A Progressive Rock Sub-genre

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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaan, the language written by Christian Vander, drummer and founder of the French band Magma.

Pronunciation: zEU(h)l, while the EU are like a French E with a slight U, and the (h) is a semi-silent letter which is an integrated part of the EU, totaling in a "syllable and a half".

The word means celestial, although many times it is misunderstood as meaning "celestial music", since the members of Magma describe the genre of their music as Zeuhl. Zeuhl Wortz, though, means Music of the universal might.

The genre is a mixture of musical genres like Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Modernism and Fusion. Common elements: oppressive or discipline-conveying feel, marching themes, throbbing bass, an ethereal piano or Rhodes piano, and brass instruments.

Current team members (27/8/2014):
Steve (HolyMoly) ... team leader
Luca (octopus-4)
Ori (frippism)
Ian (Nogbad_The_Bad)

Zeuhl Top Albums

Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Zeuhl | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.30 | 685 ratings
4.30 | 486 ratings
4.24 | 366 ratings
4.19 | 396 ratings
4.27 | 149 ratings
4.34 | 100 ratings
Top, Jannick
4.20 | 252 ratings
4.24 | 134 ratings
4.13 | 310 ratings
4.14 | 263 ratings
4.49 | 41 ratings
Thibault, Laurent
4.10 | 355 ratings
4.04 | 325 ratings
4.14 | 92 ratings
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.32 | 37 ratings
Bondage Fruit
4.08 | 96 ratings
4.08 | 70 ratings
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.13 | 49 ratings
4.05 | 81 ratings
Eider Stellaire
4.71 | 12 ratings
Bringolf, Serge

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new

Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Zeuhl experts team

Seffer, Yochk'o
Happy Family

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Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews

 Slaǧ Tanƶ by MAGMA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
4.18 | 31 ratings

Slaǧ Tanƶ
Magma Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak

5 stars There are several things that set this album apart from other Magma albums that I have heard. First and foremost is the amazing cymbal play of drummer extraordinaire, Christian Vander. Second is the way in which Magma have refined and mastered their delivery format for their stories from the world of Kobaia. And third is the way in which the long-time band members have mastered and refined their vocal instruments: Stella Vander, Isabelle Feuillebois and Herv' Aknin (and even Klaus Blasquiz, who does not appear on this album) are simply astounding. They are solid as rocks. They are so seasoned that it is hard to discern any flaws in their work. It must be so nice for band leader, Christian Vander, to have such companion/collaborators who seem so unwavering in their support and who are so dedicated to this form of music, to the vision of their band leader, as well as to the betterment of their own skills. While I have to admit that I find Slag Tanz slightly less engaging than Magma's previous recent studio releases, however, I find it hard to rate any modern recording of Magma's with anything less than five stars because the composition, performances, and recording/engineering is so consistently strong (even though many of the compositions were composed decades ago and have been performed live for years). It is my strong opinion that we music listeners are so very privileged to have the recordings and concert performances of an artist with such strong and independent vision who always composes and performs at the absolute highest levels every time (and, of course, demands the same of his collaborators).
 Fanfare du Chaos by RHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.10 | 38 ratings

Fanfare du Chaos
Rhn Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I'm not even sure where to start with this one. It's so great though to see new Zeuhl bands popping up over the last five years or so. RHUN are out of France and out of their minds as well. Just look at the pictures in the liner notes of these guys and you'll see what I mean. It's basically made up of two different recording with the first three tracks consisting of 11 members and the last three songs with seven people participating. The cover art is so well done, it suits the music I feel which is dark and out there to say the least. Udi Koomran mastered this beast, but as far as the music goes we get horns, fuzzed out bass and distorted guitar along with a multitude of vocals including female.

"Toz" is interesting the way the vocals and instrumental work seem to mimic each other. Love the fuzzed out bass. Multi- vocals arrive in a frantic way before a calm with a horn and fuzzed out bass takes over. The horn turns dissonant as the drums pound. Back to the vocals as this band really comes off as being unstable. Guitar follows then we get this excellent section 3 minutes in that is intense to say the least with some killer guitar. It turns pleasant surprisingly, beautiful in fact and contrasts will continue. We get flute only 8 minutes in to the end which is a nice touch. "Intermud" is the shortest track at almost 3 minutes and is different from the rest as we get a Chamber-music styled piece. "Dunb" opens with a MAGMA-like heavy rhythm with deep male vocals. Catchy stuff. A calm with flute and a horn 2 minutes in. It kicks back in heavily before 3 1/2 minutes. Female vocals and heavy fuzzed out bass with frantic guitar follows. Another calm after 5 minutes then here we go again. It starts to slow down like a train before 7 minutes with vocals leading then it starts to pick up again and we get some manic spoken words.

"Bumlo" has a determined rhythm with horns over top and more. A calm after a minute with strange vocal sounds. Dissonant horns, guitar and more all start to build then the vocals join in. Insanity 5 minutes in especially with the horns and drums. I like the way "Mluez" begins with the drums and flute. Distorted guitar replaces the the flute then it settles with those zeuhlish vocals. Blasting horns and huge bass lines follow contrasted with the vocals. So much is going on 4 1/2 minutes in with the flute playing over top, then it turns heavy as demented vocals join in. "Ih" opens with sparse sounds but then it starts to turn intense especially the guitar before it settles right down with female vocals and horns as the drums continue. Male vocals and distorted guitar 3 1/2 minutes in as female vocals and horns continue. It picks up in pace and intensity around 5 1/2 minutes before settling right down with dissonant horns and female vocals to the end.

The future sure looks bright for this band. This is an adventerous Zeuhl album that pushes all the right buttons for me.

 Pallaschtom by RUINS album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.98 | 27 ratings

Ruins Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars And let the madness begin. Well that madness began in 1985 Japan when the overly energetic drummer and vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida (the only constant member) formed this zeuhl-gone-wild band with a single bassist. Apparently the guitarist didn't show up. The group has always simply been a duo and on this album we hear the fourth bassist of the series Sasaki Hisashi who tortures his 6-string bass like no other. This is extremely challenging music and certainly not for the faint of heart. One of the things the Japanese are great at is taking something classic from Western culture and taking it to the most extreme possible. Think of the Acid Mother's Temple and their beyond belief take on 60s psychedelia, well RUINS takes this same approach with Magma's zeuhl output of the 70s and to me this ninth album PALLASCHTOM sounds like what would happen if the noise rock / avant proggers Boredoms got together with an avant-garde extreme metal band like Psyopus or Behold...The Arctopus and really, really let loose with the Magma covers.

Think Naked City meets Magma here. Noise rock meets jazz-fusion and eclectic progressive rock. While the vocals tend to sound a lot like Christian Vander complete with squeals and recognizable Magma-esque zeuhl from classic albums, the music is on steroids. And coffee. And sugar. And speed, cocaine and then electrified. The drumming is often extreme blastbeats comparable to the absolute most extreme forms of metal. The time sigs are strangely odd- metered and there is so much start / stop time shifts that only the most determined can keep up with this sonic assault to the senses. Towards the end of this release are three cute little medleys that include different riffs from progressive rocks classics as well as classical music. This is my very first RUINS album but i am a glutton for this kind of punishment so it won't be my last. Don't expect anything remotely cute and fuzzy here. This is a pummeling hour's ride of the most intense speed-fest ever recorded with the most challenging time sigs possible. The vocals try to keep some melody in it all but it is akin to free improvisational jazz where every sound is on its own screaming tangent. Complexity for complexities sake. Noisy as hell because it can be done. Think of what you can imagine progressive punk doing Magma covers would sound like. Yeah, i love it!

 Prototype by SEFFER, YOCHK'O album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.00 | 1 ratings

Yochk'o Seffer Zeuhl

Review by pedestrian

— First review of this album —
3 stars Compared to "Adama" a few years prior, "Prototype" despite its title is a far more conventional jazz album (apparently the title stems from the fact that Seffer plays a prototype Selmer bass sax on the record, featured on the cover photo; indeed the album seems to have been sponsored by Selmer saxophones and may have been some sort of demonstration record, who knows).

At this stage the music of Yochk'o Seffer has no more than a nodding acquaintance with the Zeuhl scene that made Seffer, well, if not famous then at least a name recognised by a few dozen. Only in some of the quick unison movements such as on "Sod" can we hear some remnants of the precipitous stuff so abundant on the Neffesh-Music albums, and the acoustic double bass work here is jazz through and through, and is worlds apart from the trademark electric Zeuhl bass.

On "Prototype" Seffer has assempled a standard jazz trio of sax, double bass and drums played by Americans Barre Phillips and Barry Altschul, respectively. A few of the tracks furthermore sports a violin (played by Debora Seffer) and on a couple of works we also hear a cimbalom playing what would conventionally be the piano part. Never one for conventional sounds, Seffer, who plays saxophones on 4 different sizes from bass to sopranino on this record as well as bass clarinette. The muscicianship is first rate, as always on Seffer's albums, and some arrangements are quirky and interesting such as the long duette between double bass and bass saxophone on "Ritual performance" starting out as a unison, heading into a dancing galloping competition, before converging again. Also typical of Seffer's music is to draw on Hungarian folk music for inspiration, something that's probably easier to hear on "Prototype" than his earlier albums where the compositions were so convoluted as to disguise its indivitdual elements.

There is the danger of getting saxophone overdose here, though, especially during the final tune "Solo for Seguie" which is just a 7 minute unaccompanied alto sax solo. That said, seveal tracks are pretty straight up and down contemporary jazz with a hint of free jazz here and there, and while a very safe purchase if you're enthused by saxophone driven contemporary jazz, it shows less of the mind-blowing invention and compositional ingenuity of the Neffesh-Music albums or "Adama", which are my points of reference.

 Adama by SEFFER, YOCHK'O album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.00 | 2 ratings

Yochk'o Seffer Zeuhl

Review by pedestrian

4 stars This album (the CD version) is listed twice on Progarchives, both as an album and a compilation. Basically, it's a CD reissue with a bonus track ("Ima"), but the order of the original 7 tracks has been changed, and so has the cover artwork. Moreover, the title is changed from "Adama" to "Adama Ima", and to top it off, the cover notes from 1995 completely fail to mention that these recordings were made 9 years earlier. I've had to go to Seffer's homepage and do some detective work on whether it is in fact the same recording. It is, apparently, although I don't have the LP version to check. Ascertaining the provenance of the extra track "Ima" required another bit of detective work (more on that later).

Adama is a grand project, because it unites (for the first time, according to the liner notes) all 7 saxophones from sopranino to contrabass at the same time on a single album. All played by Seffer. And as if that doesn't make for a rich enough spectrum of reed horns for you, on the tracks "Trablair" and "Ima" Yochk'o also plays 6 sonic sculptures which he designed and fabricated himself. To enjoy this album, in other words, you need to like saxophones, and lots of them. That said, Seffer really pushes the instruments to the boundaries of what they can do, employing them in unsusual ways. Having got his hands on the extremely rare contrabass saxophone (which he poses with on the cover), he realised that the mechanical noise from the keywork was loud enough to have nice percussive properties in its own right. To call some of his arrangements non-standard would not be exaggerating: for example "La danse des ferrailleurs" is a piece for 3 contrabass saxophones and one baritone. Tell me you've heard that before...

Mind you: this is not a Zeuhl album by any stretch of the imagination, even though bits and pieces of the Zeuhl esthetic is evident. What style to call this music, though, I'm not so sure. I guess it goes in the contemporary jazz shelf somewhere. Nevertheless, Adama Ima should appeal to proggers who have a stomach for Zeuhl and RIO/avant-garde.

The highlights on the album for me are the two last tracks, "Trablair" and "Ima", which feature Seffer's musical sculptures as well as a 9-voice "choir" (all sung by Seffer). Treblair is extremely intense, and the effect of all the saxophones, sonic sculptures and ghostly voices is jolly insane! One of the most inspiring pieces of music I've heard. "Ima" on the other hand, moves slowly through several phases, in a long prayer. A 19 minute version of "Ima" was released as side B of the 1976 album by Neffesh Music of the same name. Confusingly, this version is longer, and it turns out it is a different version incorporating elements of the track "Ghilgoul" from the album by that name. It features the trademark string section of Neffesh Music who add a beautiful ambience; I particularly like the pizzicato cello work from about 16 minutes. All the way through the music twists and turns through various moods, carrying a single long long tenor sax solo most of the way through. Truly inspired. Why these strings players are not credited in the album cover I can't fathom. Another case of lack of information which gives being a Yochk'o Seffer that element of detective work.

According to some liner notes written for the original LP which featured 7 tracks, Seffer was inspired by Kabbalistic symbolism and the number 7, with 7 tracks featuring 7 saxophones symbolising the 7 days of creation. I find it hard to reconcile this with the fact that the order of the tracks was changed for the re-issue, though. Either way, serious thought has gone into the compositions here, each of which is even accompanied by a painting (also by Seffer himself). What the liner notes do state about interpretation of this work is that "Adama" -- "Earth" in Hebrew -- and "Ima" -- "Mother" in Hebrew and "Prayer" in Hungarian, unites to become "The prayer of Mother Earth".

In summary, this is really amazing music, and very awarding if you are willing to spend the time and energy delving into it. But it's definitely not for everyone; I guess most people would get saxophone overdose pretty quickly. But if you like some avant-garde and contemporary jazz you will swallow this whole.

 Eros by DN album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.24 | 366 ratings

Dn Zeuhl

Review by GKR

5 stars As a flute maniac as I am... this is heaven!

Complete melodies driven the sound, few sparce notes completing bridges, all in a the wacky structure that only the Zeuhl genre can provide. A bit jazzy, but already something else. The percussion was another element that knock me off when I heard the album. The mixture of so many equipment did not polluted the ambient - as space was given to this section, no instrument compete with each other. Every one have their chance to practice and then everyone get back together. It flow back and forwards.

I'am no speciallist in Zeuhl (in fact, I'am starting this journey), but hey, I know what I like, and this album is absolutely fantastic.

 Noce Chimique by SEFFER, YOCHK'O album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2011
4.92 | 4 ratings

Noce Chimique
Yochk'o Seffer Zeuhl

Review by pedestrian

5 stars "Noce Chimique" is one of three CD reissues of Neffesh-Music by Musea and is nothing short of a fantastic album (if you can call it that). It seems to consist of side B of the "Ima" album from 1977, one track ("Orkana") from the 1976 "Delir'" album, 4 tracks recorded in 1981 which I can't find on any of the listed albums (I can't guarantee that the recordings are the same as on these albums, since the cover sheet does not say it explicitly). Finally there is a great live recording of "Sifra" from the unbelievably fantastic "Ghilgoul" album featuring improvisations from a guest pianist and violinist. According to the cover sleeve these two (absolutely amazing) musicians told Seffer minutes before going on stage that "we just can't play "Sifra" -- it's too difficult!". So Seffer told them "I'll play the piano part and you guys just improvise". The result is extremely intense, absolutely baffling and perhaps the highlight for me even though it's just two pianos and a violin.

How to describe this music? Well, different tracks have different line-ups here, so the following will not fit absolutely all of it, but basically Neffesh-Music consisted of a fusion style rhythm section, Seffer on piano and saxophones and a string quartette. If you are familiar with, say "Dense" from the Univers Zero album "Ceux de Dehors" you'll have an idea of how the strings are used: fast movements, close harmonies and very rhythmically complex. Add to that a fusion groove, often bafflingly precipitous with some amazing bass work from Dominique Bertram, and you have an idea.

The rhythm section work and the use of vocal chanting places several of the tracks in the Zeuhl genre (although this music defies categorisation, really). The sound changes throughout, as does the instrumentation (for example "Orkana" features some prominent synth work), but the constant is extreme intensity, technically breathtaking performances throughout, and compositions which will reveal new facets even on the hundreth listen. Of course it comes with the usual warning that it's not for the faint of heart, but then you probably shouldn't be checking out Zeuhl in the first place... If it's not yet impossible to get hold of (some of Seffer's works are, sadly), get a copy right now before it's too late!

 Rituale Alieno by UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.08 | 70 ratings

Rituale Alieno
Universal Totem Orchestra Zeuhl

Review by pedestrian

3 stars I must admit to being slightly disappointed by this album. Let me hasten to say that it's not bad by any means, and contains several really rather interesting passages. And yet, for an album in the Zeuhl category I expect more compositional ingeniuity than what I can find on "Rituale Alieno". 3 stars is a good score though, so if the rest sounds negative it's perhaps partly because pretty much every other review is over the moon about this album whereas my position is slightly sub-lunar.

To call it Zeuhl is, I'd say, about half accurate. About half the album could, at a stretch, fit in with what I think of as Zeuhl, and the rest is mainly some form or other of dark symphonic prog with a very heavy synth presence.

My main problem with this album is that all the songs are composed by what I call the Lego brick method. Each of the lengthy track consists of a series of chunks of music of 2-3 minutes each which are stuck together like Lego bricks with little or nothing in common and no apparent reason why they should belong together. Now I can't rule out the chance that there is somthing I'm missing, but to me it sounds like bits of music have been added to the pile until they thought "that's enough for one song".

The kind of sound UTO create is all over the place on this record, which is probably a deliberate choice but doesn't work for me. Even if the synthesizer can make hundreds of sounds, it's not necessarily a good idea to use them all. Also the guitar work frequently veers into metal territory, which I find annoying in this context, while much of the music is tonally not that interesting. You come to expect some nice experimental tonality from Zeuhl, but especially some of the solos on this album are really rather ordinary and uninterested if you're used to Zeuhl or even contemporary jazz.

On the whole, not a bad effort at all, but certainly no Zeuhl classic in my book.

 Slaǧ Tanƶ by MAGMA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
4.18 | 31 ratings

Slaǧ Tanƶ
Magma Zeuhl

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

4 stars Deranged, overwhelming and pulsing with dark intent and ferocious intensity, Magma's `Slaǧ Tanƶ' is a twenty-one minute epic that leader Christian Vander and his Zeuhl brethren have been performing and refining live since 2009. Once again delivered in the Kobian language, it's brimming with the expected Magma ferocity and carefully executed musicianship, another bewildering extended piece that seamlessly weaves dark musical themes and intricate male/female vocal complexity together. It's exhausting in its shadowy, stalking ferocity yet reveals little fleeting traces of that impossibly beautiful, heartfelt delicateness that only Magma can balance so well.

Creeping from it's very first second, spectral piano and murmuring bass lurks behind skittering jazzy drum patters hiding dark intent waiting to be unleashed. Infernal choirs wail, each rapturous vocal proclamation returned with a crushing beat and discordant piano stabs. Trickles of electric piano, spirited female scat vocal interjections and dreamy sighs are merely a sickening tease of light and release. Pleading, comforting, swooning voices are consumed by heavy guitar snarls and thrashing drum spasms behind dank repetitive maddening bass bile that comes up in your throat. Shrieking mind-breaking maddening chants over infernal devilish piano wickedness drags you further into in the dirt, as despondent staccato piano over gothic drones finally slams the coffin lid closed.

Don't be alarmed by the seemingly short running time - this is an exhausting, draining experience that is completely paralysing, so full of intricate little details and complex variety that you could spend a lifetime trying to figure it all out. While this lacks the joyous gospel sophistication of their stunning previous work ` Flicit Thsz' (excluding the recent re- recording of an earlier work with `Rah Sahltaahk'), this is a return to the true dark side of Magma, sure to please the disciples of the most challenging works of this musical cult.

Hypnotic, powerful and more dynamic, complex and inspired than ever, over forty years into their career, and still no one can come close to offering the sort of intense experience Magma brings.

Four stars.

 Attahk by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.68 | 261 ratings

Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars The musical times were a-changin' and even the Kobaians were influenced by the heavy gravitational forces of the music industry. MAGMA had broken up for a year after "D ẀD" but Christian Vander decided to resurrect the band two years later with an entirely different lineup and with it an entirely different sound. Out of the thirteen musicians and vocalists to be on the previous album, only Vander himself, vocalist Klaus Blasquiz, vocalist Lisa Bois and keyboardist Benot Widemann returned for the sixth MAGMA album ATTAHK. Out were Bernard Paganotti and Patrick Gauthier who left to form Weidorje as well as the enigmatic Jannick Top whose contribution was seemingly irreplaceable and the musical cast has been trimmed down to a mere eight performers. This is a strange album in the MAGMA discography as it seems utterly disjointed from the rest (still haven't heard "Merci" though.) Gone are many of the complexities from the first few albums and gone are the interesting developments of "D ẀD" and instead what we do get is a more watered down version of zeuhl mixed with a lot of more accessible musical styles.

A lot of this is a matter of personal taste, of course, but i just don't find this album as enchanting as the rest. Kobaian music, after all, isn't supposed to be designed for Earthly consumption. It is supposed to be alien and take you somewhere you never considered. ATTAHK never seems like it is going anywhere specific and randomly lollygags through a rather MAGMA-by-the-numbers approach of shortened takes on previous albums. Take the first track "The Last Seven Minutes" for example. What we get here is a zeuhlish take on funk where it sounds like Vander is trying to take his vocals to new levels. After several minutes of this funky zeuhl we get some of his most intense screeches and high pitched squeals ever. The only problem with this for me is that it ends up sounding like a cross between the high falsettos of Prince from the "Lovesexy" album mixed with the trills of an orgasmic Edith Piaf. It seems incessant at the end and i am left wondering just what he had in mind with this one.

For some reason i'm just not keen on this simplified version of MAGMA. I am hardly against pop music and when progressive pop works for whatever reason i am quite receptive but this album drifts hither and tither without developing those elements sufficiently. That said, this album isn't totally without its merits. It's really the first two tracks that turn me off totally, but starting with "Rind" (which would be stolen and incorporated into "mhntht-R" like tracks from other MAGMA albums) the pace picks up and although the tracks are short, sweet and to the point they at least sound more within the Kobaian universe of intergalactic Top 40 hits at least. There will be many familiar elements from the past only embellished with much more Vander falsetto squeals laced with healthy doses of funk, R&B, gospel and pop elements. My favorite track on here is the closing "Nono" which has a bass worthy of the departed Jannick Top being on board.

This is an album that is hard for me to get excited about but is an ok listen when all is said and done. Just expect a MAGMA lite and you won't be too disappointed. Definitely one of the weaker albums in the discography but this is MAGMA after all and even the bottom of the barrel has a lot of interest and worthy of adding to any collection. I personally like the album cover a lot but despite its ber-hipness by H.R. Giger, the music just doesn't measure up to the expectations i had for it. As good as some of these tracks are it isn't quite the otherworldliness that the Kobaians have been so adept in spoiling us with. This MAGMA stream isn't exactly a steaming hot pyroclastic flow of originality laced with Kobaian litanies of tales of extraterrestrial phenomena but hardly a throwaway album either.

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTAS France
ANAID France
ARKHAM Belgium
CORIMA United States
DN France
GA'AN United States
MAGMA France
NEOM France
NOA France
PSEU France
RHN France
SETNA France
XING SA France
ZAO France
ZWO YLD France

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