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Franco Battiato

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Franco Battiato Battiato [Aka: Zâ] album cover
1.90 | 22 ratings | 6 reviews | 5% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Zâ (19:35)
2. Cafč - Table - Musik (20:24)

Total time 39:59

Line-up / Musicians

- Francesco Battiato / composer

- Antonio Ballista / grand piano
- Alide Maria Salvetta / soprano vocals (2)

Releases information

Artwork: Antonio Ballista

LP Ricordi ‎- SMRL 6201 (1977, Italy)

CD ARTIS Records - ARCD 046 (1993, Italy) Re-entitled "Zâ"

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FRANCO BATTIATO Battiato [Aka: Zâ] ratings distribution

(22 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(5%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(9%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (36%)
Poor. Only for completionists (27%)

FRANCO BATTIATO Battiato [Aka: Zâ] reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by micky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Franco Battiato.. wow... where to start with him. With one that hasn't been reviewed yet of course hahha. Before I tackle trying to review the 10 albums I have from him so far (with more to come of course).. I'd like to give a shout out to the person who really lit my interest in Battiato. No, it's not who you think it is hahhaha. Our dearest friend, and master of laughs and good times himself Mr. Philippe Blache. In a thread on Italian avant artists some time back, he described Battiato as a boring artist. Well, knowing just how Philippe and I see eye to eye. I knew I had to check him out. Best 'suggestion' I've got from anyone here at the Archiives hahah. Thanks Philippe. *couple of clappies*

Now to the album itself. Battiato's musical meanaderings are well notated in his bio so it's enough to say this this album is from the late 70's which should say enough if you are familiar at all with his music.

This album released in 1977 consists of two 'songs'. Battiato in this time was experimenting with avant minimalism. I have to say that if you haven't heard avant prog minimalism, let just say that whatever you are hearing in your mind... is probably really close to the truth hahha. It's a challenge to listen to, I won't lie to you there. The first song Zâ is just short of 20 minutes of the same piano chord repeated... over and over and over. Pretty cool stuff..

needless to say... I don't listen too much to that one. Though I must admit, I've sat through it several times. It is great music for a rainy Sunday morning .... just remember the headphones so your wife or girlfriend doesn't toss your stereo out the window.

The second side with the track Cafč-Table-Musik is far more interesting and if fact earns the stars this album will get from me. The piano playing is simply fabulous.. and more than offsets the female singer who sounds worse than I do in the shower doing my Joplin immitations. If the first song is for a rainy Sunday mornings.. this one is for spending this the rest of the day makiing love in front of a roaring fireplace. The shrill vocal parts aside.. absolutely lovely piano playing. Very romantic. The minimalism works so well here.. it's like the piano speaks only to you.. there's nothing else to get in the way.

An interesting album and one I have to admit I really do like. 3 stars for me.. almost 4 stars. For the forum at large... 2 stars. Fans of Battiato only.. or those who are into the freaky avant experimental stuff. I normally am not.. but I'm such a huge fan of Battiato, and this was not my first album from him, so I've come to understand this is the work of an artist and was a step in a progression from the solid prog rock of Pollution to his later albums. A true artist and musical pioneer.

Michael (aka micky)

Review by Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Under normal circumstances, we should be halfway into Franco Battiato's full exposure to avant-garde oriented music, impressed or at least intrigued by his tricky, complex, uncanny, fresh, meta-mature and valorous (in one way or another) experiments. However, at least taking 1977's Battiato as reference, out of a total of four potential ones, deception turns the main word. Perhaps a soft one, too.

Career-wise, we could indeed talk about a peak (not necessarily with this album, because the award-winning upcoming L'Egitto prima delle sabbie seems the logical ultimate climax, but including it in the ascension) since we're browsing through samples of unbound, straightforward, academic, concrete & hermetic music. But even here I'm very much tempted, thanks to the dry impression provided by Battiato, to daringly conclude that much of this phase could only be counted as a big intersection between Battiato's juiciest eclectic art and the new times when he'll become highly popular for a different, lighter type of music. While no doubt acknowledging Battiato's final dream of shaping his classical-trained idea(l)s of experimentation without setbacks, results such as Battiato are nevertheless plain bizarre drafts compared to the earlier and way more profound (plus, from this perspective, classic) tetralogy. If albums such as Foetus and Pollution (perhaps Clic as well) are remembered as of an acquired taste, Battiato's standard could disappoint the vital fans of the style itself.

Stylistically, it would wrong to completely demote this work, as, especially through the convincing first composition, it's a pretty close match of the modern classical language Battiato wished to approach, the second epic of this album being surprisingly a more random, even if more fulfilling as well, experiment. With a tiny bit of optimism, the predictable shock of the first experience will wash away, allowing a mature future appreciation. Musically however, the verdict is strict: Battiato's study is of a difficult appeal, a recording session far too intimate, with a (theoretically) proper yet hard-to-survive minimalism klavierstück (obvious hint, of course), contrasted by a far too shy vocal-instrumental collage, compared to much wilder examples in the 1971-74 tapes. Obscurity fates this release from the very beginning, but even if unfolded, the chances of sounding incredible are very slim. Calling it a collector's item makes the most sense, but treasuring it in this way ultimately doesn't.

Battiato rarely worked so condensed as he does now and throughout the mid 70s, traditionally filling the two sides with, here on, weak epics. First up is the Stockhausen memento, the introduction of the IXth Klavierstücke being reproduced and, a bit, enhanced. Describing this minimal, obstinate exercise in too many words would be silly, the key symbol being sound and its pure experimentation. What I'm missing is the depth the sound would need, in this situation, in order to actually attract and move the listener. General effects can be discerned, even by those who would tag this echo music or ambient, but the scarce nuancing points out another major flaw, the cheap rhythm patterns and the slight shift of chords not doing much to improve the feeling. Within the resonance, I'm picking up some metallic notes, as if electric keyboards were added to the piano (and they probably were, I'm just relating to the impression), creating an unwanted artificial splinter inside the natural aura of the music. Neither secco, nor slipping into soundscapes, offers no pleasure, and hardly fascinates.

Through repeated listening, a rough epic such as will flow better and better, proving pretty okay at this chapter. So does the other epic, Cafe-Table-Musik, by paradox less restraint, but still minimal and, in my opinion, rudimentary. This time, Battiato isn't alone in a white cubic chamber, with his piano and nothing else, but he could just as well be in the recording room, trimming and merging excerpts, creating a collage, shaping a suite. Alida Maria Salvelra provides the vocals, a bit of opera here and there, dialogue and meditative lines in the rest, backed up in a couple of fragments by another voice, un-credited, presumably Battiato himself. The lyrics overall seem to have a random origin, emphasizing a desired punch. The element that recurs, in a much smoother form, is the piano music, alternating at first, blending soon after with the vocal codex. A symphonic drop of essence falls lofty somewhere in between, with no special result. Austere and repetitive, the melody matters, once again, less in comparison with its potential of effects, but nothing is truly different, since the lack of artistic nuances persists, and we're stuck in a slideshow of abstract, bare images. The style surfaces adequately, but the music sounds inmost modest, to not mention the better things Battiato composed in this direction.

Anyone taking a deeper incursion into the progressive rock library bumps into more unusual samples, mostly avant-garde oriented or unearthly experimental ones, sooner or later. In this case, prog rock is out of the question, and the discovery is sadly unrewarding. This is mainly a view back into modern classical/proto-electronic music, done with a degree of professional, still with a forgotten subtlety. I'm surprisingly giving the second star for , the track that can possibly annoy everyone who'd listen to it, but is the more meaningful one of the two presented.

A mere consolation star, though, for hopefully the weakest of the four albums that outline this special phase: inferior, interior music all around, with hardly any rich taste.

Review by Matthew T
1 stars This instrumental album comprising of two tracks was released in 1977 on the Ricordi Label.

Track 1. Za is solo piano and once is played by Antonia Ballista. This piece is played quite hard and seems to be getting an effect through the piano which ia heard at the end of each note as the strings vibrate inside the piano. The piece is simple and quite boring and then it is done again with a softer play on the keys. Every note is on its own. Might be interesting if you are studying piano.

Track 2 .Sound Collage wold be the best description for this track. Cafe Table Muzik. Occasionally a flash of something nice as a piano flashes in but once again not really recommended entertainment. Soprano vocalist is used as well and as with this artist there are some sound effects and spoken pieces all in Italian.There is one piano piece 5 minutes in and another around 11 minutes in that is not to bad. Near the ending the vocalists sings with the piano and then the melody just stops.The piano is played in a Classical style throughout this track.

I can only give this album 1 star it is slightly better than his later infamous album L'Eqitto Prima delle Sabie but not a lot.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
2 stars Avant music is in general harder to describe than to comment. In this case the situation is different.

Also known as "Za", that's the title of the instrumental piece on the vinyl side A, its just a repetition of a single piano chord with different intervals and after each chord there's what initially seems just produced by harmonics, but later you can realize that's a keyboard playing a sort of melody. What is interesting is the idea: instead of a melody played simoultaneously to the chord as usual, here the melody comes after the chord. It fills the intervals and, honestly is not properly a melody.

There are little changes in the intervals and in how the keyboard fills them or not. Don't expect that anything more interesting than this can happen. However, this is not so bad as I'm describing it. The important is choosing the right moment for listening to it. Headphones, a relaxing environment, a sofa, coloured lights and it can be a good background. The problem is that once you have found the right mood, I mean after 8 minutes from the start, there's a pause of silence and the chord changes, the intervals are shorter and there's less room for what I have called "melody". Now it's more question of harmonics than of melody.

After 3 more minutes the intervals increase their length, there's along blank moment then the chord is played higher. I also have the impression of an error at about minute 12:30. It's like the pianist makes an error, so to avoid restarting the recording she repeats it three or four times.

At minute 14 we are back to the keyboard after the chord. The volume of the chord increases slightly. All the 19 minutes of this track are made of very little variations, but they lack of any kind of complexity. Close to the end the keyboard's notes become prevalent and there's also the impression that something is changing, like the song is starting now after a long intro. At minute 17:40 there are TWO PIANO impressive change.

Jokes apart, this last two minutes may be the coda of a normal track. There's something similar in a song on the second album of Caravan and also the long coda of Renaissance's "At the Harbour" comes to my mind... but it suddenly finishes.

Now the second track: a patchwork of recordings like in "M.lle Le Gladiator", with some musical parts here and there. What the voices say hasn't much sense and also the soprano is not easily understanding. If you have ever been to a performance contemporary ballet, you may have listened to something of this kind. The piano parts are not bad. They are repetitive but relaxing. I would have preferred 19 minutes of "this" piano on the previous track. Unfortunately after this piece of piano the patchwork restarts. It's not too bad, but this is soemthing created, I think, for a single listen. It can be used for a ballet, but if I wasn't trying to review all the albums of Battiato I wouldn't have listened to this more than once.

There are some more minutes of piano, then a "strange voice" overdubbed and modified by some effects that I think is Battiato himself. Similar to a mantra, then the patchwork again.

Some more piano with whispered voices below, it's a sort of studio for beginners, but quite nice. Who knows Battiato's later efforts enough can recognize his touch in this short part. The soprano is back and now it's properly music until the sudden end.

Collectors/fans only is a good definition as it's not completely poor. It's probably 1.5 stars, but I reserve the 1 star ratings for things worse than this.

Review by HolyMoly
3 stars This is Italian composer Franco Battiato's sixth album, released in 1977. While his first four albums remain the core of his discography as far as progressive rock goes (and even then he was kind of riding around the edges), his next few albums until the end of the decade became increasingly abstract and minimalistic. Primarily known as a vocalist, he had stopped singing on his own albums by the fourth one, preferring instead to showcase tape experiments and repetitive electro-acoustic themes. In a bizarre shift of style, he suddenly became a mainstream pop star come the 1980s, but that's another story.

Battiato will probably be very disconcerting to the first time listener. The first track, the side-long "Za", was his most minimalist piece yet, pretty much a single piano chord repeated for nearly 20 minutes. Yes, that's right. Each chord rings for a variable amount of time, and his attack and release of the piano keys is varied in such a way as to produce some slight reverberation inside the piano, even after the chord has ended. Sure, it's tedious, but so is watching waves roll onto the beach. The trick to this is just to sit and focus on the flow of the chords; like snowflakes (or waves on the beach, to preserve my prior analogy), no two are quite alike.

Still, that's not a lot to hang your hat on. This would be a two-star album if not for the second side-long track, the very seductive "Cafe-Table-Musik". This piece presents a series of lovely repeated figures on the piano (melodies this time, not just chords), usually using the same compositional trick you've heard on King Crimson's "Frame by Frame": in this case two repeated figures laid on top of each other, one in 4/4 and one in 5/4, the effect of which is a phasing effect, and every so often (thanks to mathematics) the two figures "meet" again. It makes for a very pleasant, dreamy effect. There are about four of these in all, and they are interspersed with snippets of conversation, spoken word tapes, I guess meant to convey the feeling of being in a cafe. This track always makes me smile. It's the "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" of the RPI world, I suppose.

This is more of an experimental, minimalist album, probably not of much interest to most progressive rock fans, and newcomers would be well advised to check out Battiato's first few albums before tackling this one. I enjoy it a lot, though, and feel comfortable with a three star rating.

Review by andrea
1 stars "Battiato" is the sixth album by Franco Battiato and was released in 1977 on the Ricordi label. There's no trace of rock on it, it's pure avant-garde and experimentalism, a challenging work that is really hard to understand and appreciate. To be honest, I find it almost unbearable...

The first side of the original LP is entirely occupied by "Za", a long piece for piano solo (here played by Antonio Ballista) that in the liner notes is described as follows: "Apparently poor. Almost completely based on one chord. Deliberately percussive (the right pedal is never used), it splits and subtracts resonances, with a release technique. It needs a listening that could be defined as meta-analytical, in favour of a timeless non-spatiality". In my opinion, it's just something that might drain out your all your patience as a music listener, drop after drop...

The second side of the LP is completely filled with another long experimental track, "Café-Table-Musik", whose title derives from a phrase with which Marcel Proust had defined some of his books, i.e. coffee table books. It's a kind of clumsy collage of sounds with soprano vocals, romantic piano patterns, fragments of dialogues, reciting voices and even treacherous hints of melody. This piece is described by the composer in the liner notes as a piece of European regression, a sort of Orphic-collage; full of substitutions, manipulations, false quotes, or rather original copies where the piano scale becomes melody, the exercise of voice, feeling... Freedom from the known for the known... In my opinion, it's just another way to wear out your patience as a music listener, if any trace of patience was left after listening to the previous track...

On the whole, a deliberate sonic torture for your ears, but not without a kind of perverse, self-ironic charm.

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