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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

4.31 | 781 ratings
4.27 | 551 ratings
4.25 | 407 ratings
4.28 | 178 ratings
4.19 | 428 ratings
4.19 | 282 ratings
4.24 | 151 ratings
4.16 | 309 ratings
4.13 | 342 ratings
4.44 | 54 ratings
Thibault, Laurent
4.10 | 388 ratings
4.18 | 112 ratings
Top, Jannick
4.05 | 368 ratings
4.15 | 102 ratings
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.33 | 41 ratings
Bondage Fruit
4.07 | 104 ratings
4.09 | 76 ratings
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.06 | 91 ratings
Eider Stellaire
4.11 | 65 ratings
4.21 | 39 ratings

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new

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Bondage Fruit

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Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews

 200 000 by ZWOYLD album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.80 | 6 ratings

200 000
Zwoyld Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars ZWOYLD is yet another strange zeuhl band that springs from France and contains all the usual Magma influences but branches out in many ways to include not only the expected jazz-rock side of things (however no brass on board) but also has a very spacey Rock In Opposition approach along with a healthy dose of avant-garde. The band was formed by Gilbert Brown who oversees the project but doesn't actually play any of the instruments. The actual band consists of five members who contribute the following instruments: drums, bass, guitar, mellotron, synthesizers, flute, sanza and jew's harp. As with much zeuhl this one is pretty much instrumental with the only vocals being delivered in chants which basically add another instrument without any linguistic connotations that i can understand anyways. The track titles seem to be in some invented language and the presentation brings to mind some ancient builder race of sort that visited and left the planet long ago.

The music clearly falls into the zeuhl camp with its pummeling hypnotic bass grooves and rhythmic developments but there is so much more going on here that separates the music from any Magma clone accusations for sure. Firstly there is a lot of attention paid to guitar here. There are not only rhythmic power chord sequences but lots of angular guitar riffs that bring an RIO / Avant Prog vibe to the forefront on many occasions. However it never really gets too weird. It flirts with the bizarre but always keeps the chunky bass lines accessible and the guitars even delve at times into funk territory. The tracks all have distinct personalities and the album flows very nicely with totally different arrangements taking place over the avant-prog meets zeuhl rhythms. There are also various world music influences such as Arabic, Indian and Klezmer.

Tracks like "Chań" really branch out into strange territories as the composition is quite complex with structured time sig changes that take a rather catchy melody and adds all kinds of freaky progressive touches. The track has the unique quality of making me feel like a zeuhl rhythm has been accompanied by a 60s psychedelic rock type of band. It's the kind of stuff that i always thought SHOULD have happened in the 60s but never really did. This music somehow captures an "i wish that woulda happened" vibe for me. It really works well too. Nothing feels forced in the least bit and progressive touches such as bizarre time sig freak outs structured around the choppy zeuhl rhythms somehow just kind of flow without the slightest of spoiling features. While mostly energetic "Chań" slows down half way through and creates a very psychedelic rock experience but picks up steam again. The album is mostly energetic but slow passages punctuate the frenetic energy as to create an always welcome diversity in mood.

This one is a welcome surprise. The music is as surreal as the album cover artwork but still entirely accessible upon first listen. In effect, the perfect balance between the known and unknown where alienation isn't even remotely possible but surprising combinations of sounds add a layer of excitement. What i'm finding is that the band really know how to capture that innovative zeitgeist of the early 70s yet not ripping any other artist off. Yes, the influences are tucked beneath the surface and all but is more than obfuscated by layers of creativity oozing out of every irregular jagged bass led sequence. Ever since Magma introduced the zeuhl style of music to the world decades ago, it has remained a viable sub genre that allows all types of complexities to be kept from going too far astray with the accessible rhythms at play. ZWOYLD continues with that tradition but manages to take the jazz- fusion and avant-prog levels a few notches higher with tons of psychedelic trippiness to put hardcore Grateful Dead fans into a coma! This is an instantly addictive album that has managed to blow me away! Great job, guys :)

 Aedividea by VAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.08 | 22 ratings

Vak Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The album-length take on Aedividea by Vak consists of material orignally released on two separate EPs - a self-titled release from 2012 and the original "Aedividea" EP. Completists will be bugged by the absence of Reeht, from the Vak EP, an 8 minute track which there would have certainly been room for here, but as it stands I think the running time of this release is just about perfect to satisfy me without making my attention wander, so perhaps leaving it off was the right call. Musically speaking, Vak play zeuhl in a style heavily influenced by Eskaton (and Magma, of course, but everyone who does zeuhl is influenced by Magma) but with a markedly updated sound, especially when it comes to the keyboards.
 Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rŕver Tout Le Temps  by THIBAULT, LAURENT album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.44 | 54 ratings

Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rŕver Tout Le Temps
Laurent Thibault Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Evidence that zeuhl doesn't necessarily have to be sinister martial ranting in a nonsense language, Laurent Thibault's only solo album focuses on the jazzier side of zeuhl as expressed on Magma's debut - perhaps appropriately enough, considering that Thibault was Magma's first bassist and left them before their full on "Klingon Opera" style was fully in place. Still, his bass work here demonstrates just how important a good bass line is to the zeuhl style, whilst offering a more gentle take on the whole thing - a bit like a lovechild between Christian Vander and Mike Oldfield. Though not typical of the genre, it's still worth a look.
 Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.31 | 781 ratings

Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h
Magma Zeuhl

Review by marcobrusa

3 stars Polyrythm works along big instrumentation. The overall effect is impressive, but i do not listen to this unless i want to hear a march. Zeuhl is a hell of a sub-genre. In this case, the inventor is not the most likeable character for me. I get the trance every now and then but the music is too marching. The man's falsetto is a little annoying, the rest of the instruments are ok. Drummer and leader is a genius because he created something different. The music is very difficult to appreciate. I can listen to a couple songs but then i get bored. The changes are not different enough maybe... so 3 stars. It's a good album but not for any prog collection.
 Magma [Aka: Koba´a] by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 368 ratings

Magma [Aka: Koba´a]
Magma Zeuhl

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "I've had dreams. Dreams about John Coltrane. In them I'm trying to get somewhere, but it's far, far away. I'm searching. I keep trying to get to the concert, the Coltrane Concert. But by the time I arrive, it's over." -Christian Vander, describing his recurring dreams about John Coltrane, 2015 [The Wire Issue 381]

Christian Vander was born in 1948 near Paris. From a very early age, he knew he was different from his peers. As he confesses in one of the interviews, he never wore stylish clothes, nor listened to popular music in his teenage years. His bohemian mother introduced him to classical music and jazz. Young Vander even had the privilege of meeting Chet Baker and future Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones. However, no other musician had a bigger impact on him than Coltrane. With his obsession growing, the young man started regarding the musician almost as a god, a prophet or his father, more so, because Vander never met his biological parent. When the jazzman passed away in 1967, out of depression, Vander went on tour to Italy. "I arrived in Milan and I did everything I could to destroy myself. Took stuff, drank... And I was like that for nearly two years. But one morning in Turin I woke up and saw the town completely illuminated, like I'd never seen before. And I said to myself: John Coltrane didn't allow himself to die like this." He left, returned to Paris, and became more involved with musical groups, playing around local casinos. Together with Laurent Thibault, the future Magma producer, they invented the whole mythology of Koba´a and composed the opening track of Magma's first, eponymous (however, also often called Koba´a), double-LP album, which was released under the Phillips label 1970.

Magma tells a story of the Earth's enlightened, intellectual elite deciding to escape their planet in search of a new world to create a better civilization, far from their home, destroyed by wars and politics. They finally settle on the planet Koba´a.

The album opens with a Cuban-esque groove accompanied by throbbing bass, tight rhythm guitar, passionate drumming, and a jazzy horn section. When Klaus Basquiz's vocals take the lead, presenting a story in an unidentified, Gothic-sounding language, some listeners might picture a more elaborate version of Blood, Sweat and Tears or Chicago. However, at one point, after a short, baffling interlude, owing a great deal to European classical music traditions as well as spiritual, almost voodoo culture-like choir singing, the track drops into a rapid, heavy free-jazz section recalling musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, and even Peter Br÷tzmann. Then comes a contrasted, quieter, piano part, leading into a jazzy climax of this extremely powerful and effective opener - "Koba´a.""A´na" follows with a pleasant, laidback avant-jazz theme, including a double saxophone duel. The vocals posses a similar spiritual quality, rooted in New Orleans' soul music traditions, whose origins can be traced back to Africa. Suddenly, the track changes its path, expediting its pace and becoming far more sophisticated. "Malaria" continues the overall atmosphere with a somewhat unsettling intro, which dissolves into a more, catchy, Latin avant-rock motif, utilizing a dry overdriven guitar and, more prominently, a flute. Side two of the first LP is opened with a mysterious melody on interplaying flutes. The same melody is picked up by Claude Engel's guitar together with drums, piano, and a horn section accompanying. After numerous harmonic and dynamic variations on the theme, comes a quiet, Kind Of Blue-like cool-jazz part, hesitantly leading to the reprise of the introduction with a marching rhythm applied. This suddenly resolves into "Sckxyss", which takes no time to warm-up. The magic fusion of sexy jazz rhythms, Stravinsky-like neo-classical music, rocky guitar, and Magma's own avant-garde elements is a truly intoxicating one! "AuraŰ" follows a pattern similar to the previous tracks, stating a very different statement using a similar vocabulary. Here, Francois Cahen's flawless piano work in conjunction with one of the flutes plays a crucial role in the dark, ominous feel. The atmosphere, still unsettled, grows in power with other instruments starting to creep in. The tension is dissolved on a rather cheerful line, similar to Easter European music in its broken, uneven rhythms. Then, the song moves into jazzier scenery, without losing its quirky integrity. Once again, following the footsteps and describing the nature of each passage of this piece would create a biblical-length epic. The piece is closed in an aggressive, yet controlled manner.

Disc two starts as if presenting a new volume of the story, with a solo flute melody, picturing a lonely shepherd in the mountains sitting on a rock and entertaining himself with the instrument. Taking Magma's dynamic, expressive style into consideration, the calm atmosphere continues for a surprisingly long time, even when other instruments and vocals join in. "Thaud Za´a" finally becomes very Magma-like with a slow, disciplined marching rhythm, which after many repetitions, and a few beat variations, leads to the lone flute passage. "NaŘ Ektila" opens with something very untypical of Magma - a folk acoustic guitar passage accompanied by a clarinet. The addition of vocals and bass don't make things more punchy, rather the opposite. Another acoustic, feminine part comes in. The remaining composition is built from there, featuring a great, dry rock guitar riff, powering the Santana-like Latin jazz-rock machine. The appearance of a percussion solo leads to loud free-form mayhem. As if from the ashes, comes a very Coltrane-like part with Franšois Cahen's amazing piano solo. With reappearances of the acoustic motif, the piece ends in a very classy, stylish way. "St÷ah" starts with a high-pitched, screaming monolog in Koba´an. The repetitive piano sequence, bringing a neo-classical chamber style of Hindemith and Stravinsky to mind, is presented with Klaus Basquiz's vocals. Later on in the piece, we get a bit of a teaser of the style Magma would employ on Mekan´k Destrukt´ẁ Kommand÷h - jazzy piano passages with choir work very much reminiscent of Carl Orff. "Műh" opens with a dreamy, celestial piano passage and for the first few minutes follows a similar aura, until the very cheerful Cuban jazz-like melody comes in, broken by a short neo-classical interlude and a lengthy, varied instrumental workout. As I've said a few times already, describing the exact direction of the music on some of the tracks would create a pointlessly long and boring review. The whole album closes with an odd recital in Koba´an.

Magma's debut is characterized, above all, by incredible eclecticism, variation, and diversity, sophisticated compositions, magnificent musicianship, and capability of making all the influences, ranging from Stravinsky's dark, neo-classical works to free-jazz a la Sun Ra to Easter European folk to New Orleans soul music, work together and create a unique, one of a kind fruit. Furthermore, Magma or Koba´a gave birth to a whole new sub-genre of progressive music known as "zeuhl." Atmospheric, vigorous, creative, unorthodox, innovative - these are just a few of many adjectives perfectly describing this music. Essential listening!

 Les Morts Vont Vite by SHUB-NIGGURATH album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.07 | 104 ratings

Les Morts Vont Vite
Shub-Niggurath Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Keeping the flame of avant-prog alive in the mid-1980s, on Les Morts Vont Vite Shub-Niggurath prepare a release that exists partway between zeuhl (especially in Ann Stewart's operatic vocals) and the dark chamber RIO of Heresie-era Univers Zero (the later of which is evoked in particular by Jean-Luc Herve's harmonium). The end result takes a while to sink in, but over time I have found its finer elements begin to shine through bit by bit. The ensemble is large enough to attain a real chamber music sound, and Shub-Niggurath may be one of the few prog rock bands out there with a dedicated trombone player (in the form of VÚronique Verdier), who is about to add a certain off-beat air to things.
 Angherr Shisspa by KOENJIHYAKKEI album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.93 | 122 ratings

Angherr Shisspa
Koenjihyakkei Zeuhl

Review by marcobrusa

4 stars Like 7 years ago i discovered Koenji through this site. So many thanks. This is their only album i could listen many times since then, because it's their most accesible one. It is unstoppable, original, and challenging. No more guitars in the instrumentation; sounds softer (but it is still crazy anyways). Try to find something as crazy as this, i dare you! In fact, it's so eccentric that it tired me after repeated listens. However, i keep coming back every now and then, because it's quality is undeniable. The arrangements have many sharp edges that may hurt some people, be careful with the volume and your state of mind if you are going to play this album. Almost 4 stars, rounded up. It may surprise you at first, but then it's too much for repeated listens. Remarkable anyways.
 Caillou by CAILLOU album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.57 | 14 ratings

Caillou Zeuhl

Review by buddyblueyes

5 stars Ten seconds into this album you'll find yourself rummaging through the attic and digging out your worn, crimson, mid-length Montgomery Ward leather jacket, growing a mustache and hoping you still have that small packet of quaaludes from that trip to France back in your senior year. Did I just step into 1970? Wait ... (double take), this came out in 2013? Can't be! Sounds too authentic. Caillou have really captured the zeitgeist of the late 60s and early 70s both in songwriting, but moreover in record production. I would love to know more about the band and how this album was produced -- but as it stands, little can be found online.

This is probably my favorite current Zeuhl album next to Chicago's Ga'an. Though Ga' an is steeped in the traditional Zeuhl with those cosmic, trippy vocalizations and repetitious themes, Caillou is instrumental with leanings towards Mahavishnu Orchestra. The instrumental mastery is epic. The synth sounds are exciting and spacey, the drums are a wash of vintage cymbals and seething with that Glyn-John's method of drum recording, and the bass sounds like my stomach after a 24-hour fast for the doctor -- hangry! There's so much dirt, grime and fuzz about this album, you'll need to take 3 showers just to get everything out of the cracks. A very exciting, instrumental record!

Wishful concert pairing: Caillou and Universal Totem Orchestra opening for Ga' an. Three modern day Zeuhl giants.

 Tok 1 by ELEPHANT TOK album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 4 ratings

Tok 1
Elephant Tok Zeuhl

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

4 stars Their activity and explosion level is as high as ONE SHOT indeed. A new Zeuhlers ╔L╔PHANT TďK have been founded as a offshoot of ONE SHOT and simultaneously as a followers of MAGMA. Their skillful play and instrumental technique have been verified and confirmed through their first creation "T˘k 1" ... such an impact just upon listening to the first track "Mammouth", with weird multi-rhythmic drumming, sharp-edged and precisely proceeded saxophone shipping, and percussive mysterious voices. Purely enjoyable and eccentric are their musical roots.

Their rhythm essence can be felt complicated but pretty fine to get into basically. The stream of vibes is not only delightful but also addictive, and reminds me just of some hints of a Japanese jazz rock pride DJAMRA ... there is not depression but only manic mode or maniac code. No tough nor difficult interpretation is needed via their creation but simply pleasure for Zeuhl scene. And yes, let me say they play sensitively and sometimes sensually just like many other French progressive rock combos. Not exaggerated like Perez Prado's Cerezo Rosa but well understood they've hailed from France.

For me the fourth track "I Don't Look In My Back" is very impressive, quite flooded with eclectic (heavy, jazzy, avanty, and a tad krauty) texture like King Crimson Discipline era ... bombastically distorted keyboard bullets, active saxophone athletic figure, perfectly precise drumming (kinda killa) ... such a kind of melody line or rhythmic formation could not produce any innovation nor novel soundscape actually I guess, but please let me say it be fine their play is perfect and pleasant. Try without any irregular thought, and you will enjoy this album in a simple manner.

 Electronic Elements by ONO, RYOKO album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.54 | 3 ratings

Electronic Elements
Ryoko Ono Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ryoko Ono is a sax/ flute player out of Japan who is also very much into electronics. She is one half of the SAX RUINS duo and has played with other experimental Japanese bands. I feel that I should have done more homework on this one as I saw it listed under Zeuhl here which moved me to pick this up and it has nothing to do with that sub-genre. This is Avant all the way and most of the songs are repetitive and experimental to say the least. I do like three of the tracks but struggle to enjoy the rest. You should really read Damo's review if your into Avant music because he describes the music here better than I will.

"Polygon" has these heavy beats and random sax expressions throughout while "Tetragon" features organ runs and percussion throughout. I prefer the latter but I'm not big on either. "Depths Of The Sea" has lots of beats throughout that I find it somewhat annoying and repetitive. "Dual" has more drums and beats with dissonant sax coming and going. "Unknown" is a top three. I like the atmosphere to start as sax expressions join in. This one's darker but then it changes before 3 minutes with electronics but they don't last long as the beats take over without sax this time. The electronics start to come and go then the sax returns after 6 minutes. Good song. "Ensemble" is another top three with those vocals that sound they have been processed through something as the sax, beats and electronics help out. Interesting and repetitive. "Sunrise" has these random screeching sax sounds and drums that are just as random as they both stop and go throughout.

"Slut Or Slattern" has what sounds like organ and strings that pulse and slice. Some electronics before 4 1/2 minutes. I do like the spacey calm late which is my favourite part of the album. "Sunset" has percussion and electronics throughout and it's laid back and ambient. Very repetitive as well. The tempo does pick up some around 5 1/2 minutes. "Ubiquitous" is my final top three track. We get sax, piano, bass and a beat as this sounds almost normal but it's not as the sax and piano are avant sounding. I do like it. "Extra" is the closer and it opens with strange electronics as the synths sweep in almost sounding PT-like. Not a fan when it changes before a minute with stuttering beats and electronics. Another change after 3 minutes as a beat and vibes-like sounds take over. Electronics to the fore before 4 minutes then keys as the drums continue. A calm before 5 1/2 minutes as guitar-like sounds and a beat take over. Beats blast again before 6 minutes, electronics too. More of those PT-like synths after 7 minutes. I like those sections.

A tough one for me to enjoy although I certainly appreciate what's going on here. 3.5 stars.

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTA¤S France
ANAID France
ARKHAM Belgium
CORIMA United States
D▄N France
GA'AN United States
MAGMA France
NEOM France
NOA France
PSEU France
RH┘N France
SETNA France
VAK France
VAULTS OF ZIN United States
XING SA France
ZAO France

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