"Epreuves d'Acier" is the track i would be most likely to suggest to a typical Prog fan, and it is really loud if you don't use volume control compared to the last track. I think it may be one of those wake-up intros that some classical composers would throw in to startle the audience who were getting a little sleepy and unfocused. Fantastic track -- lots of contrast, and plenty of mood. If I gave someone an Art Zoyd compilation, this would be on it.

"Marche" is very beautiful and very sad. Such a poignant track (short and bitter-sweet). It has the sound of sobs in it, and I'm feeling depressed, somehow it makes me feel more satisfyingly sombre. Some might complain about an album that ends more with a whimper rather than a bang, but of course not only is this album's music following the story of the film somewhat -- I have seen the film, but not for many years and not with an Art Zoyd soundtrack -- but it does make the whole experience more poignant for me.

This is an album full of nuances, but it really is quite simple at its core. It does not really have complex harmonies, nor does it have, thank God, instrumental showmanship. Art Zoyd is known as a chamber rock band, but it wasn't long before they used plenty of electronics, and they rarely had the instrumental harmonics that go into chamber music arrangement.

It is background music for a film, and should not distract over-much from that, but also stands alone beautifully and there is depth to the music, and enough contrast to keep many non-ADD listeners interested. My suggestion for the Art Zoyd neophytes is to let the music wash over you as background music at first, then return to it later with your listening ears on.

The only album from the 90s that has got as much play from me as HÃxan is the equally magnificent Faust by Art Zoyd. I feel like saying that this is music that fits the patterns of my slightly deranged mind, but the patterns are not deranged. It's very orderly and logical even if it at times it has a somewhat fragmented feel. That said, music that sounds natural to me may sound unnatural to another (ears need to be attuned to music and this, for most, would be an acquired taste, for me Art Zoyd was love at first listen), nor am I really competent in describing music since I have a disorderly mind, so buyer beware, unless you are a fairly sombre hombre.

Review by Guldbamsen
5 stars Looking down the anthill

This is the soundtrack for the Danish/Swedish art movie Häxan(The Witch) from 1921. Director Benjamin Christensen created an ironic piece of cinema based on his own interpretations of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches) that all through the middle ages was used as irrefutable proof of the inner witch in women who were unwanted, strange, self-thinking or dangerous - often sentencing them to an early death at the end of a rope (The huge bonfires with burning women is a misconception that still prevails though, but in reality it was very few unfortunate souls that ended up as fiery embers on the stake). Christensen's point was however, that most of the women rendered as witches actually suffered from mental illness. Misconception and superstition leading to fear and pushing society to deal with the stuff we are afraid to face.

So how on earth did Art Zoyd end up making music for an art movie made some 50 years earlier? It was actually commissioned by the city of Copenhagen, back when they were awarded with the honour of being the cultural capital of Europe 1996. This then came out the year after.

I purposely choose to offer up this information at the start of this review, because I feel it has everything to do with the actual music. For my tastes, Art Zoyd have here created an unparalleled piece of music that compliments the sombre and dark universe of Häxan uncannily well. There is a sense of the melodramatic in this album that takes on new meaning. A bitter-sweet touch of sadness that rivals an abandoned dog's yearning cries.

Firstly, Art Zoyd seem to have gone back in time for their inspiration for this work. The cold metronomic electronics mirror the ones they did for their two 1980s releases Berlin and Le Marriage du Ciel et de L'Enfer. Myriads of emerging beats swarming around - creating a startling effect much like looking down into a metallic anthill. The opening beast of a track that lasts 30 minutes should illustrate this chilling and seductive effect. The genius part of the equation though, is the manner in which all these drumming metronomic beats start interweaving with each other: the background suddenly appears in small shimmers of sound, and you get soothing breaths of string instruments passing by you like a swift encounter with a delirious and beautiful death.

Secondly, the inexplicable tension that this group somehow is able to wield is downright spooky. What I mean by tension is the way these musical surfaces stretch out for long periods of time before changing pitch or path. Just like the aforementioned electronic albums from the 80s, there's a similar usage of tension on here - an awaiting future release. The way these pieces build up is perhaps the direct opposite of how most post-rock bands work, yet they still wield that same sense of feeding off the cataclysmic turnovers within the music. With Art Zoyd it just feels like a rubber-band being stretched to the end of infinity and beyond, and then, only then the great big man with the scissors cuts through the umbilical chord - and the sounds evolve, change, transform like a musical version of bloom.

Binding everything together you get angular orchestrated reed sections, cartoonish madman runnings, odd fat man vocalisations, industrial blacksmith hammerings - keeping the beat - like a startled guillotine, and then enveloping all of this a certain stealth vibe about the whole thing - feeling like the music only resides in shadow, creeping up on you like a fragmented whisper.

This is what Art Zoyd is all about. A subtle understated- yet brutal force of music that literally sweeps over you like unexpected gusts of wind. Melodies are second-hand, and at times they just feel like debris or leftovers from the deep entrancing atmospheres - taking you by the hand with the frostbitten force of a small iceberg. That opening cut for example has next to nothing resembling 'melodies' - yet somehow the running time of half an hour feels like a flash. You get lured into black holes, dark brooding forests - an abyss of sound that surely speaks about the fearful images of Benjamin Christensen's cinematic tale of woe. Imagining the middle ages with all that entails - emphasising the overtly superstitious, - the menacing and unfriendly surface of this album suddenly starts making sense. Turn up the volume, turn off the light and let your mind drown out everything but the small ant army of beats and dramatic sways of string accompaniment. A world of images emerges. An inner movie appearing like flickering lights in snow, and then, hopefully, these once senseless and inhuman wrongdoings may finally incinerate before your eyes in a cathartic swoop of sound.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars Considering this is my tenth ART ZOYD album I never dreamed it would turn out to be my favourite. It was the reviews from Guldbamsen and Logan that moved me to go to great lengths in order to make sure I owned this and was it ever worth the effort. Released in 1997 it is one of many film soundtracks the band has created over the years. "Haxan" or "The Witch" is a film from1921. Listening to this you will have no doubt this is ART ZOYD but there are some things about this soundtrack that are different, which I will get to in my description of this record. Daniel Denis is back playing percussion, keyboards and samples like he did on their 1995 album called "Faust". The UNIVERS ZERO drummer is no stranger to this band having played on a couple of their early albums back in 1979 and 1980. UNIVERS ZERO was on hiatus for most of the nineties.

"Glissements Progressifs Du Plaisir(Extraits)" is the 30 minute plus opener that is a ride all on it's own. Deep pulsating sounds echo out of the darkness. Cymbals and percussion-like sounds join in. A fearful atmosphere sweeps through again and again. A change 4 1/2 minutes in as spoken words, organ and a beat take over. Pulsating sounds and sparse keys follow as it builds. Suspense is the word here. Spoken words return 8 minutes in then the tension builds even more before 10 minutes but then quickly we get a dark calm as themes are repeated. Strings, horns and more arrive around 12 1/2 minutes then we hear birds chirping a minute later. What?! After 15 minutes it turns scary then loud chaotic sounds take over before another eerie calm arrives. Fear falls upon the soundscape at 19 minutes. Electronics, piano and drums before 23 minutes along with a deep atmosphere. Vocals join in as the tension builds. Just run! Finally the tension breaks 28 minutes in as horns and pulsating sounds continue.

"Nuits" opens with church bells as outbursts of drums and what sounds like mellotron choirs(probably real choirs) as deep voices and horns come and go. So cool. The tempo picks up 2 minutes in then back to the deep voices and horns. It sounds like something is lit on fire then more intricate sounds as a beat follows. Themes are repeated. Great track. "Haxan Phi" has this creepy atmosphere with sparse piano and distant female operatic vocals, strings too. It kicks into a full sound then laughter can be heard. It settles back as we get a good rhythm with female operatic vocals coming and going. More laughter and eerie sounds then a calm after 4 minutes then it builds as laughter and female vocals come and go.

"Haxan XI" has this dark atmosphere with pinging sounds as strings join in as it gets fuller. Dogs can be heard barking and it sounds like a fire crackling. Heart beat-like pulsating sounds then more strings. "Haxan Psi" has a laid back piano melody, strings and eerie electronics. Horns too in this slower paced piece. Male vocals 2 1/2 minutes in. "Epreuves D'acier" features some interesting sounds with deep male vocal expressions that come and go. Horns after a minute. A calm after 2 minutes with bells and outbursts of male vocals. It sounds like someone taking pictures over and over as creepy strings join in. It sounds like we're being taken somewhere by a rail car then we get water sounds and a haunting atmosphere. Sirens too and outbursts of strange sounds. I do not want to be here. Vibes and male vocals come in then the sounds of pictures being taken again and uptempo drumming. So much going on here. Intense is the word. It ends with the sound of rushing water. Am I dead?

"Marche" ends this over 72 minute record. Percussion-like sounds as horns join in. Breathing sounds follow and whoever this is it sounds like they are about to be killed and they fear for their life. He stops breathing before 2 minutes as this emotional atmosphere arrives that moves me deeply(gulp). Piano joins in then it turns fearful to end it.

Sorry for the long review but man this is why I love ART ZOYD. The masters of creating soundscapes for the mind and they usually take me to a place I would never physically want to be. For that I bow to their talent. Masterpeice!

Review by LearsFool
5 stars Of all the albums by actual RIO alumni, this might be not just one of the best, but the very best. Called upon by the arts council of Copenhagen to provide a new soundtrack to the crazed, silent era Danish art house classic "Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages", Northern France's greatest band, Art Zoyd, pulled out all the stops, and topped all their previous records, already an excellent discography. Now, you see, the original orchestral score used at the film's premiere, one loved by director Christensen, was never recorded. It was all preexisting pieces put together in an apparently smashing way, but no one bothered to remember which pieces they were. Over the years, various other soundtracks were used, and so, named arts capital of Europe 1996, Copenhagen decided to go for a whole new one only tangentially connected to orchestral music. And did they ever pick a spectacular band to pull it off. Zoyd's dour, strange, varied, and often drum driven style is perfect for the film, and Zoyd pulled it off. The meat of the OST is Hourbette's "Glissements Progressifs du Plaisir", a half hour long stream of interconnected themes, and it stands as the best track. Odd, chilling voices and erratic trumpets sound. Strange electronics make themselves known. And Denis and Hourbette's percussion on most of this? It's beyond perfect, and certainly required a massive amount of skill and stamina to pull off. This is some of the best percussion work ever. Zaboitzeff wrote the remaining pieces, themselves transcendent. "Nuits" shows off a number of styles and directions for the band, and the series of three title tracks are a phenomenal group of bleak sounds. By "Marche", we have a grim march perfect for end credits. The band did the whole of playing and vocalising on this record excellently, especially, again, the percussion. This works excellently on its own, but also is a phenomenal soundtrack, fitting the film wonderfully. This is Zoyd, RIO, chamber prog, and avant prog all at some of their very best. Anyone with any inkling of trying out avant prog, and maybe even drum fanatics also, should listen to this masterpiece. Every listen is mindblowing.
Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Once again, Art Zoyd undertakes creating a soundtrack for a silent film. This time the film is about witchcraft and the way those that were suspected of being witch were tortured. The film itself is highly regarded, and Art Zoyd was commissioned to do the music this time instead of doing it on their own. So, in most cases, soundtracks don't stand alone very well. But, as we have seen before, Art Zoyd can make a soundtrack that easily stands on it's own. Does it happen this time? Absolutely.

This album stands as one of the best avant-prog albums out there. The music is absolutely amazing, dramatic, dynamic and deserves to be called modern classical music. This is some of the best music in this genre. Even though AZ was performing mostly electronic and keyboard generated music at this time, (except for some cello, percussion and some strange vocals from time to time) the music is so well orchestrated and produced, that it sounds far from being manufactured, or at least you forget the fact that it is electronic.

This album is simply amazing. The music can be challenging, but the music demands to be listened to. Yes you can use it for background music, but you will miss how amazing it is if you do that. And there is way too much going on in the music that if you put it on as background music, you will find yourself constantly being distracted by it's complexity and it's amazingness.

The album starts out with a 35 minute track, which is actually a 7 movement composition. This one is closer to actual orchestration as far as the feeling of the piece. It consists of a lot of tension building movements that really see no release, just a lot of building of tension with a variety of devices. The pay off comes in the last 8 minutes of the piece in a tension breaker that will leave you speechless if you are really listening. Yes it is demanding, but there are plenty of smaller pay offs throughout the rest of the piece. It sounds more like a traditional orchestra for the most part, or at least more adapted to that format then the rest of the album. But that last 8 minutes is just astounding.

After this, the music has more of a modern sound, but it still incorporates classical technique and ideals. You will hear an obvious difference in "Nuits" as more modern techniques are used with strange sounds and etc., but there is still plenty of exciting and interesting melodies throughout the music, and it never gets boring if you are paying attention. A lot of things will fly right past you if you aren't listening. There are even a few passages where the music suddenly slips into a modern beat with a bass line and all, and you think, where in the world did that come from. It is not out of place by any means, it all fits together. The next 3 tracks are different parts of "Haxan" named after greek symbols or letters. "Haxan Phi" is very exciting, dramatic and excellent, "Haxan Xi" is shorter and more subdued, and "Haxan Psi" is a more quiet and flowing without a lot of change. It can tend to take you away into a meditative state.

Suddenly, the 17 minute track "Epreuves d'Acier" kicks in and acts like one of those things that composers used to put into their music to startle listeners back into a wakeful state. Careful here, because you will be startled because your volume has been creeping up and if you are not ready for it, you will be taken by surprise. This is another very dynamic and fluctuating piece with plenty of moods and wonderful passages that will intrigue you. The last piece is short and called "Marche". It is a quiet yet dark piece that ends the album.

It is very hard to describe just how great this music is. You really have to experience it to grasp how awesome it is. There are always changing moods, dynamics and structures. There are plenty of surprises. Anyone who loves their music challenging and intelligent needs to hear this and pay full attention to it. It is a masterpiece of the highest order and actually earns 6 stars in my own rating system and there are not many albums that earn that extra star. It is reserved for the best of the best. That is what this album is. But I can only give it 5 stars here, so there you go. Amazing music that needs to be listened to.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Häxan for the most part constitutes Art Zoyd's soundtrack for the classic silent movie of the same name. However, this seems to not be the only source on the group's mind; take the electronic-inclined half-hour opener, "Glissements progressifs du plaisir", which shares a title with an obscure French movie, and whose constituent parts allude to Ubik, one of the most important novels by Philip K. Dick and a subject that Art Zoyd would expand on in previous releases).

Overall, the album is a mixed bag of influences, ranging from Art Zoydified electronic music to more conventional film soundtrack stuff with some Zoydian spookiness here and there to more typical Art Zoyd RIO outbursts. The transitions from style to style, however, are handled with such craft that you won't realise they've happened until you find yourself in the midst of a new sonic landscape.

Unfortunately, due to the disparity in running time between the CD and the movie (which is longer than a single CD would be able to encompass), you can't simply put this album on and sync it up to the film, but in being forced to select extracts and assemble something which stands as a decent listening experience in its own right independently of the source material, Art Zoyd have produced something pretty compelling here.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The avant garde masters' effort at providing a soundtrack to Swedish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen's much-lauded Swedish silent film from the 1920s. As a soundtrack it definitely works. As a masterpiece of wonderful music (avant guarde or not), it also works! Amazing use of samples and computers--especially for an Avant/RIO band!

1. "Glissements Progressifs Du Plaisir" (extraits) (30:42): - Ubik 1 / Ubik 2 / Ubik 3 / Allez ā Des Moines / Drama / Ralentando / Ubik 7 (59/60) 2. "Nuits" (7:26) spacious tubular bells are joined by tympani and deep Slavic-sounding operatic male voice tracks at the one minute mark. Synth horns and ticking of windup clock enter at 2:00 mark. The fourth minute is filled with computer-manipulated percussives over ticking clock with intermittent offerings from voices, synth horns, and harpsichord. Fifth minute gets two bass lines, horns, etc. Sixth minutes gets bell tolling tubular bell with, eventually, sounds replicating a carnival atmosphere. If I saw the film, this might make more sense to me. As a stand alone song, it is just too weird and discordant. (11.5/15) 3. "Häxan Phi" (5:37) wonderfully austere and bare, despite operatic female vocals in the background. (9.5/10) 4. "Häxan Xi" (2:10) maintains tension with slow, sparse percussive weirdness. (4.75/5) 5. "Häxan Psi" (4:25) a little too quiet and bare, despite the operatic male vocals and "distant" trumpet in the second half. (8.5/10) 6. "Épreuves d'Acier" (17:57) (29.5/35) 7. "Marche" (3:45) more computer treated samples from daily world/life used for percussion track to get this one going. Then strings joins in, beautiful and clear, before vocal sounds of shivering man enter at the extreme fore. Weird. (Guess I need to see the movie!) But the strings arrangement is so beautiful. Electric piano enters for the final third, sounding, unfortunately, a bit out of place among the pristine strings. (9/10)

Total Time: 72:02

As a music album, this contains often stunningly gorgeous and/or emotional stuff while, at other times, the odd and seemingly random stringing together of sounds and samples is just off-putting. Were I to see this in the context of the film, my comprehension and, thus, appreciation might be even higher.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Art Zoyd - Häxan An atmospheric masterpiece. Very few records have been capable of encapsulating such strong vibe and recognizability without practically any lyrics. Art Zoyd, being more of a collective rather than a band by itself, has been very inconsistent when it comes to their discography. T ... (read more)

Report this review (#2595764) | Posted by Maw The Void | Monday, September 20, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What a gentle surprise this album was! The high ratings definitely justify for the bizarre sound and ambience that this record features from beginning to end. It's a strange record, most tracks are shapeless and unexpected, entering a new section every certain time that is completely different t ... (read more)

Report this review (#2586774) | Posted by Gorgut Muncher | Monday, August 16, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An absolute goliath of an album. This record is dark, atmospheric, mysterious... I first listened this album at 5:00PM while doing other things and I thought it had too much filler and very little content. Second time I listened it in the dark at 12:00AM and it was a truly surreal experience. Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2585149) | Posted by Ian McGregor | Wednesday, August 11, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars - Review #32 - Widely touted as a masterpiece, Haxan finds French avant-grade band Art Zoyd at its peak, with colossal and astonishingly complex tracks. It is a hard to digest album but this record rewards you with its beauty impregnated all along. The album is divided in five tracks (since the t ... (read more)

Report this review (#2577774) | Posted by King Brimstone | Friday, July 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of my favorite avant-garde albums, Haxan features seven tracks of pure and awesome avant-garde or Avant Rock. The opener is for sure one of my favorite Avant-Garde tracks of all time. It's sometimes energetic and bizarre, sometimes it's atmospheric and obscure, and the instrumentation is flawles ... (read more)

Report this review (#2509160) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Friday, February 26, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One might argue that it's not a 5-star album for the simple reason of being obviously unappealing to a large fraction of potential listeners, be it random people or us progheads. Peculiar as RIO often gets, Haxan is not easy to get into and, for the most part, can not be really called rock music (da ... (read more)

Report this review (#2085001) | Posted by Homotopy | Monday, December 10, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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