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Art Zoyd - Berlin CD (album) cover


Art Zoyd



4.11 | 94 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The French ensemble Art Zoyd has never been interested in creating uplifting, high- spirited music: their style is traced by an overall tendency to play with gloom and density in a contemporary chamber-meets-RIO context. That being said, I will add that "Berlin" finds the band exploring the darker side of their musical ideology with a vengeance, but never getting rough; on the contrary, they always procure to keep an air of distinction as it is expected from the intellectual demands that the AZ members usually draw up for their musical ideas and performances. The albums kicks off with the 20-minute 'Epithalame', a solid exercise on minimalism and atonal layers in which the synthesizer and the grand piano alternate positions in the protagonist role. The synth- dominated passages are sustained on frantic harmonic sequences effectively punctuated by the cello and violin; as a result, they tend to portray a clear sense of tension, a tension that certainly does not reach an explosive level due to the minimalistic nature of the interplaying. On the other hand, the piano-dominated passages are more explicitly languid. At minute 11 the symphonic trait starts to get more obvious, subtly growing through a crescendo that leads to a Gothic orchestral motif in minute 13: the organ and the percussive storm assume the leading role, taking the track to an amazing climax. Once this climax is over, it is the dissonant touches of piano and the harp-like synth chords that take center stage until the opening synth motif states the coda: all this time, the recurring sound of synthesized bells and the string ensembles colours have been creating a permanent background that provided a cohesive unity for the various successive passages. Lovers of experimental prog (not exclusively RIO-heads) may feel captivated by this robust opener. I personally find the remaining repertoire not as outstanding as 'Epithalame', but it is not to be dismissed at all. 'Baboon's Blood' has a more recognizable motif for which the string ensemble assumes the leading role. The ambience is more somber, something like a soundtrack to a silent horror movie: the Expressionist airs are complemented by a weird chant, that stands somewhere between the ritualistic and the Dadaist. The 2-part 'Petite Messe a l'Usage des Pharmaciens' finds the band focused on the free-from use of massive electronic ambiences for the 'Offertoire' section; on the contrary, the 'Kyrie' section is more articulate, but not necessarily listener-friendlier, since the synth and piano motif is properly adorned by dissonant sonic streams on - violin and sax - and odd percussive punctuations. The other long track is 'A Drum, a Drum', which portrays a very tribal feel, as suggested by its peculiar title. This tribal atmosphere is not only provided by the percussive instruments and the ritualistic chanting, but also by the keyboards, sax, strings, sundry synth effects and lunatic narratives, which mostly give us the impression of a peculiar travel through the darkest corners of a wild jungle full of impending doom - potentially deadly safari! Although it's fair to say that the brief up- tempo motif that surfaces at minute 14 comes to show that AZ can also be fun. occasionally. Oddly enough (but hey, this is an Art Zoyd recording that we're talking about), the following number is the 'Intro´t' of 'Petite Messe': it is very Gothic in nature, an ambience effectively enhanced by the use of a keyboard-sampled choir. Finally, 'Unsex Me Here', despite the carnally violent implications of its title, stands as an eerie closure, as relaxing as AZ can be. In conclusion, "Berlin" is one of Art Zoyd's most accomplished works, and it's also a masterpiece of post-70s RIO.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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