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ALTA¤S

Zeuhl • France


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Alta´s biography
Alta´s was a French Zeuhl band who independently released just one short self-titled 12? EP in 1986. The band was comprised of Sandrine Fougere (vocals), Philippe Goudier (vocals, percussion), Patrick Joliot (drums, percussion), Isabelle Nuffer (vocals, piano, synthesizer), Michelle Puttland (synthesizer) and Jean-Marie Sadot (bass). Their music was in a very similar vein to that of their French compatriots Eider Stellaire and is recommended to fans of obscure Zeuhl.

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ALTA¤S top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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3.55 | 4 ratings
Apsara / Altais
2015

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

3.31 | 15 ratings
Alta´s
1986

ALTA¤S Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Alta´s by ALTA¤S album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.31 | 15 ratings

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Alta´s
Alta´s Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars ALTA¤S - EP from 1986

It never ceases to amaze me how many French bands followed in the footsteps of the legendary Magma and jumped onto the zeuhl bandwagon only to exist for a mere blip on the timeline and fall into obscurity. Many of these bands either released a single album and some didn't even get the chance to release anything at all. While the 70s saw its fair share of zeuhl bands emerging, the 80s generated a darker, more angular group of artists who took the music into more experimental realms.

ALTA¤S from the Normandy region of France was one of many such bands that haunted the French underground. This band that consisted of Sandrine Fougere (vocals), Philippe Goudier (vocals, percussion), Patrick Joliot (drums, percussion), Isabelle Nuffer (vocals, piano, synthesizer), Michelle Puttland (synthesizer) and Jean-Marie Sadot (bass) never released a complete album but did manage to squeak out one amazing 3-track vinyl EP that appeared in 1986.

This band was existed on the darker side of the zeuhl spectrum and although those instantly recognizable Magma inspired bass grooves and zeuhl bombast is immediately apparent, this band like many others of the era crafted more haunting atmospheres in a manner that was probably best represented by the phenomenal releases of Shub-Niggurath which crafted a style of eerie atmospheric zeuhl which was the antithesis of 80s commercial music.

With only three tracks this EP barely gets fired up before its over but it definitely ranks high on my list of zeuhl creations due to the eerie haunting mood of the mere 14 minutes of playing time. Opening with the spectral vocal works of Sandrine Fougere, the opening title track (yep, "Alta´s" by ALTA¤S on the EP titled ALTA¤S!) generates a beefy bass groove but never loses that ethereal otherworldly effect. The longest track on board this one adds a few curve balls including a Halloween ball type of vocal interaction while fortifying the heft with that martial rhythmic drive.

"Promenade" sort of connects with the opening track but offers a more avant-prog approach in the Henry Cow sense of angular instrumental workouts without any vocals at all. Hypnotic grooves are embellished by creepy tones and timbres with rather frightening scales-in-opposiiton on various instruments. The closing "Gravitation Zero" is a short 2-minute space drift with chanted drones and nebulous progressive electronic sounds out of the Klaus Schulze playbook. Many vocalists join in and create a very creepy conclusion to a dark forbidding three-song run. This last piece would certainly make an excellent horror flick soundtrack sequence.

Practically lost in the vaults for decades, this tiny artifact was rescued by the admirable Zeuhl Soleil label which released the split album "Archives - Concerts ÚtÚ 1983 / Alta´s" in 2015 which featured five live tracks from the band Apsara along with the three tracks from ALTA¤S. I absolutely love this short little musical freakery! This is my kind of creepy dark eerie dread music and i really, really wish that ALTA¤S could've at least released a full album's worth but that was not meant to be and what we are left with is this tiny remnant of the 1980s French underground that can only hint of what could've been. Excellent stuff here!

 Apsara / Altais by ALTA¤S album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
3.55 | 4 ratings

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Apsara / Altais
Alta´s Zeuhl

Review by Sagichim
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I was really excited when I heard this is going to be released since we don't get many Zehul albums coming out, I always loved Altais's EP and was sorry it was only about 12 minutes of music, but not only the music is what drew me to this, it's the historic value of it. So apparently Apsara when formed in 1981 was the early incarnation of Altais and Shub Niggurath. Ann Stewart, Franck Fromy and Veronique Verdier went on to form Shub Niggurath in 1983 and the rest continued as Apsara but later changed their name to Altais. So this album contains 5 tracks under Apsara and the EP released under Altais in 1986 which I already had. The first track is the only studio recording of the band, the other 4 tracks are from a live show in 1983 so the sound quality is not that good.

Apsara are a true Zehul band with all its characteristics, closer to bands like Eskaton, Archaia and naturally Shub Niggurath only a bit less noisier. Like Shub Niggurath and Univers Zero's concept Apsara's music is also very frightening and disturbing, creating heavy atmosphere with a lot of tension, containing freak outbursts of sheer madness. what you'll notice right away is the upfront fat and grainy deep throbbing bass sounds of Philippe Goudier and Jean-Marie Sadot, yes they had two bass players! the first is lower and deeper and the second is higher usually played with distortion, it's a real delight listening to those two interplay. Ann Stewart is resposible for the vocal chants and she is doing a great job, there's also a saxophone, keys and guitar involved. Enfer Mais is the only studio track and is the best composition here, I guess it's also the sound quality which makes it superior to the other tracks, guitar, keys and sax are more evident and as a result the music sounds richer. The song include a few parts, all with a repetitive kind of mantra and a natural flow, the music is dark and haunting with a propulsive rhythm, accompanied by sax and guitars, where the double bass attack is the main attraction. The arrangements are wonderful as the tension builds a few times, It gets more intense along the way with saxophones and guitar, fantastic piece. The next 4 live tracks are a bit inferior to the opener but are still definitely good, I think they would have been more effective if cut shorter a little bit. The second track Apsaras is more repetitive leaning on bass and vocals accompanied by quirky guitar playing. En D'Autres Lieux features an eerie violin, sounds like something out of Univers Zero's Hersie. Love those bass workouts half way through including some vocal grouling!! there's also some wild guitar playing later but it's a little bit hard to pick up on this because of the recording quality. The shorter 6 minutes O Rages is quite scary with a heavy atmosphere and frightening sounds by bass, guitar, violin and crazy screaming! it picks up later with a chaotic playing by everybody. Ici Et Maintenant is totally psychotic, bordering madness. As what appears to be another slow piece at first suddenly picks up aggressively with a pounding rhythm the closing part is really cool with children laughing and also screaming on top of a steady eerie beat, very nice.

This is a little hard to digest at first and even harder because of the sound quality, you have to really focus and give it your special attention to really understand what is going on. The next three tracks are the Altais EP I won't go over this again (check out reviews on the EP's page) I'll just say it's really good and along with this Apsara material makes it a very worthwhile addition to your collection. I'm sure if the sound was better it would have revealed as a better album too, 3 stars because it is what it is.

 Apsara / Altais by ALTA¤S album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
3.55 | 4 ratings

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Apsara / Altais
Alta´s Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. I'm not sure where to start with this one but thankfully Aymeric Leroy did the liner notes here in both French and English. APSARA were a young French band in the early eighties who struck up a friendship with a band called GORGONUS who weren't far from them geographically. Both were playing live gigs and both were huge MAGMA fans catching their heroes live as often as they could. APSARA was a six piece formed in 1981 with two key future members of SHUB NIGGURATH in Franck Fromy and Ann Stewart who would become a couple in APSARA and they connected well with the couple in GORGONUS namely Jean-Luc Herve and Veronique Verdier. So they decided to join forces along with a couple of other musicians and soon this partnership became known as SHUB NIGGURATH.

So we get 5 tracks from that early APSARA lineup with Fromy and Stewart. It opens with their only recorded studio track called "Enfer Mais" at 11 1/2 minutes while the other four tracks are live from 1983. When these members left to form SHUB NIGGURATH, APSARA originally kept going with the same band name until they realized there was a Japanese band called APSARA so they changed it to ALTAIS. We get three tracks from them and about 14 minutes worth of music. This was recorded on 8 track tape in EIDER STELLAIRE's basement. I love the connections at this time with members from these bands having these friendships and members going from one band to another. ALTAIS would open for EIDER STELLAIRE and ESKATON in December of 1985 just before this EP was recorded.

This is a great idea in my opinion adding APSARA's recordings to ALTAIS' making this a worthwhile compilation album. I also like that there's three members that appear on both of these recordings. Even the music of APSARA and ALTAIS is similar being very MAGMA and thus Zeuhl driven while SHUB NIGGURATH would push those Zeuhl influences to the side more. Both were six piece bands although APSARA has a guest violin and sax player and no keyboards while ALTAIS featured both electric piano and synths but no guitar. Both have great female singers by the way and ALTAIS uses a male singer to great results. Hopefully that wasn't too confusing.

"Enfer Mais" the only studio recording we have is a fantastic way to start. Dark and heavy as female vocals start to chant. Love the fuzzed out bass and APSARA had two bass players! It becomes pretty intense at times then the sax joins in. Check out the bass after 1 1/2 minutes. Nasty! The drumming is becoming more prominent as well. The rhythm stops around 3 minutes as sounds come and go with chants over top. It kicks in again before 4 minutes where the sax, bass, vocals and drums standout. A drum display before 6 minutes then it kicks in with a bass-led Zeuhl rhythm with dual female vocals. Guitar before 7 1/2 minutes and some screams after 8 minutes. The guitar is crying out after 9 minutes and I love that fuzzed out bass. Amazing vocals before 11 minutes along with the guitar.

Next are the live tracks from 1983 and the sound quality could be better at times but I'm happy with this overall. It was recorded on cassette tapes which were kept in someone's drawer for 30 years. "Apsaras" opens with female vocal melodies as fuzzed out bass, a beat and more arrive. Nasty fuzz here then some dissonant sax just to test how thin our skin is. Some chalkboard-like scraping noises with the violin that follows just to see if your awake or not around 2 minutes then it kicks into a mid-paced groove. Some angry guitar around 7 1/2 minutes from Fromy then the song slows right down 8 1/2 minutes in as it winds down to the end.

"En D'avtres Lieux" has this hellish rhythm with violin over top as the tempo picks up. Abrasive guitar comes and goes as they seem to jam here. Some very nasty bass before 6 minutes as it settles back some in tempo. An experimental section follows then the tempo picks up again around 9 minutes as they proceed to rip it up. The guitar is at it again then this experimental calm arrives after 12 minutes to end it.

"O Rages" opens with violin sounds as male spoken words arrive and they will stop just after a minute as the violin then changes styles to a slower more melodic sound. I'm actually reminded of David Cross and KING CRIMSON before 2 minutes. Some disturbing screams arrive as they come and go and the violin is matching those screams. A change 3 minutes in to a Zeuhl rhythm. Nice. The sound quality might be at it's worse late in this song.

"Ici Et Maintenant" is the final live tune from APSARA. It features violin early with a heavily distorted sound. It picks up before 2 minutes. This is good! Guitar before 3 minutes then back to the violin. Some male chanting this time around 4 minutes. Great sound after 4 1/2 minute but it's changing a lot here. Some screams follow as that nasty violin arrives. A disturbing and slow rhythm continues with creepy samples of children laughing and screaming. Man that SHUB NIGGURATH vibe is strong here. This insanity continues to the end.

Next are the three tracks from ALTAIS clocking in at around 14 minutes. I was already familiar with this very short EP as I own it and feel it's close to perfection but again way too short. Again I'm so glad they decided to combine these two related bands. "Altais" opens with the wind blowing as female vocal melodies join in. That Zeuhlish rhythm kicks in around a minute with deep male chants. So good! The tempo then picks up as the male vocals continue then the female returns around 2 1/2 minutes. Synths 3 minutes in as a calm with almost spoken deep male vocals arrives. Theatrical female vocals as well then it all kicks in again before 4 minutes with fuzzed out bass. Synths are back before 4 1/2 minutes with female chants, drums and bass. So good! A New Wave sound can be heard with those synths before 5 minutes. Twas that time I suppose. Theatrical vocals continue both male and female then the tempo picks up again before 7 minutes. Fun stuff!

"Promenade..." is my favourite song on here. It's the electric piano for me, I love Fender Rhodes. Love the energy too as we get this driving rhythm of electric piano, drums and bass. An absolute killer track that turns a little experimental late. "Gravitation Zero" is the 2 minute closer that sounds nothing like the rest of this recording. This is spacey with synths and vocal melodies creating a very surreal vibe here.

An absolute must for Zeuhl fans out there and one of my favourite releases from 2015. This is an archival release that is well worth tracking down but limited to 500 copies I believe. Don't miss out!

 Alta´s by ALTA¤S album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.31 | 15 ratings

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Alta´s
Alta´s Zeuhl

Review by Sagichim
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Oh..I wish this would have been a whole album. Altais is an extremely obscure band from france who managed to release only this very short EP in 1986, not much is known about the band, and when I say not much I mean nothing. They are actually a brief glance at the world of Zehul, this EP contains only three songs clocking at 14 minutes, and if that's not enough, the last track is 2 minutes of atmospheric keyboards, which can be regarded as a filler. So basically we are looking at two songs, the only reason I'm reviewing this is because I really like those songs.

Altais plays a heavy type of Zehul, very dark and creepy. Aside from the inevitable Magma influences, the closest comparison I can make is Shub Niggurath which surprisingly released their debut album in that same year. It's not as slow going as Shub, but that very low thundering and deep bass along with the frightening atmosphere is very much alike. The keyboards are used mainly for essential atmosphere but there is some modest playing too. Vocals are in gibberish or is it Altaisish? Whatever it is they are very good, and when I say good I mean it suits the music perfectly, Philippe Goudier's vocals are deep and growly (not growls like in metal) more like a pissed madman, I think their vocals are one of their best aspects.

Actually for a very small band that only played a brief visit and came up with only two actual songs, this is very good and mature, I believe if they had a chance to continue, this would make one hell of an album. The music is not focusing on one particular idea, it changes from one part to the other pretty quickly and very easily too. "Altais" is the first song, it starts with a mysterious mood, wind noises and a typical Zehulic female vocals in the background, which makes you wonder where would this go? then they hit you with a relentless bass as vocals are mumbling over it. It then stops and the tension immediately rises as it gets even more creepier, the bass continues to growl as Ziltoid The Omniscient hops for a visit and asks for another cup of coffee using the local idiom, only this time he is really pissed. Then comes the mantra chanting turn using all the vocals they can think of, along with some cool breaks, this is excellent as the rhythm gets more intense until it explodes. "Promenade" is a song that shows their sympathy for percussions and all kinds of noises. It's a little more complex, great rhythm from the beginning with a slow piano lead and cool percussion noises, I love it. The piano keeps on going like it's looking for something as the bass helps him out only this time it sounds like a sedated beast. After a quick piano interlude It continues the same path only now it's more intense with all kinds of noises, elephants and birds too. Very good stuff.

This very small snippet of Zehul is a very good addition only if you would like to complete your Zehul collection, but not essential in any way. The first song appeared on a Musea compilation of Zehul called "Enneade". I'll definitely keep listening to it whenever I have a spare ten minutes. 3.5 stars.

 Alta´s by ALTA¤S album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.31 | 15 ratings

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Alta´s
Alta´s Zeuhl

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Alta´s' - Alta´s (6/10)

The world of Zeuhl music is full of obscure one-off acts that seem to have disappeared as quickly as they introduced themselves. Alta´s is a virtually unknown act even within the avant- garde niche community, and for good reason; they only ever released one EP before vanishing. Having now been released almost three decades ago, its a good bet that we will never hear anything more from this band than the sixteen minutes of music here, but for what it is, 'Alta´s' is a very good snippet of Zeuhl music. Featuring a style that falls between better known acts Magma and Shub-Niggurath, Alta´s build off of the innovation of greater acts, and create something both whimsical and terrifying.

This album opens up the way it ends; with spacey ambiance and the ethereal wail of Sandrine Fougere, who sounds eerily similar to Shub Niggurath's Ann Stewart. Her operatic soprano shares the sound with a less melodic male accompaniment that sounds much more within the Zeuhl canon. Phillippe Goudier barks and howls as Alta´s hits their musical stride, that being a dense jazz fusion observation. The pianos and rumbling bass both lead the band. Throughout the music of Alta´s, there seems to be a constant conflict between the light- hearted, whimsical sounds of Magma, and the horror-inducing style of Shub-Niggurath. In the end, the latter appears to win this contest, and perhaps a little too well. While Alta´s make a very intriguing effort here, their sound is far too close to that of Shub-Niggurath, be it their plodding rhythms, operatic soprano voice, and general atmosphere of creepiness.

Alta´s is not an essential act in Zeuhl, nor are they a particularly astounding obscure gem, as some may hope. What they are though, is an interesting supplement to the Zeuhl that you may have already heard, an apocalyptic jazz-fusion combo that excites, but alas, has been done better before.

 Alta´s by ALTA¤S album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.31 | 15 ratings

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Alta´s
Alta´s Zeuhl

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars A 12' EP is not enough to give an impression of a band.

It is obvious that Altais has been listening a lot to Magma. Their music is a lighter, a less complicated version of Magma. The music is also pretty much leaning towards spaced out jazz at the same time as it is well within the tried and tested Zeuhl formula. Strange male vocals, operatic female vocals, galloping piano, well articulated bass lines and some good keys. All boxes has been ticked.

The quality is good throughout and I will probably include this EP in my rotation next time I connect the turntable to the USB port again. I have heard worse and I have heard better Zeuhl. It is well worth checking out, though.

3 stars

Thanks to evolutionary_sleeper for the artist addition.

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