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Noa - Noa CD (album) cover





3.88 | 18 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
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 DŁn, Eskaton and ArchaÔa 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 ArchaÔa, the vocal charm of Eskaton and the more adventurous complexity of DŁn 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.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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