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ZEUHL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaïan, 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.

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Zeuhl Top Albums


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

4.32 | 754 ratings
MËKANÏK DËSTRUKTÏẁ KÖMMANDÖH
Magma
4.27 | 532 ratings
K.A
Magma
4.25 | 398 ratings
EROS
Dün
4.28 | 170 ratings
4 VISIONS
Eskaton
4.19 | 421 ratings
ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ
Magma
4.19 | 276 ratings
ẀURDAH ÏTAH (CHRISTIAN VANDER)
Magma
4.50 | 51 ratings
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RÊVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
4.17 | 300 ratings
FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ
Magma
4.23 | 145 ratings
WEIDORJE
Weidorje
4.13 | 331 ratings
1001° CENTIGRADES
Magma
4.10 | 375 ratings
KÖHNTARKÖSZ
Magma
4.18 | 112 ratings
INFERNAL MACHINA
Top, Jannick
4.04 | 356 ratings
MAGMA (KOBAÏA)
Magma
4.15 | 99 ratings
THE MAGUS
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.31 | 41 ratings
BONDAGE FRUIT II
Bondage Fruit
4.08 | 99 ratings
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
4.08 | 74 ratings
RITUALE ALIENO
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.06 | 87 ratings
EIDER STELLAIRE I
Eider Stellaire
4.10 | 64 ratings
GUÉRISON
Setna
4.60 | 16 ratings
VISION
Bringolf, Serge

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

BONDAGE FRUIT I
Bondage Fruit
NEFFESH MUSIC :GHILGOUL
Seffer, Yochk'o
C'ÉTAIENT DE TRÈS GRANDS VENTS
Shub-Niggurath
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RÊVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent

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Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews


 Alternate Flash Heads by ONO, RYOKO album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.10 | 2 ratings

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Alternate Flash Heads
Ryoko Ono Zeuhl

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Neo Teams

3 stars So sorry to hear you're pressed by hard saxophone business Ryoko. ;)

This bizarre album "Alternate Flash Heads" is filled with 99 short improvised sound shots created with saxophone plays by Ryoko in collaboration with a stormy drummer Talow. 99 tracks is the maximum for entry to one CD disc (but sadly less than AxCx's 5643 songs EP lol) and quite swift saxophone play by Ryoko is awesome indeed (and amazingly precisely harmonized with Talow's drumming woohoo) but, by the way, less violent than AxCx naturally (just kidding).

Anyway such a musical strategy like launching another musical atmosphere by every shuffle play upon this CD. In an album titled "No World Order" (1993) by Todd RUNDGREN the same method as above has been adopted over twenty years before. I've got surprised at such a novelty in musical digital world, and Ryoko's creation formed with 99 explosive tracks has reminded me of the amazement in those days, and notified me of another fresh impression for her creation.

Each of her terrific "saxplosion" can be called as a variation of symmetry (including a strange song title), and her "variations" should be basically different from other ones e.g. in the classic music scene. And her saxophone appearances in the whole album are pretty colourful ... in some tracks she snarls against the audience, in other she sounds a tad sensitive, and sometimes launches addictive tonic winks on a regular basis. To shuffle 99 tracks randomly is not bad really but at least for me listening to them just in order should be better.

Dunno if you know but this album sleeve might be drawn with homage to YES' "Time And A Word" released in Japan, that's another interest.

 Üdü Ẁüdü by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 324 ratings

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Üdü Ẁüdü
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Welcome to a strange, grotesque, and musical alien world. It's a place where bouncing melodies, fat bass fuzz, and weird keyboard textures interplay to create songs that will make you smirk, tap your foot, and scratch your head all at once. Welcome to Üdü Ẁüdü.

This is my first Magma record; in fact, it's my first listen to the "zeuhl" genre here on Prog Archives, and it was an entertaining experience. Üdü Ẁüdü is weird while retaining melody, and moves at a fine pace through mostly upbeat songs that are packed with music and musical sounds. You'll boomerang from dancing rhythms to open-ended a breezy passages that feel improvised. The sound, instrumentation, and vibe fits right in with the '70's prog scene, though Magma's voice is literally a unique one, because all of the lyrics are nonsense words created by the band's founder. They're quirky, but they work, and really do make it feel like you're walking among aliens listening to their off- kilter pop music.

From a song writing perspective there's not much here to grab you, in part because of the overall feeling of mystery or ooky spooky vibes the band creates. This is accomplished by the instrumental work, which is great. There's moments of Zappa-like orchestration and flippancy, but for the most part this Magma album is all about keys, drums, and bass... bass especially, with a near-constant stream of off-kilter lines and experimentation to enjoy. For me, this album isn't about the songs, it's the effect. A lot sounds ad-libbed, giving Üdü Ẁüdü a jam session-like quality. The downside of this is that there isn't much variety, as the equal parts prog/jazz/funk/Tralfamadorian folk sort of blend together throughout the experience.

Creative and entertaining, Üdü Ẁüdü outdoes a handful of shortcomings to become a lot of fun. Recommended for those seeking a good dose of weirdness in their classic prog collection, especially bass lovers like me.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

 Merci by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.52 | 166 ratings

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Merci
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

2 stars Wow! Is this MAGMA or Earth, Wind & Fire? Christian Vander, are you there somewhere?!! Did the Kobaians beam you all back up to your planet? Or did they implant those dreaded disco soul chips in you again. What can we think of the most hated album in the MAGMA discography. After the excellent run of originality and channeling of otherworldly forces that lasted from their debut in 1970 to "Üdü Wüdü' in 1976, it seems even advanced technology could not help the Kobaians hold back the backlash that dethroned progressive leaning music of the early 70s. While some bands like King Crimson were wise enough to call it a day before the great shift, others who stuck around found themselves watering down their output album by album, whittling away their loyal fan bases and becoming shallow caricatures of their innovative glory years.

Even the Kobains succumbed to these pressures as heard on the watered down "Attahk" in 1978, add to that the financial pressures of operating such a huge number of musicians on board with an ever chaining cast of members and it's really not hard to imagine the temptation to dummy down the innovations and go for the gold in the highly profitable pop music world of the 80s. Perhaps a good idea at the time but considering this is a whole different band of musicians on board (at least 25!), Vander could have had the decency to at least release this under a different moniker that wouldn't tarnish the image of one of the 70s' most unique forces in the prog world. After six years of inactivity the album was a hodgepodge of tracks recorded throughout the early 80s and at this point Vander was bored with the whole MAGMA thing anyway and after the release of MERCI would suspend activities with the band and focus on his jazz-fusion oriented Offering albums.

"Call From The Dark" begins the album and after a few tinkles of some strings and immediately begins what sounds like something you would hear on a disco soul album around 1979 leaving a first time listener accustomed to all the zeuhlisciousness of previous MAGMA offerings totally bewildered and just a few notes away from pumping out "Boogie Wonderland." While the music itself is perfectly decent for that type of sound, complete with beautiful vocals, a horn section to die for and a nice booty shakin' rhythmic section, it's like whoa!!! Is this MAGMA? WTF?

The second track "Otis" is less danceable and at least has a faint trace of the vocal trade offs of Vander and female vocalists from the past, but this song is particularly weak although perhaps acceptable for aging Kobaians in nursing homes or doctor's offices. Vander's screams in the middle sound like a mating cat and totally out of step with this mellow repetitive soul music. "Do The Music" is a rather strange little track as it sounds like zeuhl is battling it out with disco leaving the listener with no clear winner but admittedly a unique experiment that does make me think of going to the disco on Kobaia! I mean, they need to get a little light now and again too! "Otis (ending)" is a gospel sounding organ track with Vander screeching. Hmmm. No comment.

The one long track on here "Eliphas Levi" is the anomaly. It actually feels more like the zeuhl music we were expecting albeit more serene, pacified and stripped down in both instrumentation and feel. It does however have those ratcheting vocal deliveries that build in repetition accompanied by piano and percussion. This one is actually pretty enjoyable although very much on simmer as opposed to the full intense pyroclastic flow MAGMA usually delivers as the track drags on for over eleven minutes and feels like it never gets up to expected speed. The vocals are quite pleasant though and this is probably the best track on board and has a pleasant complex interchange at the end.

The album ends with the appropriately titled "The Night We Died" suggesting a now neutered MAGMA calling it a day and throwing in the towel. This is basically a sombre piano ballad with the Kobain females singing in unison. Overall i end with the same impression as i began. WTF? This would be perfectly good music for the most part for a Motown act trying to revive their career although a little unfocused but this MAGMA! Those who are held to a higher standard of complexity and innovative incremental progression as well as a higher energy level. This album is too mellow for its own good with the most energetic track sounding like a Michael Jackson B-side with Earth, Wind & Fire backing it up. Nothing on here is bad per se but for a band that carved its own niche in music and continued to ratchet it up album by album, this is surely a let down. After hearing this, it's very hard to believe they would come back stronger than ever 20 years down the road. 2.5 rounded down

 Neffesh Music: Délire by SEFFER, YOCHK'O album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.14 | 5 ratings

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Neffesh Music: Délire
Yochk'o Seffer Zeuhl

Review by pedestrian

4 stars It is a minor tragedy (which could be easily rectified) that Yochk'o Seffer's Neffesh-Music albums from the late 70s have not been re-released in a coherent form. Unless you're ready to spend huge amounts of time and money tracking down and buying the now rare LP releases, it's really only the third album "Ghilgoul" that's available. On CD, the tracks "Heart", "Jonetsu for Judith" and "Delire" are found on the Musea compilation "My Old Roots", and "Orkana" is on the compilation "Noce Chimique" as well as the release called only "Neffesh Music" from Moshé-Naim. As far as I've been able to ascertain, the tracks "Streledzia" and "Ima (1ere partie)" have not been released on CD, although the latter appears to be the introduction to the 20-minute piece "Ima" which covered the whole A-side of the next album, "Ima".

Anyway, the first of the Neffesh albums is a little different from the two next ones, in that it features no bass guitar and also very little drums (only "Heart" and "Orkana" feature drumming by Zao bandmate Truong). For this reason there is much less of the jazz fusion feel which is so prominent at times on "Ghilgoul", and the Univers Zero-style chamber rock is a closer reference. It is arguably the least Zeuhl-like of the three for this reason.

Opener "Heart" is a stand-out track. It sets out boldly with a staccato figure performed by drums, strings and piano. Much precipitous string work follows before an almost anthem-like melody sets in with piano and tenor sax in unison, later also overdubbed with Seffer's otherworldly falsetto singing. This bit reminds me strongly of VdGG's "Killer", but it doesn't last. Instead the music suddenly sets off in a different tempo, and a solo duel occurs between Seffer on tenor sax and Seffer on mini-moog, accompanied by drums and...yup Seffer on piano. All of a sudden Stravinsky is nowhere in sight, and we're in free jazz land.

"Jonetsu for Judith" opens with jazz chords and tenor sax, and if it weren't for the mini-moog bass you'd be forgiven for thinking we're in more standard modern jazz for a little while. Seffer really gets to show his absolutely improbable technical ability on the saxophone here, a true son of Coltrane in style and texture. The string quartet is reduced to playing chords here. The result is a kind of eerie and somewhat unsettling landscape which is such a trademark of Seffer's more recent work (not least the "String Orchestra" album), and it really works well here because it's only the single track. In the last minute of the track, the music suddenly builds over a pretty groovy cello and mini-moog bass figure with some cymbals, and I'm thinking "wow, this is getting cool", but then the song is suddenly over just when things were really picking up. Pity.

"Orkana" is another highlight, featuring prominent mini-moog contrasting the rigid and claustrophobic piano chords. After several radical tempo changes the piece ends with an out-of-control mini-moog solo over frenetic drumming, presumably illustrating the song's title.

The short track "Streledzia" -- named after the bird of paradise flower -- I really enjoy. It's a light and beautiful piece led by a soaring melody on sopranino sax with string section and what sounds like bass sax beneath (which is funny, since only "tenor sax", of which there is no sign, is stated on the LP cover). "Bird of paradise" (without the flower) might have been a better title, because I can very much imagine the bird's dance to this music. The piece is interesting because it's structure is sort of inverted: it starts with strings and two saxes, and then the instruments fall off one by one, leaving the sopranino pretty much alone for the last minute. Normally you'd build it up, rather than take apart, but Seffer's not one to care for conventions.

The title track "Deliré" presumably tries to communicate a sense of delirium, and does so effectively. This piece is pretty inaccessible and very, very dense, with very close string quartet chords set against Seffer alternating between tenor sax and piano, occasionally overdubbed with his distinctive high-pitched vocals doubling the melodic themes. If you're a fan of Shostakovitch and free jazz you will enjoy "Deliré", although in honesty this track could be too much even for many hardy listeners. To be honest, I personally enjoy this track the least. Might be something for the most ardent RIO fans out there, and it's certainly unique.

Only a little bit of "Ima" is included here, as a taster for the upcoming album by that title (the LP cover states as much). It is a unique piece and very ethereal, notable for introducing (for the first time?) Seffer's self-made "sonic sculptures", twisted and wierd looking pipeworks with a saxophone mouthpiece attached (I think) which make very odd sounds indeed. No less than 4 bass clarinette tracks have been added as well, and Seffer's vocals multitracked into a ghostly choir. "Eerie" doesn't begin to do this justice. On top of all this runs a loooong tenor sax solo. Absolutely amazing, or possibly absolutely unlistenable, you decide.

In all a superb album, although not quite reaching the soaring heights of "Ghilgoul" or side B of "Ima" quite as consistently.

 Archaïa by ARCHAIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.20 | 36 ratings

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Archaïa
Archaia Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars ARCHAIA were a three piece band out of France who were influenced by MAGMA yet sound nothing like them. Yes there is a resemblance with the vocals(at times) but these guys put a unique spin on Zeuhl if that's what you want to call this. Two of the guys play synths which is what makes this different. We get spacey synths, almost theremin-like synths but also growly ones too. The guitar is often distorted or high pitched but again different and there are no drums but there is percussion. The bass is excellent too by the way. The music is dark and adventerous, it's what I would call innovative.

"Soleil Noir" opens with the sound of children along with strange sounds that slowly pulse and hover before this train-like rhythm arrives replacing both. Spacey synths join in and then vocals that remind me of AQUASERGE. Some raw guitar replaces the vocals but the vocals are back as they trade off. It ends like they began. "L'arche Des Mutations" reminds me of HARMONIA with those higher pitched sounds as the bass pulses. Vocal melodies before 1 1/2 minutes then these high pitched crazy synths take over along with lower ones that hum. The vocal melodies are back then spoken words before it kicks into gear with distorted guitar, vocals and synths. A calm then the guitar lights it up after 3 1/2 minutes as the bass pulses. Vocals are back as themes are repeated. It's really spacey before 5 minutes with synths then whispered words around 6 1/2 minutes. I like the guitar 8 minutes in as it starts to build, vocal melodies too. Spoken words turn to yelling. Intense.

"Sur Les Trances Du Vieux Roy" has these synths that hum as vocal melodies join in along with sounds that pulse and echo. Percussion joins in. It settles back. This is so cool. "La Roue" has deep bass sounds, percussion and growly synths. Laughter comes and goes in this very unique sounding piece. "Le Festin Du Lion Vert" is an uptempo track with both vocal melodies and vocals as sounds beat and pulse. A calm before 2 minutes with vocal melodies reminding me of MAGMA. There's a Navajo vibe that comes in as we get chanting and percussion to the end.

"Massa Confusa" has a haunting intro with intricate sounds and water splashing. Some spoken words here as well before we hear a scream 2 minutes in as the soundscape turns eerie. The water sounds are back. "Le Grand Secret" has spacey synths, bass, percussion, vocal sounds and guitar expressions. The spoken vocals before 1 1/2 minutes are brief as vocal melodies take over with bass, synths and percussion. Some brief spoken words are back at 2 1/2 minutes then the vocal melodies are back late. "Vol Du Phenix" features percussion, bass and high pitched guitar to start. This is almost catchy. It changes before 2 minutes as spacey synths and picked guitar take over. It sounds like cars driving by to end it.

I don't usually comment on bonus tracks but these three are from 1978 and were recorded live in Paris and they are fantastic. We do get actual drums on the final two tracks plus keys too. "Armaggedon" is very zeuhlish with the chanting and bass as it builds. It changes big time before 2 1/2 minutes with these haunting voices overwelming the previous soundscape until all you hear is the voices. So cool. "Robots Dans Le Formol" has a killer rhythm to it with vocal expressions and spoken words. It's intense a minute in with those powerful synths replacing the vocals. Keys join the rhythm 1 1/2 minutes in. The synths stop as the vocals return. Themes are repeated. "Chthonos" has a catchy beat of drums and bass with guitar expressions and synths.

This was an absolute pleasure and without question one of my favourites from 1977.

 Archaïa by ARCHAIA album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.20 | 36 ratings

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Archaïa
Archaia Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars ARCHAIA was one of those bands that emerged from the lysergic ethers of the tripped out mid-70s, released one album and then returned to the other dimension from whence they came. The band was from Paris, France and the members were self-proclaimed fans of Magma and wanted to create a totally new style of zeuhl and on their one and only eponymous release, they managed to do just that. This is one of those very, very, very weird albums that is so tripped out that it even appears on the Nurse With Would list. Weird it is and that's why i love it soooooo much!

While categorized officially as zeuhl, this is no Magma clone in any way. This is a bizarre hybrid of psychedelic symphonic rock, progressive electronic and of course the Kobaian rhythmic charm that allows it to be catalogued in the zeuhl family. One of the strangest aspects of ARCHAIA is that there are no traditional rock drums involved at all however there is percussion in the form of chimes, bells, other metal things and tribal sounding drums used sparingly throughout the 38:44 long freakfest.

What we get here is Michel Munier's convincing Jannick Top inspired bass line that gives the album a rhythmic zeuhl skeletal form and sprinkled around these beefy rhythms are Heldon inspired spastic keyboard runs and electronic freak outs of Philippe Bersan who also delivers some seriously haunted vocals. Even though the lyrics are in French this actually sounds way more alien than Magma's fictitious language. While the symphonic keyboards, zeuhl bass and electronic trippiness are the major players in this wild world we are also treated to occasional psychedelic guitar runs that would feel right at home on any Steve Hillage recording only in addition to the echoey notes reverberating into multi-dimensional forms, there are healthy doses of bizarre glissando guitar slides as well as stringed freak outs as well.

While the rhythms march on, guitars and keyboards creep in and out of the picture and slowly build up higher intensity while strange angelic Tarzan type calls bellow from the brume of the misty mound of sonic pile ups. This is really an odyssey through odd world. As the album progresses from beginning to end we are treated to fluttering electronica, Arachnoid inspired spookiness, hypnotic musical motifs and off-kilter zeuhl rhythms that pulsate like squids in the turbulent seas while bursts of vocalizations surround the wake and guitar riffs zigzag about.

I would classify this much more as psychedelic space rock or more appropriately space zeuhl that takes the listener on a wild crazy ride through a private musical universe that remains a mere blip in the musical world of 1977. While the album has has the feel of a religious cult's prayer service complete with a chanted type of vocal style, fuzzed out freakiness, dark and chilling atmospheres and a feel of a bizarre world where even the Residents would feel at home, ARCHAIA managed to boil down a lot of ingredients into a cauldron of creative amalgamation which successfully creates the freakiest fusionfest i've ever heard. This is indeed the promised soundtrack for lysergic ghosts haunting alien soundscapes. One of my favorite albums actually. Recommended. 4.5 rounded UP!

 Sons - Document 1973 - Le Manor by VANDER, CHRISTIAN album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Sons - Document 1973 - Le Manor
Christian Vander Zeuhl

Review by CrimsonComus

— First review of this album —
3 stars Improvisation, percussion, all covered by a Magma-esque feel. It is not essential. But I wouldn't deem it for collectors only, since it is something so different and outstanding in its own sense. I'll proceed to make my argument. Also, first review for me here. I've been a constant visitor of Progarchives for the past 7 years or so. But never found something where I considered my first review to be of importance. Hence this rare album being the subject of it.

This extended improvisation is something that not everyone is going to appreciate. It's is Magma's most raw and violent display of expression, with no clear line defined musically, neither melodically nor rhythmically. But I find it interesting and appealing, if you are particularly fond of improvisational jazz. Especially one where screams, B horror movies' howling and lots of percussive jamming are most prominent; then you'll really like this. It is a very experimental piece. The bass clarinet, which I thought was a sax at first, also contributes towards the cacophonous and quasi atonally dissonant atmosphere that this 70 minute percussive madness has to offer. Towards the last half hour, the organ starts to play a larger role in the background thread of music, that helps keep together the concatenation of drums and percussion, along with the howls, hollers and bellows that appear every now and then. The ending section is an interesting (or curious) repetitive, mantra-like sounds and rhythms that ends on a rhythmic drummed crescendo that fades out really quickly.

It is a wonderful piece, in its crazy improvisational anything-goes sense. It is different and daring. A challenge to listen to, and not one that may give out its rewards the moment you finish it. it is quite a journey, and I like imagining Christian Vader and Co. as they were performing the jam. How fun it must have been to do this kind of thing, and have people listen to you.

In conclusion, this is definitely not the place to start listening to Magma or any of the artists related to this. It is something different. And should be listened as that. Good, but non-essential seems appropriate, since it is a unique piece of musical history, but it isn't "prog" in the idealized sense that this site promotes. As with anything though, musical taste and open mindedness will determine everything. Enjoy the ride. I know I did.

Se recomienda escucharlo mientras se toma mate. (Drinking a good mate while listening to it, helps).

 Köhnzert Zünd by MAGMA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
4.93 | 5 ratings

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Köhnzert Zünd
Magma Zeuhl

Review by jazz2896

5 stars This is sheer Kobaian perfection. If you're a fan of Magma, of course you'll need to hear this in some form or another, it takes all the proper live releases from the band and adds extra punch and clarity to the proceedings, so new details will be heard even to those who have memorized the included disks. Not to mention there are two disks of glorious new material. For those who aren't die hard fans, it might be a slightly expensive gateway, but if you're willing to drop for it and throw yourself into the deep end, it's an excellent way to get into Magma, for live Magma is certainly best Magma. Heavily recommended to all fans of the darker, more transcendental side of the progressive spectrum.
 Z=7L by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.46 | 46 ratings

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Z=7L
Zao Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars From the bubbling pools of Kobaian energy emerged France's first and foremost original early progressive rock / jazz-fusion act extraordinaire that proved to progophiles all the world over that not all progressive rock needed to be derived from the English stockpile. Magma emerged in 1969 Paris and released their first two albums and another under the Univeria Zekt moniker before the band ended the first phase of their lineup and began spinning off many splinter groups over their decades long run. The first of these was ZAO which was immediately formed by Hungarian born Yochk'o Seffer (sax, clarinet) who left the band due to a power shift leaving Christian Vander in control of the band's musical direction that spawned the birth of their classic "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" and beyond. Soon François Cahen (piano) would join him and they would form ZAO with the original intent to create music in the vein of the first two Magma albums "Kobaia" and "1001 Degrees Fahrenheit." Wasting no time the duo rounded up several musicians including the phenomenal drum maestro Jean-My Truong from Seffer's jazz-fusion project Perception and they released their debut album Z=7L alongside Magma's "MDK" in 1973.

If you are familiar with any Magma album, then you will instantly recognize that this was spawned from the greater Magma universe for there is nothing quite like the zeuhl style of avant-prog that only Kobaians from that far away world could create. The similarities are quite striking with the stunning operatic diva duties of Mauricia Platon in the spotlight and the jazz-fusion meets avant-prog virtuosity of the accompanying musicians, but what is even more striking are the differences from any given Magma album. While the intent was to create more of what came before from the first two Magma albums, the truth is more that ZAO engaged in a convergent evolution with Magma advancing similar ideas but with radically different approaches. While Z=7L may sound like the sister release of "MDK" simply because of the dominance of a dramatic diva with the spaced out musical fury of the frenetic zeuhl instrumentation, the fact is that this variety of zeuhl sounds more Earth-bound than the otherworldly visions of Christian Vander's Kobaian odyssey.

Love her voice or not, one can only admit that Mauricia Platon has an absolutely phenomenal vocal ability. She sounds kinda like a space age Ella Fitzgerald meets Cecilia Bartoli for her ability to perform operatic scat vocals with a sense of über-control that is only comparable to the prodigious vocal command of Yma Sumac which is nothing short of amazing. Her ability to wail up and down the scales weaving her magic around the exceptional instrumental section is the magic of this release. While Magma leads the listener more into the realms of rock opera, ZAO delivers more of a jazzy fusionist's paradise that revels in bombarding one with unexpected time signatures and tempo changes and more of a feel like a Kobaian Flora Purim gone wild with an air of early Return To Forever Chick Corea type keyboards alongside with Mahavishnu Orchestra electric violin runs. And of course i can't forget to mention the beautifully woven in sax and clarinet parts all punctuated by the intensely precise percussive talents of Jean-My Truong who quite possibly matches if not exceeds Vander's abilities.

While Magma themselves are hardly a household name around the world finding itself in the more esoteric parts of the prog universe, ZAO is even less known. In fact very little info can be found about this band at all and it remains obscure even within the niche market in which it resides. I have to admit that i came to my first taste of ZAO long after my familiarity with virtually the entire Magma canon and found this to be a little jarring upon first listen simply because it takes many of the Magma-isms and incorporates them into its musical structures but after a few spins the original aspects started jumping out at me and successfully differentiated themselves from that other better known zeuhl creation. I find Z=7L to be an excellent example of a splinter group taking the parts they contributed to their previous band and recontextualizing them within a new paradigm and ZAO pulls it off with flying colors. True it is most likely a grower for most because for the entire run of this album it sounds something like a classic 40s vocal jazz diva crossed with the neo-noir alien diva heard in the movie Dark City, so basically i find this to sound like nothing else even within the tiny niche of zeuhl. The musicianship is nothing short of outstanding and once the listener calibrates his or her ears to the vocal shrillness and eclectic musical developments, it actually becomes quite intoxicating.

 Aedividea by VAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.13 | 20 ratings

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Aedividea
Vak Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I was pretty much stunned after my first listen of this album leaving me wondering why this album and band aren't being talked about a lot more than they are. Then I found out it was the fourth highest rated 2015 release on the Gnosis site, and then I discovered that one of my favourite reviewers Tom Hayes had given it 4.5 out of 5 stars and yes I felt vindicated I suppose. VAK are a young band out of France who bring to mind ESKATON, EIDER STELLAIRE and MAGMA. The guitar is a nice touch and it can be aggressive at times. Also the flute is quite prominent bringing to mind DUN at various moments. This album was mastered by Udi Koomran so it sounds fantastic. The keyboardist created the album cover. By the way this album was initially going to be released as two Eps but instead they combined the recordings. I am such a sucker for Fender Rhodes driven Zeuhl but then add some guitar and flute and well I'm in heaven.

"IJKL" has this bass intro as it starts to build. How freaking good is the Fender Rhodes here. The guitar starts to make some noise then the tempo picks up before 2 minutes with the guitar playing over top. Vocals follow and man this reminds me of EIDER STELLAIRE with the guitar and Fender rhodes especially. Fuzzed out guitar after 3 minutes then it settles back but the guitar continues. So good! It turns more powerful then the Fender Rhodes comes to the fore.

"Aedividea" is spacey to start and the flute joins in at 1 1/2 minutes, then drums as it builds. Female vocals 3 minutes in. I love this stuff! It kicks into gear at 4 minutes with heavy guitar expressions eventually joining in. Check out the fast paced vocals too. It does settle back some as the flute plays over top but it's still uptempo with busy drums. A calm before 8 1/2 minutes but then it turns powerful again rather quickly. It settles back 9 1/2 minutes in female vocals and guitar standing out. The vocal melodies and drums sound incredible before 11 minutes then we get another calm a minute later as it turns trippy. Great track!

"Alzh" opens with Fender Rhodes, vocal melodies and drums as guitar melodies come and go. It's a slow burn at this point. The pace picks up with guitar, Fender Rhodes and drums leading the way. The vocals are back before 2 minutes then the flute comes in playing over top. A calm before 5 minutes then it becomes heavier but still a slow burn with vocal melodies and more. A spacey calm of almost silence before 8 minutes to the end. "Zeom" sounds amazing when it kicks into a higher gear 1 1/2 minutes in with the vocals, guitar and drums standing out. The vocals stop a minute later as the heaviness continues but with flute this time. The vocals are back before 4 minutes as it settles down some. A MAGMA vibe after 5 minutes as the flute seems to go in circles with random drum patterns. It picks up some before winding down 8 1/2 minutes in.

"Ellien" is led early by the drums, vocals and guitar as it builds. It lightens before 1 1/2 minutes as the Fender Rhodes comes in. It picks up again then it's the guitar/ piano show after 4 minutes. The vocals are back late to end it. "Periscopy" features some complex instrumental work early on. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes and these soprano vocals bring a eerie vibe to the proceedings not to mention that it's darker here after 3 minutes. It picks up a minute later as the vocals are replaced by the flute. Check out the drumming before 7 minutes. A calm follows and we get some nice guitar a minute later.

I am so stoked about this record. The first track is like Zeuhl 101 and I love it but the second half of this album especially is quite dense at times and a bit of a challenge which I appreciate. A top three album for me for 2015.

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTAÏS France
AMYGDALA Japan
ANAID France
ARCHAIA France
ARKHAM Belgium
BONDAGE FRUIT Japan
SERGE BRINGOLF France
CAILLOU France
CORIMA United States
DAIMONJI Japan
DÜN France
EIDER STELLAIRE France
ESKATON France
FRACTALE France
GA'AN United States
HAPPY FAMILY Japan
HONEYELK France
KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU (BASE OF FICTION) Japan
KOENJIHYAKKEI Japan
LAGGER BLUES MACHINE Belgium
MAGMA France
MUSIQUE NOISE France
NEOM France
NOA France
OFFERING France
RYOKO ONO Japan
PAGANOTTI/PAGA GROUP France
PERCEPTION France
POTEMKINE France
PSEU France
RHÙN France
RIALZU France
RUINS Japan
RUNAWAY TOTEM Italy
SCHERZOO France
YOCHK'O SEFFER France
SEKKUTSU JEAN Japan
SETNA France
SHUB-NIGGURATH France
SUPER FREEGO France
LAURENT THIBAULT France
FRANÇOIS THOLLOT France
JANNICK TOP France
UNIT WAIL France
UNIVERIA ZEKT France
UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Italy
UPPSALA France
UTOPIC SPORADIC ORCHESTRA France
VAK France
CHRISTIAN VANDER France
VAULTS OF ZIN United States
VAZYTOUILLE France
WEIDORJE France
XING SA France
ZAO France
ZOIKHEM France
ZWOYLD France

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