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ZEUHL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Koba´an, 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 (20/05/2016):
Raffaella (Raff)
Luca (octopus-4)
Ian (Nogbad_The_Bad)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)
Ori (frippism)

Zeuhl Top Albums


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

4.29 | 940 ratings
MEKAN¤K DESTRUKT¤W KOMMANDÍH
Magma
4.27 | 647 ratings
K.A
Magma
4.25 | 451 ratings
EROS
DŘn
4.28 | 210 ratings
4 VISIONS
Eskaton
4.20 | 481 ratings
╦M╦HNT╦HTT-R╔
Magma
4.19 | 319 ratings
TRISTAN ET ISEULT [AKA: ẀURDAH ¤TAH] (OST)
Vander, Christian
4.23 | 194 ratings
WEIDORJE
Weidorje
4.26 | 152 ratings
MATHEMATICAL MOTHER
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.40 | 73 ratings
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS R╩VER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
4.15 | 448 ratings
KÍHNTARKÍSZ
Magma
4.13 | 362 ratings
F╔LICIT╔ THÍSZ
Magma
4.12 | 397 ratings
1001░ CENTIGRADES [AKA: 2]
Magma
4.16 | 123 ratings
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
4.04 | 433 ratings
MAGMA [AKA: KOBA¤A]
Magma
4.28 | 54 ratings
BONDAGE FRUIT II
Bondage Fruit
4.09 | 130 ratings
THE MAGUS
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.48 | 27 ratings
VISION
Bringolf, Serge
4.07 | 127 ratings
INFERNAL MACHINA
Top, Jannick
4.76 | 16 ratings
200 000
Zwoyld
4.09 | 95 ratings
RITUALE ALIENO
Universal Totem Orchestra

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

NEFFESH MUSIC :GHILGOUL
Seffer, Yochk'o
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
HUNDRED SIGHTS OF KOENJI
Koenji Hyakkei
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS R╩VER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent

Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews


 Bondage Fruit I by BONDAGE FRUIT album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.94 | 58 ratings

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Bondage Fruit I
Bondage Fruit Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The crazy zeuhl sub-genre of progressive rock may have begun in France by Magma creator Christian Vander and then imitated by many others mostly residing with the French territory but after this crazy jazz-rock's country of origin, no other country has helped evolve it beyond its Kobaian roots like Japan has. The Eastern chapter of zeuhl craze caught on in the 80s when Tatsuya Yoshida emerged from nowhere with his band Ruins as it took the bubbling zeuhl rhythms of the French pioneers and turned it all into a highly sophisticated and bombastic mix of zeuhl, avant-prog, math rock, hardcore punk and free improvisation. The Japanese sector of the zeuhl universe has become known as brutal prog in many camps with its relentless attack of all the characteristics of progressive rock turned up to 11 without showing a shred of mercy whatsoever.

After Ruins opened the floodgates of this free-for-all zeuhl-fest, one of the earliest bands to follow suit was the Tokyo based BONDAGE FRUIT which took many of the aspects of Ruins, such as the avant-prog eccentricities of bands like Henry Cow and brutal bombast a la hardcore punk and simmered it all down into a completely new form of martial rhythmic drive that included a whole bunch of new instrumentation hitherto unheard in the genre's French scene. BONDAGE FRUIT was formed in 1990 by guitarist Kido Natsuki, violinist Yuji Katsui and drummer Otsubo Hirohiko. The band emerged from the ashes of another band Deforme and went through many lineups before vocalists Aki and Saga Yuki, percussionist Okabe Youichi and Takara Kuimiko (vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, percussion) joined ranks and created the band's outstanding self-titled debut which hit the market in 1994.

If that fine collection of instruments wasn't enough, BONDAGE FRUIT also incorporated the talents of vocalists Namie Tokyo and Yen Chang as well as saxophonist Hirose Junji on select tracks. While following in the footsteps of Ruins' manic delivery of percussion run amok with ample doses of noise rock, BONDAGE FRUIT crafted a much steadier flow of musical elements that relied as much on melody as the frenetic callithump of creative instrumental interplay. In addition to the Magma inspired zeuhl rhythms and the haunting choral vocal styles, the band displays a rather Mahavishnu Orchestra inspired style of jazz-fusion that comes through loud and clear on the Ponty-esque violins as well as the Celtic folk tinged guitars that tease in some John McLaughlin. However despite the niceties involved there is still plenty of room for avant-prog angularities such as on "Rigo" which hints at the artier side of the Art Bears or News From Babel.

Lyrics appear to be in neither English, Japanese nor some invented counterpart to Kobaian but rather nonsensical utterances utilized simply as another instrument. BONDAGE FRUIT is a really good album as no tracks are weak and each one resonates a unique personality which makes this album a wonderful listening experience. Tracks like "Octopus-Command" create a cacophonous roar that is as bombastic and brutal as what Ruins dished out which is why Kido and Tatsuya Yoshida would harmonize their passions in the band Korekyojinn that created a similar style of brutal zeuhl that BONDAGE FRUIT constructed on this debut. All in all, this is an excellent mix of musical styles teased into the deeper underpinnings of the zeuhl experience with a diversity that far exceeds anything that came before and while exhibiting an amazingly flamboyant display of weirdness, the album retains firm control of the rhythmic drive and never bursts into chaotic avant-weirdness for its sake alone.

 Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.29 | 940 ratings

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Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h
Magma Zeuhl

Review by handwrist

4 stars The first time I heard of Magma was 5 years ago through a co-worker at my new job, who was a prog afficcionado. He recomended MDK as a start, and I obliged. At the time, and despite finding it interesting, it didn't really click. 'Too weird' I thought and left it at that.

Fast forward to the present moment, and a few dozen listens of this album, and I can say it is indeed the masterpiece that it is thought to be by some. Certainly not for everybody, Magma's style, which is an all- encompassing sci-fi/quasi-religious concept that incorporates its own made up language, is its own thing demanding deeper study - taken on its own, the music is very interesting, exciting; eery, yet seductive.

The album kicks off in amazing fashion, with Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West, with a strong, singular beat, developing a somewhat somber theme. All the music is developed around this basic theme, with some small intersections adding color here and there - with repeating patterns of strange vocal utterings. A weird voice proclaiming something celestial, that is after all the epitpeth given to their genre of music, derived from Kobaian, the made-up language. The keys and drums lead the march, then the horns come blazing through announcing grandiose, yet tragic spectacule, building up to a climax of epic porportions, then taking a darker tone before returning to the starting place.

We continue in beautiful fashion to Ima suri Dondai, more calm and subdued at first. The melodies are beautiful, subtly crafted, and the repetition is never too strange. The sounds are hopeful and inspiring, with loud choruses proclaiming glory. The language Kobaian is supposed to be made up of germanic and slavic sounds, and yet in this track to me it evokes more italian/latin sounding music and themes. A build up starts to bubble with the whole ensemble participating, containing some of the most memorable musical phrases in this album - which contains many of those.

The next track, Kobaia is de Hundin, jumps right into another build up, with many promises of jams, that end up sadly cut short, and the promise never gets fulfilled. The next track, Da Zeuhl Wart Mekanik, ends up suffering from this. Coming right after the short fade out on the promising jam that never delivers, it seems like a slight variation on previous themes. It would have been preferable to just go all out into full improvisation for a few minutes. One can only imagine what the likes of Frank Zappa or Jerry Garcia would do with such an opportunity. This editing choice alone prevents me from giving a perfect score to this album, but it was still a tough choice, given its briliance.

After this relative slump, the album picks up again even stronger with Nebher Gudahtt, with another beautiful backing track for the chilling falsetto of the mastermind behind Magma, Christian Vander, wailing imcomprehensible but beautifully inspired. Again, this type of musical exploration is not for everybody, but to me the word celestial comes once again to mind listening to the interplay of the band, with no instrument ever overshadowing the rest, a great lesson in cohesion and respect, as well as the cathartic screams of Vander.

Mekanik Kommandoh, coming right after without missing a beat, jumps into another crescendo, offering the culmination of the melodies from previous tracks, clearly anouncing the grand finale, one that finally delivers on a jam. Very subdued and gentle, the bouncing melodies and rythms of the whole band, carrying the listener in a trance of weird, beautiful music.

The last track delivers the epilogue, slower, more epic and soulful, almost reminding one of something like 'A Love Supreme' by John Coltrane, whereas the vocals evoke something like Zappa's 200 Motels (not the first instance in the album either), but it ends in a darker note, harkening back to the harsher, more inospitable places where the album started.

Unique, daring, sincere and beautiful - this album has everything a prog lover will value in a truly rewarding listening experience - its classic status is well deserved.

Four and a half stars.

 Pourquoi Es-Tu Si MÚchant? by SUPER FREEGO album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.54 | 12 ratings

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Pourquoi Es-Tu Si MÚchant?
Super Freego Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Ever since Christian Vander unleashed his adventurous musical visions onto an unsuspecting planet back in the late 60s, the style that was a Carl Orff inspired form of jazz-rock that retrospectively was tagged zeuhl has been studied, copied and built upon ever since. The term which means "celestial" in Vander's self-constructed language which is used exclusively for lyrics on his main band Magma's long lasting career heralded the epic cosmic journeys of Kobaians narrated in musical form. While zeuhl has been many things to many fans, some things have remained rather similar despite whether the artists who have engaged in the style stem from France, Japan, the USA or wherever. In this sub-genre of progressive rock the explorer can expect some sort of alien rock opera sound with repetitive percussive drives, martial bass grooves and stentorian choral motifs hypnotically ratcheting up the tension until some sort of crescendo explodes in all its climactic glory.

Well just when you though you have a genre or sub-genre of music figured out then comes along a band that will totally take it somewhere no one could have ever seen coming. Despite hailing from France, the oddball band SUPER FREEGO came from nowhere, released this sole artifact titled POURQUOI ES-TU SI M╔CHANT (Why Are You So Naughty?) and then disappeared leaving one of the rarest and obscure albums of all the 80s. Having missed the first wave of zeuhl in direct succession to the greater Magma universe that offered a plethora of side projects, the five musicians who made up SUPER FREEGO decided to take zeuhl into the realms of the more contemporary new wave sounds of the early 80s and as the Mutant Sounds blogspot so perfectly states it, SUPER FREEGO sounded like Planet Kobaia met Planet Claire, the latter of which is of course the first track from the first album of the B52s.

The band consisted of Max De Pol (guitar) HervÚ Dupon (guitar, keyboards) Karaki (bass, vocals) Rockez Melendy (drums, percussion) M. Skolarczyk (vocals) but also included several musicians playing the horn section which included both Alain Guillard and his brother Yvon both of whom did in fact play with Magma from 1980-82 as well as with Magma spin-off band Weidorje which despite the almost ridiculous nature of SUPER FREEGO's unorthodox zeuhl / new wave fusion album earns the band a place in the greater Magma family tree, however this album is definitely the black sheep of the zeuhl family as it eschews the dark and serious nature of the sub-genre and instead engages in a happy upbeat romp through catchy poppy tracks that feature both male and female vocals as well as an over-the-top "Rocky Horror Picture Show" dramatic flair for that post-punk high camp sound that only existed for a brief moment in time.

While this idea may seem ridiculous, the band was only taking zeuhl into the modern realms much like King Crimson did with its comeback album "Discipline" which emerged the year before. Both are similar in that they utilize a hyper zolo fueled Talking Heads style of incessant percussive drive and tracks that display a contemporary guitar playing style that teases the post-punk angst into more accessible Elvis Costello types of accessibility. The progressive rock antics while not lying in the underpinning of the compositional songwriting nevertheless are quite present and express themselves between the cracks so to speak. While the bass and drums exist in the more rockin' section of the new wave genre, the oddball avant-prog time signatures and vocal tradeoffs certainly take more than a cue from the incessant complexities of any given Magma album preceding "Merci."

What's a miracle is how well this comes together as neither genre is sacrificed for the sake of the other. In many ways this is the exact opposite of a Magma inspired zeuhl album. The album is bouncy and playful and even danceable but most of all this is all done tongue-in-cheek and demands a sense of humor as the seriousness of the zeuhl side of the equation is clearly jettisoned for the more lighthearted straight to the point purposefulness of the more pop oriented new wave. Despite the easy to digest melodies and bouncy hooks, the musicians find ways to incorporate top notch musicianship into the nooks and crannies of the grooves. The horn sections are smoking hot, the instrumental interplay of keyboards and feisty guitars is quite imaginative and the different vocal expressions in the French language are quite eccentric.

As a fan of prog AND new wave i have to say that this one is BRILLIANT! It's apparent that this oil and water approach was too silly for the hardened solemnly inclined proggers who were still in shock from the changes of the music scene and likewise way too adventurous for the fancy free party crowds who only wanted simple pop riffs without all the extra weirdness but for those of us who appreciate such Island of Dr Moreau musical experiments run amok, i'm happy to say that this one is a lost gem that needs to be heard to be believed! The album has so far only seen a single pressing when it was released in 1982 but clearly deserves a proper reissuing since this is utterly unique. Although its closest cousin in the prog world seems to be King Crimson's "Discipline," this one is actually more adventurous with more prog antics stuffed into the new wave packaging. For my ears, this is more than a mere curiosity but fun little album that emerged from between the cracks of two completely unrelated genres of music and for a brief moment in time made them one!

 Merci by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.58 | 196 ratings

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Merci
Magma Zeuhl

Review by animal_laminate_2

4 stars This album has a terrible reputation, reflected in its average rating, and the complaint that it takes Magma in a wholly terrible, Linn-drum-dominated disco direction (!).

Well, it's true that it does do 80s disco. But like others, I like those tracks. And what Vander is doing here is something that becomes increasingly obvious as the album plays out, especially on 'Otis' and its last two tracks, 'Eliphas Levi' and 'The Night We Died'. This is to fully embrace and express the soul influence that was always present in Magma. While Merci is arguably 'straighter' than much Magma, it is no less esoteric, and in some ways it is perhaps the most intense. longing and lonely of all Vander's records, absolutely saturated with what Herzog calls 'ecstatic truth'. Like Herzog's movies, this record has a dark, isolated weirdness to it - which is also frequently comical.

It's a heavy listen and as it plays out Vander seems almost unable to vocalise what he's after, and it can be painful to listen to his strangled, inward singing on 'Otis', as naked, vulnerable and straining after an unfettered joy as it is. The disco tracks are like no disco ever heard, and I am sure Vander tried to do something like Miles here in rejecting his own tradition, and going for something totally unobvious, in a search of a new-minted, spiritual soul.

Make no mistake, this is a strange record. It even feels emotionally damaged. But its last 15 minutes achieve a drifting, radiant bliss. Beneath this is not Chic - but darkness. Merci has its own brilliance and visionary commitment and it's high time people - many of whom would call themselves Magma fans - saw beyond their horror upon hearing the opening track (which is way better than most think anyway, quickly moving beyond the 80s tropes into a complex choral suite).

It's one of my most-played Magmas. I love weirdness and I also love honesty and those are both here in spades. It's not a masterpiece, but it certainly has the ambition and the originality that any masterpiece needs. 4.5 stars.

 Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.29 | 940 ratings

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Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars So, this is what Zeuhl is, well, at the very least, I can say that it's incredibly unique and interesting, and if the rest of Zeuhl has a similar sort of sound to this album, then I definitely have extremely high hopes for the genre, as this album is absolutely amazing. It's an odd mix between teutonic chanting, tribal beats, jazz, large amounts of opera, classical and sci fi, making something that feels one of a kind. The sheer bombast and energy present here is simply astounding, with even the quieter parts simply feeling like it's building up to something more extravagant. There's of course the fact that this album is in the Kobaian language, but that's not really anything for or against the album in my opinion, and just feels like a neat additional touch.

Despite the album having multiple songs, each is part of the one bug stretch of music that spans throughout it all, with a constant ebb and flow, always building to something bigger until it's more or less a constant explosion. In this way, MDK loosely reminds me of Ravel's Bolero, as despite this definitely having points in which it dies down, there's still a clear trajectory with more elements and more intensity added. Immediately, the album, sounds strange, yet intriguing as the first song kicks in with a slow, plodding beat with vocals akin to chanting, before occasionally jumping multiple octaves. As it continues, horns are introduced and what sounds like a backing choir is introduced, which is definitely commonplace on this album. I really love the slow chanting with little more than a single bass chord that appears throughout the album as well, always indicating a dramatic buildup to one of the many climaxes the albums possesses, in this case, a massive tempo change and an increase in intensity, showcasing Christian Vander's highly unique vocal abilities. Ima Suri Dondai is definitely a much more accessible piece compared to the last, having more lighthearted, fun melody , being the only song on the album I can really consider catchy at all, despite teh fact that it's still incredibly bombastic and loud, but with more elements of female vocals and flutes, both of which while being strange sounding in this context, definitely have a lighter touch to them. The bass becomes slightly groovier in the following song, but still sounds quite similar to Ima Suri Dondai in certain respects, but slightly faster and with a really cool section with a blaring horn in the background, sounding like a call to arms as an army prepares for a war, further accentuated by the multitude of vocal harmonies causing everything to sound gargantuan in scale.

The transition between Kobaia is de Hundin and Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik is quite cool, as it fades out seemingly building up, before then fading back in on the following track. The use of the falsetto at this point becomes extremely common, every track containing multitudes of it, definitely being an element of the rising intensity and power of the album as it goes on. This song also has more prominence of the guitar, which has unnatural, almost angular sounding solos played on it, as one would expect to some extent. The next song begins with an isolated piano still playing the main melodic motif on the album, as other instruments are introduced. Despite being much quieter for the first few minutes of this piece, this is definitely one of the best moments of the album, as there is a clear latent energy it encapsulates that is slowly released throughout, getting increasingly louder as Vander rambles in a way similar to Amon Duul II, erratically jumping between notes, screaming, having no sense of sanity. As the song approaches its final minute, all that can be heard is a wall of sound almost solely comprised of screams with the constant underlying melody providing a sense of coherence in the chaotic mess that's unfolding. After a few calmer moments of the next track, the album approaches its final explosion, in which all the elements throuhgout culminate in utter cacophony and chaos, the tempo constantly increasing all before truimphantly ending and seguing into the final track, which is much calmer and more melodic, ending the album with a single high frequency note that lodges itself in your head, closing perfectly.

I genuinely think that this could fall within my top 10 albums of all time, I've been constantly having the powerful urge to give this a listen over the past month, and it still has not lost any of the impact that my first few listens had. The sheer intensity and buildup of it is nothing short of incredible, and the blending of genres and styles sounds excellent. I truly recommend that you listen to this album if you want something truly unique, strange, and especially intense, as I think that at the very least, you'll find this album very interesting.

Besst songs: all of them

Weakest songs: none of them

Verdict: The energy this album has is almost completely unmatched from what I've heard up to this point, and it's overall nothing short of breathtaking in the incredible power it contains. A must listen for those who want intense, strange music.

 Lagger Blues Machine by LAGGER BLUES MACHINE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.87 | 25 ratings

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Lagger Blues Machine
Lagger Blues Machine Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars One of the harder to categorize bands of the early 70s was the interesting Belgium based LAGGER BLUES MACHINE from Brussels which was founded in 1970 by brothers Christian Duponchell (organ) and Jean-Luc Duponcheel (drums) along with Jose Cuisset (guitars) and Michael Maes (bass). This early lineup was firmly rooted in the heavy psych world of the 60s with some proto-prog touches but was basically a raw free-form jam band that toured extensively with its most famous gig having been a Brussels festival in October 1970 where they played with Warhorse and Wishbone Ash. This was also the gig which was recorded and later released as an archival live album.

In 1971 when Vincent Mottoulle (organs) and Carmelo Pilotta (flute, saxophone) joined the band, the focus shifted to a richer progressive rock sound borrowing not only from the jazz-rock fusion of Soft Machine's "Third" and guitar angularity of King Crimson but also on the strong emphasis of instrumental interplay much like that of Moving Gelatine Plates or Eiliff but in the rhythm department displayed much from the sensual bubbling zeuhl bass driven marches of Christian Vander's Magma. Despite the uptick in compositional interplay, LAGGER BLUES MACHINE still maintained a rather jam oriented romp through their instrumental gymnastics that carried through some of the heavy psych guitar and 60s hypnotic organs.

After several years of intensive touring the band was noticed by CBS records as they became one of Belgium's most important bands and finally in the year of 1972 they recorded and released their sole studio album which was eponymously titled. While brevity wasn't their goal with four of the five tracks near the seven minute mark all the way to the fourteen, in the nonchalant stroll through the progosphere, LAGGER BLUES MACHINE managed to take many detours into various strains of not only prog but heavier rock, blues, pure jazz and more detached psychedelia.

The opening "Symphonie - Part 1" doesn't waste any time with the band's progressive romp through the almost entirely instrumental album, a wise decision considering the few vocal appearances displayed represent a weak spot that shouldn't have been included. Where vocals do occur they are merely supplemental instruments to the greater musical drive. Described as symphonic jazz-rock, LAGGER BLUES MACHINE opens with a unique mix of twin hypnotic organ attacks enhanced by spooky flute sounds, avant-jazz sax runs and well adapted percussive accompaniments. The instrumental interplay is the strongest feature of this band where no musician steals the show but rather contributes to a greater sum of the parts.

A tad more art rock oriented than many of early prog's contemporaries, LAGGER BLUES MACHINE eschewed easy pigeon-holing and the seemingly aimless drifting through the challenging instrumental workouts meanders through symphonic, jazz-rock, hard rock and organ dominated heavy psych. The beauty of the album is the sophistication of the compositions, all of which will please the most hardened progheads out there. The weaknesses include the aforementioned weak vocals although they are quite sparse as well as the lackluster production which according to a review by Ashratom is much better on the original 1972 vinyl release than on the 21st century reissues. And to be honest, the vocals aren't always that bad, there are just some awkward moments.

Personally the sophistication of the music trumps any of the weaknesses. Despite the admittedly weak production job, the album exudes a raw underground sound straight from the heart and that actually appeals to me. This was a talented group of musicians that in some strange ways reminds me of an Anglagard type approach before the 90s prog revival would relaunch the prog revolution twenty years in the future. While this may not be the most essential of prog albums from the 1972 year when too many to count albums rank high on the must have list, if you are seeking extremely intricately designed obscurities that has amazingly instrumental workouts then you can't go wrong with this sole studio release from LAGGER BLUES MACHINE.

 Noa by NOA album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.91 | 17 ratings

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Noa
Noa Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars One of the more obscure zeuhl outfits that rode the wave of Magma in the early 80s alongside other French acts such as DŘn, Eskaton and Archa´a was the short-lived NOA which blurred many distinctions between zeuhl, avant-prog and jazz-fusion. Virtually forgotten, this true obscurity from Point-Saint-Martin, France consisted of Alain Gaubert (guitar, bass), Bernard Nicolas (flute, saxophone), Claudie Nicolas (vocals), Philippe Vincendeau (saxophone) and Christian Robard (drums, xylophone, vibraphone) and was one of the more original bands to be tagged with the zeuhl tag owing more to the Rock In Opposition sensibilities of Art Zoyd and Henry Cow than to fellow countryman Christian Vander and his Magma project.

This sole eponymous release by NOA was self-released on vinyl in 1980 and remained virtually unknown until the patron saints of all things zeuhl, namely the Soleil Zeuhl label reissued this long lost classic on CD in 2011. While the qualifications for zeuhl are accurate for the lockstep marching rhythms and hyperactive bass backbone, the remaining instruments eschew the Magma playbook altogether and verge into a hybrid mix of avant-garde jazz a la Sun Ra and the avant-prog angularity of Henry Cow including the dynamic female vocal style of Claudie Nicolas whose vocal dynamics serve as another instrument despite conveying lyrics in the French language.

The marriage between the zeuhl and avant-prog makes this a much smoother ride than say the most harsh aspects of Univers Zero and Henry Cow as the repetitive hypnotic effects of the bass groove keep everyone else on a leash and only allowed to improvise within short bursts instead of aimless rambling into alternative universes. In comparison to the above mentioned bands, NOA sounds like a sampling of the scene circa 1980. The band took a cue from the psychedelic otherworldliness of Archa´a, the vocal charm of Eskaton and the more adventurous complexity of DŘn and the band exhibited an original persona with a squawking sax, touch of guitar and a flute but also borrowed the Magma trait of incorporating a vibraphone to the mix.

This short album of 33 and a half minutes is quite the gem for those who love a true celestially sounding style of zeuhl that often cranks out oddly timed bursts of rhythmic angularity as it does an incessant hypnotic groove. The six tracks commence without repeating ideas and display one of the most innovative and distinguished French acts to follow in Magma's footsteps. The band remains mysterious but ultimately found the 80s weren't conducive to a highly eclectic progressive rock sound and disappeared nearly as quickly as they convened for the creation of this album. I love this one. The operatic vocals mixed with the avant-jazz and RIO flavors is a real treat and one that should not be missed by those who grave the true flavors of the prog underground of the early 1980s.

 ╦mŰhntŰhtt-RÚ by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.20 | 481 ratings

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╦mŰhntŰhtt-RÚ
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars Christian Vander revived his MAGMA project at the turn of the millennium and tested the waters to see if his classic prog rock visions were still viable in the brave new world so he resurrected the never-ending tale of his Kobaian mythology and set out to complete the tales that were initiated so long ago. After the well received comeback album 'K.A.' which made a huge splash in prog circles with some even declaring the album the very best of the entire MAGMA canon, Vander took that as a green light to at long last finish up the third chapter of the K÷hntar÷sz trilogy which began all the way back in 1974 with the 'K÷hntar÷sz' album and revived thirty years later in 2004 with 'K.A.' This was obviously a major convoluted work of Shakespearean proportions and as nebulous as a library written in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs but Vander's vision was clear and the ability to record in the modern world had finally allowed the opportunity to bring the opus magnum to completion.

Drummer / composer / Kobaian-in-chief Christian Vander and his diva wife Stella are the only original MAGMA members to return from the distant past to bring new light to this epic cosmic soap opera but with the assistance of a new generation of outstandingly brilliant musicians, MAGMA conjures up one of the strongest albums of the band's near half century of existence. While the musical works only found completion with the release of 2009's tenth studio album ╦M╦HNT╦HTT-R╔, the extraterrestrial fairy tale had found its own mythological conclusion as far back as 1975 when all the characters and plot had been crafted and the initial stages of this album were in the works but put on the shelf due to the sudden shift of the musical world and the financial pressures of 70s album production. The origins of ╦M╦HNT╦HTT-R╔ were actually present on the 1975 'Live / Hha' where the initial "'╦mŰhntŰht-RÚ (Announcement)' is combined here with "RindŰ (Eastern Song)" from the 1978 album 'Attahk.'

For those who follow the mythology in a geeky Star Trek convention demeanor will already know that this saga of cosmic folklore narrates an ancient Egyptian pharaoh encountered by a modern day explorer seeking eternal spiritual enlightenment and the secrets of the entire universe unlocked or something of the sort and since the lyrics are all in the invented Kobaian language, you'll just have to take my word for it! For the rest of us who just enjoy the nonsensical liturgy presented in a never ending variation of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' laced with an incomparable mix of jazz-fusion, progressive rock and the hypnotic trance inducing build up of minimalism, we are presented with one of Kobaia's greatest gifts to the musical realms of our humble planet and for that i'm eternally grateful :) While carved up into six tracks for the sake of labeling, ╦M╦HNT╦HTT-R╔ is for all intents and purposes is designed to be experienced in its entirety from the first thundering percussive drive to the final spaced out ending 'S'h' as each track seamlessly connects to the next.

But it's in between where all the good stuff occurs. ╦M╦HNT╦HTT-R╔ much like 'K.A.' which preceded it, is a bizarre amalgamation of spaced out choral sections engaging in the endless acrobatics of scaling to musical heights, reaching climaxes and then settling down to build up to the next. Add to that the virtuosic bass abuse that reaches unfathomable heights as it zigzags around like a free radical on steroids backed up by Vander's jazz-rock drumming prowess that enervates the listener just considering how this man's physical stamina has survived the punishing drive for all these decades. The music exhibits the classic MAGMA-esque ratcheting up effect with every cadence and crescendo milked to its maximum usage with the usual vocal trade offs that exist somewhere between an exotic space opera and the seedy jazz flavored speakeasies located in some back alley. Simple melodic runs get twisted and contorted in progressive time signatures run amok and the musicians hover in and out of sync creating a roller coaster ride experience that is unmatched in all of music history.

╦M╦HNT╦HTT-R╔ ultimately comes off as a classic performed by seasoned masters of their trade with not even a single flaw that hinders the impeccable progression across the classically infused score. Somehow every tiny detail is crafted with the utmost minutia fussed over to bring utter perfection to the mix. This album was released with an accompanying DVD called 'Phases' which shows the madman perfectionist Christian Vander scrutinizing every agonizing detail and cracking the whip to make every nanosecond of playing time implement the desired results. The video is designed to give a glimpse into the maddening conditions of an incessant studio session where a tiny thirty second segment can take hours to hammer into perfection. This is perhaps the most sinister sounding MAGMA release as if some Goth band decided to go classical but ended up with a jazz-fusion band trying to pull it off and in the end created the creepiest cosmic soundtrack the universe has to offer. This one was a slow burner for me but after a gazillion plays, it has revealed a never-ending display of musical diversity and virtuosity that presents one of the most ambitious space rock operas ever to be recorded. Another perfectly crafted album by MAGMA.

 Fiction by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.96 | 56 ratings

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Fiction
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars After the near miraculous perfection of 1981's 4 Visions I had been quite hesitant to try this follow up release--this despite its high rating.

My review below follows the song order as present on the 1983 release.

1. "Automute" (4:20) driving, simple rhythm with female vocals through which male vocalist Marc Rozenberg pierces through with straight singing as well as metal-boxed treated dictation. This music has many more influences from outside the Koba´an world--King Crimson, techno pop, Talking Heads, even Canterbury. Interesting evolution! (8.75/10)

2. "Simplicius" (7:03) opens like a softly jazzed world music song--something Joe Zawinal, Freddy Hubbard, or Micky Hart might pull together. AS the synths and treated electric guitar jump in they create a great sound, but then they back off for a bouncy Fender Rhodes passage over which the two women try to scat a quite intricate melody line in unison. It's cool but doesn't always work. At 4:20 the two separate and launch into some pretty vocalise in two different octaves. The delay-echoed fuzz guitar follows with a nice solo--which is then followed by a nice display of rapid fire bass playing. The song base remains pretty simple and sparse as the instruments and voices take turns soloing each for about 20 seconds before handing off to the next. Still, a great, very engaging song. (13.5/15)

3. "Plus Et Moins" (3:40) opens with a funky beat and female vocal presentation quite similar to Belgian Canterbury artists COS. Even the accompanying second, lower harmonizing female voice sounds a lot like Pascale Son. Catchy song, interesting vocal, and funky sound make for an above average song but it never really does anything extraordinary to make it stand out or make it memorable. Nice drum, bass, and guitar work. (8.25/10)

4. "Parenthese" (2:10) opens with subdued Fender Rhodes before catching speed with bass in tow. The duet is augmented in the third section as the two work beautifully off of one another. (4.5/5)

5. "La Danse Des Feux" (4:03) Led by a Mike Oldfield-like fuzz guitar in the lead, Gilles has strong support from from the drums (as well as bass and keys). This one drives along through a couple of nice movements--mostly in which guitar and bass change leads while keys do a little fill'n'flash. In the fourth minute the Mike Oldfield guitar is even double tracked. (8.75/10)

6. "Le Cinema" (3:30) more Canterbury-like humor with male and female vocal recitations backed with some dated 70s techno-pop keyboard sounds and playing (think Devo or "Rock Lobster"). (9/10)

7. "La Mort De Tristan" (4:20) a soft, sensitive vocal presentation sounding like a respectful funereal event that is interspersed with some synthesizer flourishes and electric piano passages consistent with the theme of respect and honor. (9/10)

8. "Les Deux Trucs" (4:13) 1980s French rap? No, but almost! (8.5/10)

9. "F.X." (7:18) nice jazz fusion with some interesting bass and keyboard play but nothing really very special to make this one stand out. (12/15)

Four stars; a solid contribution to the jazz-rock fusion side of Zeuhl--or just to Jazz-Rock Fusion in and of itself--but nothing more than that.

 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.97 | 58 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars With this, the final album release from the French band that had its start in the Zeuhl world, we hear less of the influences of Zeuhl and more of the melodic jazz fusion in the vein of contemporaries NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN, NATIONAL HEALTH, BRAND X, RETURN TO FOREVER, and BRUFORD. Too bad the Brothers Goubin decided to call it quits: they were quite talented and definitely made some nice contributions to the progressive rock scene.

1. "Tango Panache" (6:18) very nice playing with a very engaging structure and melodies--sounds a lot like Al DiMeola and NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN. (9/10)

2. "Raspoutine" (5:56) more in the WETHER REPORT wheelhouse, there are some strong keyboard foundations here despite the Corrado Rustici-like guitar lead play. The bass and drumming sound and feel so close to the WEATHER REPORT style. Even the main melodies scream out WEATHER REPORT. Nice electric piano work. (8.5/10)

3. "Theme Pour Un Swing Imaginaire" (5:37) funked up jazz like STANLEY and AL were playing at this time. Great play by Dominique Dubuisson on the bass and by Michel Goubin on the keys. The dirty yet speedy guitar play reminds me more of Ray Gomez than either Al Di or CORRADO here. No, there is no Zeuhl here; this is all-out, funked up jazz-rock fusion. (8.25/10)

4. "Air De Famille" (3:19) opens with some more sensitive WEATEHR REPORT-like keyboard-dominated music within which drums and fretless bass play nice supporting roles while electric guitar tries to lead the way--though on this song Charles seems just a little out of sync with the other musicians--his attempts at John McLaughlin-isms either fail or are just off tempo. (8.25/10)

5. "Ode De Mars" (5:23) starts rather benignly before clavinet, bass, and drums bounce into something a little more lively at the end of the first minute. Once the tempo and structure are established and Michel is doing his magic at filling the sound palette, guitarist/brother Charles tries to steal the show with his guitar play. But it's always Michel's keyboards that seem to own the heart and soul of the music. Charles does reach some nice heights in the fourth minute, but Michel is so smooth, so effortless, so cool! (8.75/10)

6. "Aux Images" (2:41) some pretty Chick Corea-like piano sets up and maintains the foundation of this song well into the second minute while other key boards and percussion instruments have joined in and have added their magical little embellishments. Nice piece; probably the best song on the album; definitely my favorite. (5/5)

7. "Amphitheatre Magique" (6:45) a solid song in the style of the slower, more steady-paced Chick Corea/Return to Forever songs, this song has the most hints at any remnants of Zeuhl the band may still harbor with some of the bridges and transitions as well as Philippe Goubin's fine drumming--also in the nice shift at the five minute mark-- but the final section is a return to J-RF. (14/15)

Four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially those lovers of 1970s Jazz-Rock Fusion. For those of you really looking for the Zeuhl be forewarned: There is little or no Zeuhl here.

Data cached

Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTA¤S France
AMYGDALA Japan
ANAID France
ARCHAIA France
ARKHAM Belgium
BONDAGE FRUIT Japan
SERGE BRINGOLF France
CAILLOU France
CORIMA United States
DAI KAHT Finland
DAIMONJI Japan
D▄N France
EIDER STELLAIRE France
ELEPHANT TOK France
ESKATON France
╔VOH╔ France
FOEHN France
FRACTALE France
GA'AN United States
HAPPY FAMILY Japan
HONEYELK France
KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU (BASE OF FICTION) Japan
KOENJI HYAKKEI Japan
LAGGER BLUES MACHINE Belgium
LAKTATING YAK United States
MAGMA France
MUSIQUE NOISE France
NEOM France
NEW PLEASURE Canada
NOA France
OFFERING France
RYOKO ONO Japan
ORVALIANS France
PAGANOTTI/PAGA GROUP France
PERCEPTION France
POTEMKINE France
PSEU France
RH┘N France
RIALZU France
RUINS Japan
RUNAWAY TOTEM Italy
RYORCHESTRA Japan
SCHERZOO France
YOCHK'O SEFFER France
SEKKUTSU JEAN Japan
SETNA France
SHUB-NIGGURATH France
STALINGRAD 119 France
SUPER FREEGO France
LAURENT THIBAULT France
FRANăOIS 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
ZIG ZAG France
ZOIKHEM France
ZWOYLD France

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