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POTEMKINE

Zeuhl • France


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Potemkine biography
Potemkine managed to blend in a very good way the basis of Zeuhl music with its prominent bass role and a lighthearted spirit of fusion with some 20th century contemporary music. They this deviate from the norm of "mainstream" Zeuhl, but they manage to deliver an original sound, making them unique in this scene. Potemkine was formed by three brothers from Toulouse - Charles (guitars, piano, vocals), Philippe (drums and percussions, piano) and Michel (piano, vocals) Goubin. They had taken other musicians to fill in the positions of bass, violin and some drumming and percussions parts. They released their first album Foetus in 1975. This album was more influenced by Magma, though it contained the fusion leniency. In 1977 Triton was released and it featured a more clear inclination towards a fusion sound, but the Zeuhl characteristics are still there (in the bass part, theatrical piano playing and the occasional chanting vocals) and also the chamber music sound that would later appear in RIO originators bands such as Univers Zero. This approach reached its peak in Nicolas II released in 1978 which also marks their last album. You can get both Triton and Nicolas II on CD from SOLEIL ZEUHL.

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POTEMKINE discography


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

3.79 | 20 ratings
Foetus
1976
3.56 | 31 ratings
Triton
1977
3.96 | 41 ratings
Nicolas II
1978

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

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

3.00 | 3 ratings
Mystère
1974

POTEMKINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.96 | 41 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Hailing from the more fusion-influenced side of zeuhl, Potemkine combine the more urgent- sounding aspects of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with a Magma-influenced zeuhl underbelly to create a hybrid which fans of both musical styles can appreciate. Those who dig what the RIO crowd or the more complex Canterbury units were doing in the late 1970s may also enjoy the album for its experimental take on jazz-rock (an element which underpinned many Canterbury and Rock In Opposition groups during the era). It's certainly much easier going than much Zeuhl or RIO too, so it may be a more accessible entry point to both of those styles than, say, the iconic albums by Magma or Henry Cow.

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 Foetus by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.79 | 20 ratings

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Foetus
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Having started as early as 71, the Goubin brothers (four of them at one point) started as a cover garage group; they evolved into this JR/F band upon hearing Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra. After an initial single released in 74, they got the ball rolling with Foetus and its crusader ship of their band name as an artwork, but by that time Dubuisson had taken over the bass and Vidal had appeared on violin. The appearance of the violin will immediately make you think of MO, but more of the Goodman period than the Ponty era. Of course, the main difference between Foetus and the rest of the JR/F pack is the use of wordless vocals, chants and choirs, one that sound rather "female", despite being the work of the five (male) members. The group's previous single had a slightly Canterburian feel added to the JR/F musical realm, but with their Foetus, it seems to have disappeared.

The band's first opus is definitely a tad derivative on its avowed JR/F influences but one can't really find much Zeuhl in the present album, Foetus still manages to develop its own personality and some excellent and inventive high-pitched choir vocals. But if it is clear that tracks like Laure, or Hymne have MO roots, reinforced by the presence of Vidal's violin, her tracks like Cedille are much slower-paced, which is a piano-based ambient piece, but things can also get even a tad dissonant with the Golan track. Elsewhere, Vidal's violin comes dangerously close to coming un-tuned in the middle section of Ballade. Zed is a very repetitive nature, turning over and over its choppy descending riff.

Although Potemkine's debut album Foetus has never seen a proper CD release (and is not likely to, unless vinyls are reissued), but since all of it came as bonus tracks on their later albums CD reissues, I was able to re-construct their album, and managed a review. According to the great Soleil Zeuhl label reissues' booklets, the band's fortunes grew rapidly, opening for MO or Magma and creating an unison project with other French bands from different parts of the country to play concerts in each other's regions. Despite not getting a proper release, Foetus is a very honest (at times brilliant) JR/F album, a typical product of its time, despite lacking the fully-professional feel of the groups it inspired itself upon, but if you're interested enough, you will get it through their other two CDs, and it's very much worth it. Actually I may even prefer it to both Triton and Nicolas II.

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 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.96 | 41 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Strangely enough, I thought I had written a review for ll Potemkine some two years back.... Oh well!! ;o))

Potemkine's last album is more of a return to their Foetus origins than Triton was, since we see the return of one of the Goubin brothers (Michel) as a full-time member, but also musically with a return to jazzier-rock than Triton. Armed with a superb proggy artwork, the group's soundscapes are definitely fusionesque, this could be their easiest album to get into.

The band's Brand of JR/F is not so much of the X type (less flashy), rather more in the MO, RTF, the Spanish group Iceberg or their countrymen Transit Express mould, but the Zeuhl influence is still resent in some tunes, mainly through Dubuisson's bass. Yes, we're very much into the typical mid-70's fusion wit the usual prog-quartet line-up, so it's not like the fusionhead will be unsettled, as there are plenty of 100 MPH tracks, namely the excellent Mahavishnu-esque Tango. The following Raspoutine is the only track that refers to the Russian-derived album title.

Sometimes things can get a bit funky with Swing Imaginaire (where the group adds some ethnic instruments too), but they can also slow down to a more delicate Air De Famille, which goes through a wide array of ambiances and dynamics, despite being the second- shortest track on the album ? this also goes for the album-shortest Aux Images. The album's highlight is the slow-starting Ode To Mars that slowly evolves in a scorching rapid- fire fusion, but the closing Amphitheatre Magique is also fine in my book, and the only time on the album where you'll hear some choirs.

So in terms of accessibility of the music, Nicolas II is easier to get into, but not that much more than their debut foetus album, of which most of the album is featured in the bonus tracks (read my review of that album in the specific Foetus page). Sooo don't expect Nicolas to sound like Triton, strictly on the assumption that it is the follow-up album, but think of an up-graded but wiser (no violin or choirs) Foetus album. A typical 70's JR/F album but also their more conventional (IMHO), a bit like there were dozens of them around at the time.

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 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.96 | 41 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars (please note this is a review of the original album and my review does not include Foetus which was added as bonus tracks)

Potemkine ended up as a clean cut fusion band on their third and final album. No zeuhl in sight, as far as I can detect. Well, the bass and some tangents can be called zeuhl, but they are also typical fusion and jazz melody lines too.

The music on Nicolas II is pretty nifty with a hammering Hammond organ dueling with electric guitars. The bass is always present and the drums are also always there. The music is pretty close to Mahavishnu Orchestra, soundwise. Unfortunate for Potemkine; not in the same league.

The quality is pretty good throughout. There is not greatness about this album though and the material is pretty anonymous too. Only a track like Raspoutine can be regarded as a very good track. There is a good drive throughout that track. The rest is OK but nothing more. It is a safe album and that's all.

3 stars (barely)

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 Triton by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.56 | 31 ratings

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Triton
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars The second album from this band who really never managed to carry it off.

The music on this album is somewhere between Hatfield & The North, Magma and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The two tracks from Foetus they have carried over to this CD (which also includes the two songs from their only single) drags this album squarely over to the zeuhl camp though. In particular, the excellent Zed which is the best song here as it was on Foetus.

The quality is good throughout. But it never raises above that standard, with the exception of Zed. The original tracks from the LP named Triton is more in the Hatfield & The North direction. They still have this dark, menacing zeuhl undertone throughout though. But these songs never becomes really interesting and engaging. But this is still a good album, nevertheless.

3 stars

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 Foetus by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.79 | 20 ratings

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Foetus
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars Zeuhl ?

Potemkine, named after a famous movie, a battleship & one of the opening salvos of the October Revolution in 1917, has delivered a bit of a strange album with their debut album. It is far more Canterbury than zeuhl. Even the only true zeuhl song here, Zed, is pretty close to what the likes of Gilgamesh did on their albums. In short, this is jazz with something else added on. The added on thing is a bit rock, avant garde rock, classical music and some zeuhl. Fusion, in other words. Or perhaps not fusion. Potemkine has come up with a type of music I have not heard before.

The music is good throughout. The highlights is both Cedille and Laure with it's novel approach to fusion. The rest of the album is good too. I have given this album plenty of time, but it still does not grab me and entrap me. So I cannot call it a great album. But it is still worth checking out if you are into the Canterbury scene or zeuhl.

3 stars

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 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.96 | 41 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Il Tastiere

5 stars Potemkine - Nicolas II it's a very unique piece of undiscovered history! This album hasn't a weak track, every song it's full of musical acrobaties, tecnique, great arrangments and emotions of course! This album it's very jazz/rock fusion influenced, there is not much zeuhl ispiration like his precedessor Triton. This work is more shiny than Triton

Tango Panache it's one of the greatest song i've ever heard, seriously! You will sure note the strong Fusion inspiration for this one, from the first note of the guitar and the timing of the drums. The guitar of Charles Goubin plays some very deep notes full of expression, he had a great sense of creativity and composition (i read that Charles Goubin has died in a car accident in 11 july 1979) and the solos are amazing, even if they're a little shorter. The bass line and the drums are something excellent, they play a very hard parts that pulsate in the hearts of those how listen and leave an undeletable sing in their minds. Probably this song has been recorded in live playing in studio, there is some minor errors that i've noticed, but the result it's something amazing! The cd goes on and then we have Rasputine, a strange track i assume. There is not the same energy of the first track but the result is not bad at all! Even with dissonant or dark chord this band keep a great sound! Theme pour un swing immaginare it's a very creative song! It's very fantasious track, this shows that this band can be very various. Remind me some 80's tv series but hey, there is a great keyboard and guitar work and there is a very catchy rythm accompained by a great bass line! Overall, this song it's great Now we're going to take a little break, Air de famille (which means family resemblance in French) it's a quite calm and relaxing song. There is a great use of Rhodes piano (with phaser effect i assume) and synthsiezer that create a good atmosphere, the other instruments complete a picture of a good and genuine song. Ode de mars starts with a calm phrase with a good choise of notes, than this song become different, becoming a bit darker. An inteligent use of the guitar and Rhodes in this track, a great and complex timing with drums. It's not my favourite song, but i have to admit that there is a great job behind it. Aux images it's another song that make you understand how this band had great capabilies! It's really different from the rest of the album. Something really really calm, with acoustic piano, synthesiezer and a very very quiet percussion work that will also close this song. Just a good song that create a very calm and relaxing atmospehere. Then we close with Amphiteatre Magique, which begin with a misterious riff and synthesiezer filling the atmosphere. This song have got some choir too which create a powerfull atmosphere and synths have good sounds too.

In Soleil Zeuhl cd there is also some bonus tracks, comings from Foetus, but i think i should review those song appart, Nicolas II ends with Anphiteatre Magique, so i think we done!

In conclusion this album it's bomb! I think this band had a very personal sounds, it was a real disgrace that guitarist died in a car accident, this band maybe deserved a great future. I recomend this cd to every fan of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Magma, Area, Yes, Gentle Giant and jazz rock in general! This it's a real undiscovered masterpiece, if you see this cd for a good price, don't think a second, just buy it!

PS: I'm sorry for my English but i'm italian, it's not perfect... I forgot! The cover art it very beutiful!

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 Triton by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.56 | 31 ratings

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Triton
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

Reduced to a trio, Triton is a very different affair, when compared to its predecessor Foetus. First of all the one-time septet that included a prog-best four brothers Goubin (thus beating GG's three Shulman, but not the Jackson 5 in the non-prog category), is now only a trio, with only two brothers Charles & Philippe (both on piano, but guitar and voices for the former and drums and percs for the latter) and bassist Dubuisson on bass. As you can imagine, these personnel cuts have drastically modified the group's sound, as we move away from the Mahavishnu Orchestra sound (and to a lesser extent Weather Report and RTF) of their debut Foetus and advance well into mostly-instrumental Zeuhlian/Canterbury soundscapes (which were already present but much more discreet), somewhere between Hatfield, Univers Zero, Magma and Vortex. Much of the sonic changes are of course due to the absence of Vidal's violin, but the Zeuhl elements in their music on Foetus have slipped from the joyous Zao to the solemn Magma and the depressive UZ on Triton.

Named on the famously "church-forbidden devil-induced chord", it's easy to see why Potemkine sound became all a sudden much more severe and somber (and sober, but that due to the group's trimming to a trio), as they chose to delve into Varese and Bartok, while keeping the jazz influence alive. The opening track Asyle is definitely UZ-inspired (although the Belgians were just releasing their first album the same year, but they'd been around since 73) and Goubin hasn't much that D Denis would lack or envy. The vocals are sufficiently rare, but in the high register. With the ultra-slow and gloomy Crepuscula (this is sounding like the future Shub-Niggurath), then the most distinctive (and fave of mine) and intricate Loolit II, which a rework of the Foetus track of the same name.

After the GG-esque Chant de Viamor opening the flipside, comes the album's highlight, the 13-mins+ Eiram (Marie in reverse) with tons of interesting passages, including some percussion-only, but the gradual crescendo with the pulsating bass around the fifth and seventh minutes is quite impressive. The second part of the track is much more on Magma's Milky Way, but can remind me of early Eskaton as well.

The first two bonus tracks are taken from the first album Foetus and can be useful to point out the progress between the two works, but most of you will be on the look out for that first (and a bit elusive) album. You'll plainly see/hear the Stravinsky-laden jazz-rock of Mahavishnu Orchestra being one of their huge influences on their debut album. The next two tracks are of even much greater interest, since they're from their debut single recorded three years prior to this album and already hinting at the general Zeuhl/Canterburian musical direction.

Hard to say which of the three Potemkine is the best as they've all got their pros and cons, but in face of the difficulty of finding the debut Foetus (it's always nice to discover a band's oeuvre chronologically), Triton will be also a more likely good start as it features part of that debut album and the very first recordings of the group which much more accessible. Some would also pretend that Potemkine's third album is the better intro, because of the stronger rhythms and more conventional chord structures.

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 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.96 | 41 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Potemkine was a French band whose musical offering brought a Zheul-friendly sort of jazz-prog: the legacy of pre-"Romatic Warrior" Return to Forever and early Weather Report, plus some touches of Canterbury, was given an extra edge with the addition of pulsating rhythmic ornaments in places. The lead guitarist's style shows a combination of McLaughlin's intense vibe and Phil Miller's melodic drive, which makes a perfect complement for Michael Goubin's keyboard deliveries. "Nicolas II" is the third and final Potemkine effort: generally speaking, it doesn't equal the powerful magic of the preceding album "Triton", but it most certainly reinforces the refreshing approach to jazz-prog that Potemkine displayed in the aforesaid album. The opener 'Tango Panache' bears a captivating punch, wisely focusing on a catchy main motif without employing resources of excess in the expansions. 'Raspoutine', despite the intriguing allusions of its title, offers a more candid ambience in its melodic structure, compared to the opener. The celebratory vibe gets increased in the following track 'Theme pour un Swing Imaginnaire', which finds the band exploring the swing of funk: the addition of extra percussion feeds the groove in a very effective way, and so does the electrifying guitar solo that emerges along the way. This album has really started well, but the best is yet to come. The last four pieces (which filled the vinyl's B side) are linked in a continuum. 'Air de Famile' states a languid, relaxed mood that ultimately develops into a more intense atmosphere for the last minute. This, in turn, states a contrasts with the softly dissonant lyricism developed in the first half of 'Odes de Mars': its second half shifts to a funk-instilled vibe, exciting yet controlled at the same time. A new change comes with the arrival of 'Aux Mages', whose romantic mood sets an evocative magic through the air. The weird percussive textures that emerge for the last seconds serve as a prelude to 'Amphitheatre Magique', the closing piece that brings an unexpected dark atmosphere. Its somber synth layers and mysterioys chorale arrangements, overlapped on the electric piano bases, close down the album with a moderately spectral ambience that never gets too creepy. This band bears its influences upon its sleeve, yet it finds an original way to ordain nand develop its musical ideas. While not being as peculiar Sloche, Iceberg or Il Baricentro were on their own terms, Potemkine's legacy to the world of prog is interesting and worthy of much appreciation. "Nicolas II" is an excellent item in any good prog collection.

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 Triton by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.56 | 31 ratings

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Triton
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Triton" was the second Potemkine release, the one in which the band's ideology found its definitive expression. Despite the diabolic implications of the album's title, the sound and style delivered in it is not diabolical at all: if any, it is creepy and dark in many places, but in a controlled manner, as if putting emphasis on the mystery instead of the sinister. I'm not totally convinced about Potemkine being an essentially zheul act: I perceive them as a jazz-prog band with strong zheul and RIO components, and as such I enjoy and analyze their albums. Anyway, it is clear that the band has paid more attention to the influence from avant-prog so it is very present in much of he writing process and arrangements for the albums' repertoire. At times you can tell hat there's a noticeable family resemblance connecting what Potemkine are up to and what Univers Zero achieved in their debut album that same year. So here we've got an ensemble on top of their game, moving beyond the sonorities of their debut album and offering a greater deal of energy than on heir follow-up and final release "Nicolas II". 'Asyle' kicks off the album with a constrained yet amazing fire, gracefully sustained on the piano colorful washes and the powerful bass interventions (most of the time overshadowing the texturial guitar phrases). The motif shifts that occur from minute 3 onwards generate that sort of tension that the prog connoisseur can easily relate to the Francophone school of camber-rock. The track ends with a reprise of the initial motif. 'Crepuscula' is more deeply solemn, with an overwhelming mystery that emerges from the silent spaces between the piano chords. Once the whole ensemble settles in comes a beautiful Weather Report-inspired motif pertinently closed down by piano dewdrops. Building melancholic mystery in such an effective manner is a Potemkine forte, no doubt about it. 'Loolit II' partially follows this trend, aiming at foggy atmospheres but with a major dose of density and an enhanced avant-garde attitude. There's a particularly excellent moment in which Charles Goubin brings a tortured guitar solo, very Frith-like (such a pity that it is too short.!). For the last 2 ½ minutes things turn out increasingly extroverted until reaching an incendiary climax. 'Liberserim Urb et Chant de Viamor' rounds like a hybrid of "5"-era Soft Machine and eh first Univers Zero: agile and plethoric of bizarre melodic developments, his piece serves as a preserver of the magic portrayed in the previous track. 'Eiram' closes down the original repertoire of "Triton" on an epic tone: its abundantly jazzy colors, half Weatheresque, half Canterburian, are properly wrapped in a chamber-rock guise that allows the band to explore its most adventurous facet without losing an inch of groove. The CD edition includes no less than four bonus tracks. The first two come from the "Foetus" album, plain jazz-rock with extra avant-garde inspired complexity, either on an playful vein ('Loolit') or in a grayish mood ('Zed'). The last two bonuses come from he band's debut recording, a single that showed Potemkine quite close to heir veteran compatriots of Moving Gelatine Plates with ounces of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Potemkine is an excellent item from the glorious age of jazz-prog: those who appreciate their legacy can only have words of praise for his album, which I regard as their master opus.

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