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Paganotti/Paga Group - Paga CD (album) cover


Paganotti/Paga Group



4.16 | 18 ratings

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4 stars The Zeuhl you'll take home to introduce to your father.

Yesterday I wrote about perhaps the best way of entering the fusion territories with German act Aera, so today I thought I'd continue the trend and tell you guys how best and most comfortable to commence your voyage into the lands of Zeuhl. Uhuhuhhhuuuuuhuuhh I hear a lot of you thinking: Isn't it that bizarre music with the chanting and the made up vocals? To which I then say: Yes you're quite right, but it also contains a hell of a lot more - just like the symphonic genre here is more than Close to the Edge, - and I'm also pretty confident that every Canterbury act doesn't sound exactly the same. I can actually vouch for the sonic distinction between Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink and National Health's self-titled debut. In fact those albums don't even sound like Robert Wyatt's The End of an Ear either!?!!! So what the blue feck is going on here?

The thing is, that we use these boxes to circumnavigate this infinitely huge place, but every "genre" here has so many different aspects and sounds to it, that simply saying: Zeuhl huh? What a bummer - is like saying the exact same thing about Canterbury(I purposely chose two of our smaller boxes here, but the point is still valid).

Paga is the ideal starting place for those of you who want to sample this highly original brand of music, but without jumping off at the deep end with but a pair of fluffy loafers to fend off the monsters. Paga is actually a continuation of the French band called Weidorje, who like many around that time made one breathtaking album in the 70s. Bernard Paganotti who instigated this continuation drew a lot of pals from the old band with him such as Magma affiliates(just like himself actually) Patrick Gauthier and producer Laurent Thibault. One big happy family! There are reminders of Weidorje on Paga, but to this listener the end result here is another beast altogether.

This record is all about the bass. It's up front and in your face - wearing countless of different masquerades, but never out of place or overindulgent. Paganotti is along with Percy Jones maybe the most humble of all the great bass players. His style is very original, and conveying the true feel of this man's work takes me to a somewhat preposterous place, but then again I was never known for my acute logical sense: David Gilmour, and I know that sounds pretty confusing and deranged, but hear me out now. Gilmour always had this smooth way of playing - bending the strings with his butter fingers like he was making love to the damn thing, and call me crazy, but Paganotti truly feels like that with his suave and booming approach. In fact if you've heard the oozing bass section from Floyd's Hey You off The Wall (Yes- it was Gilmour playing there)- you'll probably have a pretty good idea as what to expect from this guy's playing. He pulls and contorts the individual notes with soft and gentle writhing techniques that sound like they are caressing the bass with a swarm a kisses and g-spot touches. Sometimes he uses a stick, but that only enhances the fluid and booming feel there is to his style. He just might be the musical equivalent to the deep water eel.

Backing this comfortable gentle bass creature up are muffled background guitars that hide away waaaayy back in the mix - along with pianos going from running boxing Lucky Luke sections into sombre ethereal spouts of utter beauty. Some warm mumbling jazzy Rhodes charm also frequently fills the airwaves in that ever so earthy way. Then you have the formidable and almost teutonic rumbling drum work, that whilst sounding nothing like Christian Vander - still possesses that rolling and tumbling quality to them - along with a deep bellowing power that blends brilliantly into the bass. Just like most of the Zeuhl albums I've heard, it's mostly about the manner in which these two instruments flow together. Occasionally the music here is treated to another trait of this marvellous style, which is the female lead choral bursts. These are far from the demonic chants of Magma, sounding sweeter and more like proper backing vocals. Just like the drums are inter webbed with the bass, the female emanations here often stick together with the wind section, which is constituted by trumpet, sax and flute. They support Paganotti's English vocals, that work surprisingly good for an album like this. Soft delicate fusion Zeuhl for the masses?

All of this is cooked up in what I'd personally deem a strange sauce for a Zeuhl outing, because what this album's production reminds me the most of, is in fact Marillion's Fugazi. Okay, maybe not entirely as 80s sounding, but it still has a slightly polished patina, that helps the overall picture I was going for, as the easy to get into Zeuhl album. Don't get me wrong though, it sounds nothing like Fugazi - and it hasn't got that plastic feel of an 80s release, but the comparison still stands.

There are many reasons as to why you should get this, but first and foremost: get it because it is a wonderful record. Second, it is chuck full of melodies, aural bass bliss - coming in many different shadings, such as the astonishing solo on the first cut Talk Black that sends chills down my spine and never fails to end in goosebumps on my arms. Or maybe the funk inspired sections he successfully kneads into the different tunes here will better persuade you? There are so many things about this album I adore, that I would think it strange, ludicrous and quite mental if I didn't share my affection for it - especially seeing how small of a gathering the Zeuhl brand has drawn in from the enormous prog armies out there in the big wide world. So come on people - let go of your prefabricated notions and have a taste of something out of the ordinary. Dinner is served!

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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