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Eider Stellaire - Eider Stellaire I CD (album) cover

EIDER STELLAIRE I

Eider Stellaire

 

Zeuhl

4.01 | 100 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars It seems that most if not all bands that fall into the world of zeuhl have some connection direct or otherwise to Magma's Christian Vander and his pioneering band of the entire sub-genre of progressive jazzy rock. The French band EIDER STELLAIRE is no exception to this rule. The band was founded in 1980 by Michel Le Bars in Albion-sur-Seine near Paris after having started out under the moniker Astarte. The band released three albums in the 80s beginning with this 1981 debut that was completely eponymously titled upon its first pressing but has been given the title I ( one) since the remastered 2011 version came out. This is so that it fits in with the following albums II ( two ) and III ( three ). Makes sense to me!

This is one of those albums that has been virtually impossible to find for many years after its inception since it was issued originally in 1981 as a small private micro-pressing of only 300 vinyl LPs. That is the version with the blue cover and stellar backdrop. A second self-released small pressing took place in 1986 which sported a white backdrop on the cover with a castle in the lower right corner. It also had a sticker slapped on it that shouted '1st Album!' Despite two releases, it was still super rare and remained one of the most sought after obscurities in the prog universe. While it has been available to hear once the internet has been in existence, finally in 2011 the holy chapel in the form of the record label Soleil Zeuhl remastered the album and re-released it on CD with the original album cover but if you want any of the vinyl editions, expect to shell out some serious dough.

Like all zeuhl projects, EIDER STELLAIRE are highly influenced by 70s Magma with the same exact mix of 20th century classical (Bartok, Orff, Stravinsky) and rock fortified jazz-fusion with strong bass driven rhythms and angelic female vocals. The band Astarte started out with Michel Le Bars (drums), Patrick Singery (bass) and Jean-Claude Delachat (guitar) who all played together for three years before disbanding and beginning the EIDER STELLAIRE project in 1980. During the Astarte years, the band would open up for Magma when much of the material for this debut album was written so on top of being influenced by Vander's pride and joy, they would become immersed in the music as well which becomes more obvious when listening to this debut release. After reforming under the different band name the additional members of Pierre Gerard-Hirne (piano, organ), V'ronique Perrault (vocals), Marie- Anne Boda (vocals, flute) und Michel Moindre (tenor sax) would join in and the EIDER STELLAIRE party began.

ALBUM NO. 1 originally hosted five tracks and the re-release added an alternative version of 'Nihil' which was longer and quite different as a bonus track. EIDER STELLAIRE not surprisingly sound a lot like Magma. In the similarities department we have the same incessant rhythmic bass workouts that form the backbone of the musical drive but with the same nerdy precision of Jannick Top and the host of other bassists who have tackled this demanding sub-genre. The alienating effects of the music are nearly identical as EIDER STELLAIRE easily whisks you away from 'normal' Earthly bound music. Another distinct feature that is clearly from the Magma playbook are the ethereal female vocals that offer the same sort of human touch that was so prevalent on not only Magma albums but Canterbury greats such as Hatfield & The North. The bass driven grooves are also augmented by organs and keyboard runs as counterpoints. That's where the similarities end.

The differences are numerous. EIDER STELLAIRE blend in a lot more jazz-fusion than the Magma albums after the first two did but even so it's not like the first two Magma albums which were extremely experimental. This is completely zeuhl oriented with jazz- fusion touches more like the band Zao only a tad demanding and a lot more energetic. What really drives EIDER STELLAIRE over the top is the inclusion of heavy guitar riffing and soloing which is something not common in the zeuhl microverse. For the most part this music is completely vocal free save the examples strewn about where the girls chant wordless utterances. Despite falling into what some would call clone country, EIDER STELLAIRE do find their own voice in the zeuhl wilderness although admittedly with a rhythmic drive and bass bombast so similar to their influences, it's hard to remember that small detail.

Though the band sounds most similar to Magma when the girls are hitting the high notes, there are times of pure magic such as on "Arctis 6.'me 'ph'm'ride' where the instrumental interplay is absolutely divine and if one pays attention to the details of the bass lines in mix with the frenetic percussion, it is apparent that EIDER STELLAIRE implement a far more jazzy approach than Magma with their Teutonic marches onto the battlefield. This music has a lighter and airier feel as if Weather Report was joining in for a few sessions but then got carried away. While many deem this as a masterpiece and cornerstone of the sub-genre i'm not quite as keen on it. It's certainly a stellar example of zeuhl taken on its own terms but in the end this debut album sounds like a perpetual jam of sorts with no real resolution for the compositions, something Magma never lacked. It simply doesn't register as highly as Magma's never-ending supply of top notch albums. EIDER STELLAIRE would only release three albums and ultimately Michel would later join Christian Vander's post-Magma band Offering which i would imagine was a dream come true.

3.5 rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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