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Prog Folk • Armenia

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Zartong biography
The obscure Armenian band ZARTONG led a brief existence in the latter seventies, releasing just a single studio album on the just as obscure DOM label before disbanding.

>> Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) <<

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3.88 | 21 ratings

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 Zartong by ZARTONG album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.88 | 21 ratings

Zartong Prog Folk

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Zartong were a quartet of Armenian musicians who moved to France and released a self-titled debut album before promptly vanishing in the late 70's, and a fascinating and unpredictable prog curio it turned out to be! A mostly instrumental work that jumps in all sorts of directions, prominent spacey synth-driven symphonic prog moments suddenly give way to plentiful folk interludes and Turkish flavoured diversions, electronic ambience, Zeuhl weirdness, jazz-fusion fire and poppier vocal breaks (not to mention some dreaded yet unsurprising light disco elements due to the era it arrived in!). The album has a distinctive and very unique sound due to two of the musicians playing a santour (an Iranian instrument similar to a zither) and a kamancha, a type of oriental violin.

`Zartong' is made up of thirteen different tracks, some little more than sketches of ideas or bridges to lengthier compositions. After opening with an atmospheric introduction on those above two mentioned obscure instruments, fuzzy heavy guitars and a funky dancing beat enter in the two-part `Dzamone' with a boisterous repeated vocal. The rest of the first side is comprised of `Parhelie', `Prosopoee' and the two-part `I Verine' that form a continuous piece, beginning as an ethereal ambient breeze that reveals desolate Middle Eastern dustiness, constant grumbling bass that takes on an almost swallowing distorted Zeuhl quality, sighing wordless harmonies and unceasing spacey synths.

Those chiming violin and zither-like ripples dance through the spirited Turkish-flavoured folky jigs `Toy Narguiz' and `Kele Kele' powered by grumbling Zeuhl bass, inviting group vocals and rattling drumming. The two-part call-to-dance jig `Armenian Hore' bookends the dreamy `Dele Yaman', violin and santour glistening with fragility over restrained veils of floating synths and weary vocal pleading, and `Hoy Nazan' is a joyous instrumental rocker to close on.

The production is rough and inconsistent with occasionally noticeable distortion, and the constant direction and style changes will likely annoy and fascinate different listeners in equal measure, but there's instantly obvious great skill in the musicians, and there's definitely ideas present that Turkish group Asia Minor would perfect on their classic `Between Spirit and Divine' album a year later. But `Zartong' is a dignified, frequently joyful album full of atmosphere and wonderful playing, and it's a shame we were only left with this one teasing little 35 minute album from a talented group so full of potential.

Four stars.

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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