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

4.31 | 696 ratings
4.30 | 495 ratings
4.24 | 370 ratings
4.37 | 101 ratings
Top, Jannick
4.29 | 152 ratings
4.19 | 400 ratings
4.20 | 256 ratings
4.24 | 135 ratings
4.53 | 43 ratings
Thibault, Laurent
4.15 | 274 ratings
4.13 | 311 ratings
4.10 | 357 ratings
4.17 | 95 ratings
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.05 | 330 ratings
4.34 | 37 ratings
Bondage Fruit
4.08 | 96 ratings
4.19 | 51 ratings
4.08 | 71 ratings
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.05 | 82 ratings
Eider Stellaire
4.66 | 13 ratings
Bringolf, Serge

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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Runaway Totem
Bondage Fruit

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Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews

 Rah Sahltaahk by MAGMA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2014
3.74 | 26 ratings

Rah Sahltaahk
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars "Riah Sahitaahk" was originally the side long opening track on MAGMA's second album "1001 Centigrades". Christian Vander decided to re-record this track and it was released as an EP in 2014. It is quite interesting comparing these two versions which i've been doing all week. I will say that the original lineup for this track blows away this modern version and yes i'm a huge fan of ONE SHOT members Mac Gaw and Bussonet who add there talent to this latest version. Still when you have names like Moze, Cahen, Seffer, Blasquiz and Lasry on the original you know this latest lineup is up against it.

As others have mentioned the original had plenty of horns with Seffer(sax, bass clarinet), Lasry(clarinet, sax, flute) and Toesca(trumpet) helping out while the latest has no horns. No guitar on the original but Mac Gaw adds that here. No female vocals on the original but Stella and Isabelle are prominent here. The other difference is that the original is one long suite while the latest is broken down into 8 different tracks which i don't like.

My favourite section on this EP is "Un Zoin Glao" because it is experimental unlike the rest with frenzied vocals, dissonant piano and odd-metered drumming, heck even the guitar sounds adventerous. Overall though I feel that 3 stars is the right rating for me. It's a step down for sure from the original in my opinion, in fact it's not close. MAGMA fans though may love this so check it out for yourselves.

 Retort by UNIT WAIL album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.00 | 10 ratings

Unit Wail Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. Franck Fromy and company are back! And I noticed they just released a new album for 2015 which is fantastic news. Fromy was the guitarist and founding member of the legendary band SHUB-NIGGURATH and he continues with that dark and intense style of music with UNIT WAIL. Vincent the keyboardist composed all the music here and we get plenty of sampled mellotron, in fact this recording is swimming in it. Also the bass is very upfront and distorted while Franck adds a delicious variety of guitar sounds. The drumming is inventive and I must say all of these guys are gun slingers when it comes to their instruments. The liner notes though sparse are all in French unfortunately because there is a little blurb for each song.

"Kakodeamon" is dark with intricate sounds to start as the mellotron rolls in. Here we go! Killer bass right here man, and throughout actually. A calm before 3 minutes with plenty of atmosphere as we get random drum patterns to the end. "Peregrinatio" has some incredible drum work early on as the mellotron waves crash the soundscape along with the ever-present bass lines. The tempo continues to shift. This is so good. More mellotron choirs after 2 minutes. It's quite intense a minute later with the guitar and bass killing it then the mellotron is back! "Tertium Comparations" might be my favourite track. Cymbals and some inventive guitar expressions to start as the mellotron arrives. It then turns fuller as the guitar grinds away. When it settles back it sounds amazing, then the guitar returns again grinding away as it builds. Contrasts continue and I have to say Franck is outstanding on this one not so surprisingly.

"Concupiscentia Effrenata" opens with dark piano along with drums and some atmosphere as the guitar joins in. The guitar is quite jazzy sounding surprisingly but not for long as it all turns more powerful. It's dark after 2 minutes. "Pumapunku" opens with what sounds like hurdy-gurdy as the mellotron choirs bring in a haunting element. Scary is the word. It starts to pickup before 2 minutes and some cool guitar sounds follow as the bass digs deep. It's so intense 4 1/2 minutes in then that hurdy-gurdy-like sound returns to end it. "Numinosity" has such an amazing bass/drum intro as the mellotron storms in. The guitar again impresses me so much. What a thumping rhythm on this one.

"Agathodeamon" has a nice drum intro as the bass joins in followed by mellotron choirs. So good! I like he guitar before 1 1/2 minutes and the band is kicking ass before 3 1/2 minutes to the end. "Coincidentia Oppositorum" features some ground shaking bass lines and the drumming is incredible as the mellotron joins the party. "Fixatio" opens with guitar, bass and drums standing out then the mellotron starts to soar before a sudden change as fast paced drums and mellotron lead. It does settle back quickly though and themes are repeated. Some angular guitar 3 1/2 minutes in. "Aqua Permanens" is the longest track at almost 7 minutes. What a composition! Again the mellotron, guitar, bass and drums impress. This song possesses many shades and textures I must say.

Without question this is a top ten release from 2013. There's this dark energy that seems to be associated with Franck Fromy that to be honest scares the hell out of me. Enjoy!

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

Slaǧ Tanƶ
Magma Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

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
4.09 | 39 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 | 370 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 | 71 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.

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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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