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ZAO

Zeuhl • France


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Zao biography
ZAO was founded at the beginning of the seventies by Yochk'o "Jeff" Seffer (saxophone, clarinet) and Franšois "Faton" Cahen (pianos), both ex-members of MAGMA's first era, that includes "Koba´a" (1970), "1001 ░ centigrades" (1971) and "Uniweria Zekt-the Unnamables" (1972).
If one regard MAGMA as the central trunk of the Zeuhl tree, ZAO would be equivalent to an early side branch very close to the stock. ZAO's music, at least at the beginning of their career, is therefore an extension of MAGMA's first era, with a light music, at times weird, with hints of jazz, contemporaneous music, Hungarian folk (Yochk'o is a native of Hungary) and obviously of Zeuhl. Nothing in common with the absolute incantatory power of "MDK" and "Kohntarkhosz" to which Yochk'o Seffer and Franšois Cahen didn't want to contribute.

In the first album, "Z = 7L" (1973), the very complex melodic instrumental layers are enriched with the wonderful voice of Mauricia Platon (with its koba´an accents), but unfortunately she was missing on the follow-up "Osiris" released in 1975.

ZAO will break from its Zeuhl roots and the music will lean towards some jazz-rock fusion more and more debatable and debated.

"Shekina" (1975) augmented by the presence of a string quartet and "Kawana" (1976) remain respectable albums of the French jazz-rock fusion scene but "Typhareth" (1976) recorded just after Yochk'o Seffer left the band is of little interest. ZAO will then split but the members will gather anew in 1994 with the release of "Akhenaton" (once more jazz-fusion inflected), the album that saw the band reform but without any follow-up. It seems that the band planned to reform this year (2004) with the return of Yochk'o Seffer. To be continued ? Moreover, we can note that ZAO's bassist, JoŰl Dugrenot, will join for a short while the French symphonic progressive band CLEARLIGHT.

Among the solo albums, let's consider Yochk'o Seffer's "Ghilgoul" (1979), strange atmospheres, dissonant music and the presence of Zeuhl in some tracks.

::: Tauhd Za´a ::: (Many thanks to Lucas for the English translation)

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Buy ZAO Music


Liberate Te Ex InferisLiberate Te Ex Inferis
Solid State Records 1999
Audio CD$23.73
$1.40 (used)
The Funeral of GodThe Funeral of God
Ferret Records 2004
Audio CD$4.05
$0.76 (used)
ShekinaShekina
Import
Musea Records France 2006
Audio CD$25.25
$27.71 (used)
(Self-Titled)(Self-Titled)
Solid State Records 2001
Audio CD$1.95
$1.33 (used)
Live !Live !
Import
Musea 1976
Audio CD$10.00
$16.99 (used)
Fear Is What Keeps Us HereFear Is What Keeps Us Here
Limited Edition
Ferret Records 2006
Audio CD$2.88
$1.94 (used)
Parade of ChaosParade of Chaos
Solid State Records 2002
Audio CD$2.02
$0.01 (used)
All Else FailedAll Else Failed
Solid State Records 2003
Audio CD$1.76
$0.05 (used)
LegendaryLegendary
Solid State Records 2004
Audio CD$2.61
$0.10 (used)
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ZAO discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ZAO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.47 | 41 ratings
Z=7L
1973
3.86 | 36 ratings
Osiris
1975
3.89 | 34 ratings
Shekina
1975
3.96 | 30 ratings
Kawana
1976
4.00 | 17 ratings
Typhareth
1977
3.06 | 12 ratings
Akhenaton
1994

ZAO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.68 | 6 ratings
Zao - Live!
1976
3.51 | 5 ratings
Zao In Tokyo
2007
4.00 | 1 ratings
Ethnic 3 Live
2008

ZAO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ZAO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ZAO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ZAO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Zao - Live! by ZAO album cover Live, 1976
3.68 | 6 ratings

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Zao - Live!
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Padraic
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is an outstanding live performance done shortly after Yochk'o Seffer left the band. Didier Lockwood provides his usual excellence on violin, and Jean My-Truong is absolutely outstanding on drums. The whole band breathes a high level of energy into tracks from the first four Zao albums - in particular you can hear this in the performance of "Isis", where this author found the studio recording a bit lackluster and flat. The one downside of this album (and certainly why it can't get 5 stars) is that the audio quality is barely tolerable - particularly on "Improcol" where it threatens to almost drop off completely - pretty much bootleg quality throughout. Still, highly recommended for jazz-rock and zeuhl fans.

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 Z=7L by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.47 | 41 ratings

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Z=7L
Zao Zeuhl

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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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 Typhareth by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.00 | 17 ratings

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Typhareth
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Typhareth is the logical conclusion to Zao's experiments in continuing the more fusion- influenced strands of Magma's music, in that by this point in the band's development their previous Zeuhl sound has been replaced with slick fusion chops - and then they go further than that, and for most of the album play in a classic jazz style. This is not actually a bad thing - the years spent working on Zeuhl and fusion playing honed the band's skills markedly, and leaves them more than capable of performing traditional jazz to a high standard. Yes, it's a regression to their musical routes rather than a progression forwards into new territory, but sometimes it's a good thing to revisit your routes and try out the new tricks you've learned in your explorations in a traditional framework - and Typhareth is one of those times.

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 Kawana by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.96 | 30 ratings

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Kawana
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On Kawana, Zao recapture the dark Zeuhl spirit which eluded them on Osiris (the only earlier album of theirs I have heard). Opening with the mesmerising Natura, on which Fran'ois Cahen essentially uses his piano as a rhythm instrument to lend extra weight and urgency to the already powerful rhythm section of bassist G'rard Pr'vost and drummer Jean-My Truong, the album proceeds to offer a brooding, volcanic form of fusion-leaning Zeuhl, reminiscent of parent band Magma's earlier (pre-Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh) works. Particular praise has to be given to Didier Lockwood, whose violin contributions help to set Zao's sound apart from Magma's work. Zao's exploration of the fusion-Zeuhl route Magma opted against taking is an important contribution to the genre, and Kawana is one of the band's greatest achievements.

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 Osiris by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.86 | 36 ratings

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Osiris
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Zao may have been one of the first Zeuhl bands to spring up in the wake of Magma's inauguration of the style - founded, as it was, with Magma refugees - but you'd be forgiven for considering Osiris it a retreat from the Zeuhl style rather than a willing embrace of it. Veering back towards jazz fusion, the group aim not for the murky, fast-paced, volcanic fusion of Magma's early days but a more sedate and laid back variety of jazz-rock, of the sort propagated by Weather Report at around the same time. To my ears, the main Zeuhl influence is in the percussion, which at points locks itself into a hypnotic groove of the sort Magma would make use of - but it's never quite so heavy or martial as Magma gets, nor does it sustain itself for as long. A pleasant enough album, but not exactly a cornerstone of the genre.

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 Ethnic 3 Live by ZAO album cover Live, 2008
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Ethnic 3 Live
Zao Zeuhl

Review by colorofmoney91
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars I don't know much about the technicalities that make a certain album or artist zeuhl, but I'm fairly certain that this is a jazz album. Zao's earlier albums sound more like what I expect zeuhl to sound like, but this album definitely sounds like jazz of some unknown ethnic origin, given the title of this album. Zeuhl or not, Ethnic-3 Live is one of the most interesting jazz albums I've heard in a long time, mostly sounding like a perfect crossover of Hiromi and Sun Ra, with beautiful acoustic piano, energetic ethnic percussion, and sincerely saxophone.

The tracks on this album, being recorded live, sound like improvisational jams rather than actual songs. That being said, if these are improvisations, they are great. Maybe Zao aren't jazz masters of any sort, but the melodies in the improvisations really stand out and hold onto the listener. One thing that I've really liked about this album is the sound quality - it's fantastic. Everything is sharp and pointy in the mix, and each of the three musicians really stick out on their own. The only track on this album that doesn't really fit would be "Trebla", which includes electric hip-hop sounding beats, new-age choir sounds, and annoying vocals that pierce through the mix. It really ruins the laid back jam feel of the album, but luckily the track ends with some beautiful jazz lines. On a better note, one of my personal favorites on this album is "Felix" which has a very strong funky jungle jazz groove that is super infectious.

This album is definitely on my top 10 obscure live jazz albums, and I'd highly recommend this to anyone looking for a groovier and more acoustic Sun Ra type of album. Some of this album is even great for chill lounge music, which is always a good atmosphere to have music like this prepared for.

Highly recommended.

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 Z=7L by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.47 | 41 ratings

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Z=7L
Zao Zeuhl

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post 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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 Akhenaton by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.06 | 12 ratings

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Akhenaton
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group Admin / Heavy Prog Team / Math Rock Team

3 stars Pleasantly surprised.

I searched for Zao when I was on my quest to discover Zuehl that wasn't Magma (which I never thought existed). Zao was the first one I encountered, and I found Akhenaton soon after, and here I am now. I haven't heard any other Zao or very much any other Zeuhl either, but this album presented a fantastic Jazz Fusion effort, and I can barely really see this as Zeuhl (which I thought was really just jazz fusion with Kobaian lyrics). The whole album is fantastic when the fusion is there and great when it's just straight jazz, which at many points it is. The songs are energetic and quick, keeping a nice steady beat going for the whole album.

Elioth starts off as a slow and steady jazz track with some nice piano and horn. As a jazz track, this intro is spectacular and really jazzy. To add to the affect, it breaks out into a funky fusion riff soon after this. The whole song keeps a funky jazzy beat and feel to it the whole way through, making it a really fantastic opener. One thing I was surprised to see is the lack of any guitar (except a bass). I'm used to at least some guitar, even with the guitarless Emerson Lake and Palmer, so this gave a nice breathe of fresh instruments!

Thebes starts off with a steady polyrhythmic fusion beat, something that I can see influencing future metalers Planet X. The song has a really cool drum beat with a steady melody line and a great bass line going. Some nice free jazz keys solos are heard, which add to the overall polyrythmic feel to the song as the drums back it. Another great song on this album.

Baityare is a more Bossa feeling track with a more steady "jazz" beat. The strings on this song are a little more prevalent, giving more of a dynamic to the music. It has a slower more steady feel and a "lower to the ground" feel with some variation. This dynamic changes becomes for the most part the norm for this album, just some creative jazz fusion with varying drum beats.

Cobra has a more funky feel to it with a fretless bass backing the horn, keys and strings. The melody is a little more avant sounding, following that precedent set by the extremely avant Magma that I was looking for variations on. The more obvious jazz influence is nice, but the obvious Magma influence is also very prevalent.

Yzzo is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song has a quicker beat to it and again brings in that polyrhythmic feel to it, almost sounding Arabic in its sound. The solos, as always are very funky and noodle around the polyrhythmic beats very well. All the different instruments, just like in jazz, get their turn to make the song special and at the same time very similar to the other songs.

Sable also features a quicker beat and more polyrythmic feels. This is really the one "bad" thing about this very funky album, that most of the songs have essentially the same bones, and just different skin covering it. The only separating this from Yzzo or Thebes is the somewhat different keyboard melody and the differences in solos from keys to horn to strings or strings to keys to horn or whatever. The song is still good, but often they sound a little too similar to the other tracks.

Ozz has again a quicker beat, but is more recognizable in its structure by its more traditional funk instrumentation rather than proto- jazz metal polyrhythmic structure. The fretless bass solo is a real treat with that real funky underlying instrument coming out into the forefront to wow us all.

Sakkarah is another polyrhythmic song, but has a slower beat! Well, it speeds up soon enough into the quickly boring structure of melody, solo, solo, solo, solo, solo, end. By now, I've gotten rather bored with the album and am rather glad it's over soon. Can you see by my decreasing amount of interest in my writing?

Des Fleurs Pour Nefertit is a really nice soft jazz ballad to end the album, rather than the long stretch of continuity we were getting for the past few songs. Similar to the first track, the album ends with a beautiful duet between piano and horn, showing an emotional show of compassion in their music and spicing up the music which was quickly going bland. The song ends the album spectacularly, although I would have liked it so much more if the horn was replaced with either a trumpet or a more compassionate genuine alto saxophone rather than the horn they used.

ALBUM OVERALL: As a Zeuhl album, not so much at all. As a jazz fusion album, spectacular, with an extremely boring patch in the middle. All together, the album is good, but non-essential. Some very great and compassionate moments of music can be found within this album, but a lot of the music sounds practically the same. The production was slacking a little as the music could almost sound watered down or fuzzy at times. It certainly is a good album and I recommended it if you're looking for some fun jazz fusion, but overall the album really isn't a necessity. 3+ stars.

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 Z=7L by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.47 | 41 ratings

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Z=7L
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Dobermensch

4 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.

'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 brilliant solo album, both from '78.

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 Osiris by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.86 | 36 ratings

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Osiris
Zao Zeuhl

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Choosing a career in Zeuhl isn't the path of least resistance. Not only will every note you play be compared to Magma, it will most likely also be dwarfed by the output of that one true great Zeuhl band. And, given Magma has about 200 fans, there's little perspective you'll ever be staging a live show for more then 30 dedicated Zeuhl heads.

In case your bandname is Zao, you might even be discarded for being too much jazz fusion and too less Zeuhl. Compared to Magma (here we go) the jazz influence is decisively stronger and the album fits better alongside Magma's first two albums 1001░ then say MDK or K÷hntark÷sz. Zao employs two singers that add a Zeuhl flavour to the album. The music is slightly droning and rhythmically repetitive. Also that is fittingly Zeuhl.

The quality of the material however goes up and down. The opener is rather disappointing, a lifeless rhythm, weak riffs and little or no melodic development. On the better pieces such as Isis and Yog, the musicians show their skills in arranging and playing together. These songs are focused and well balanced, but still nothing happens that really kicks this album in action for me. The CD re-issue adds a Live Montreal tracks that shows the band in full Jazz-Fusion mood. One of the better tracks here.

A decent Zeuhl/Jazz Fusion album, but nothing exceptional for me.

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