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Zeuhl • France

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Xalph biography
It sometimes happens that music recorded many years before is rediscovered and publiched on an album long after the band is disbanded. Xalph likely recorded the tracks in 1976, when they were openers for MAGMA, but their omonimous album was released only in 2018; 32 years later.
Some band members quit completely after the disbanding and some joined other projects.
The bassists Dany MARCOMBE and Jack TOCAH, the keyboardists Jean-Michel CURSAN
and Serge KORJANEVSKI (who joined UPPSALA), the drummer Maurice FARI ad the guitarist Patrick BRIAND had their own careers while Andre LESGOUARRES, Christian LASSALLE and Jean-Pierre DARAN disappeared.
The vocalist Claire LABORDE joined MAGMA for a while.
The main reason for their lack of success, despite being an excellent band, was probably their distance from Paris as they were based in Bordeaux.

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4.82 | 3 ratings

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 Xalph by XALPH album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.82 | 3 ratings

Xalph Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

5 stars Archival Release recorded 1975-1980

Like other European nations in the 1970s, France experienced a boom of adventurous progressive rock musicians who really loved to push the boundaries but unlike many other nations, the French hosted the band Magma which single-handedly invented its own tiny musical subdivision of prog therefore it's not a surprise that many similar minded French musical adventurists followed in the footsteps of Christian Vander and his army of Kobaian noisemakers and their self-penned zeuhl genre. One such band that formed was Lucie Dans Le Ciel in 1971 before changing its name to XALPH in 1974. Led by guitarist Jean Pierre Daran, XALPH existed until 1981 with several different lineups and even played with the mighty Magma on several occasions but sadly never released a single album during the time of its existence.

This is one of those bands that almost got erased from history since the few recordings the band managed to put to tape had been missing for decades. Luckily they were rescued from their absent state and at long last in 2018 released as a bonafide vinyl LP by the Monster Melodies label. Unfortunately this label doesn't seem to believe in releasing their products on CD or even digitally for that matter which is a true hindrance for many of us who don't partake in a lot of the classic vinyl experiences mostly due to space storage issues. Whatever the case someone has finally uploaded this excellent album onto YouTube for all to enjoy. This one self-titled archival release features five tracks that span XALPH's entire career from 74-81 and therefore is a veritable time capsule of underground zeuhl splendor from the musical style's initial craze.

While many zeuhl artists such as Zao, Eider Stellaire and Eskaton tended not to stray too far from the parent influence by retaining the beefy Jannick Top styled bass grooves, multi-vocalist choral sections and cyclical rhythmic drives, others such as XALPH were all about adopting the bubbly zeuhl rhythms and then going completely gangbuster in crafting a totally original sound and in that regard XALPH scored a homer when it comes to original forward thinking zeuhl that was spawned during Magma's early years. While inspired primarily by Magma, XALPH was also 1/3 jazz-rock in the vein of Weather Report with jazzy time signature progressions, atmospheric counterpoints and deviations from the martial rhythmic drives as well as John McLaughlin inspired jazz guitar knottiness. Likewise the time signatures were quite extreme taking on the more dramatic atonal choppiness of the Rock In Opposition artists like Henry Cow, Frank Zappa or Moving Gelatine Plates.

XALPH was also primarily instrumental with only a few traces of vocals but where they do occur were more in the vein of Zao rather than Magma with only two vocalists singing in unison rather than complex tapestries of choral craziness. Some of the jazz-fusion moments also bring Return To Forever to mind as well. The album starts out rather dramatically with "Entrée D'Amélie" creating a bleak darkened soundscape reminding a bit of a more guitar driven Univers Zero but lightened up by the crazy jazzy chord progressions. XALPH was into some serious guitar riffing courtesy of Daran's excellent guitar playing. The band wastes no time in crafting some adventurous avant-prog time signature workouts in the vein of bands like Yugen long before the 90s prog revival ever came to be. This combo effect of crazy complex and dark and forbidding is possible the reason this band was shunned at the time. They were simply too far ahead of the curve for most to grasp.

The following "Les Soldats" is even wilder with bizarre jagged guitar licks accompanied by a zeuhl fueled keyboard march. The drums and bass support the craziness with jazzy overtones. This is one of the wildest tracks i've ever heard and light years ahead of anything else from the 1970s. The remaining tracks like such as "Mi" tone things down a bit (but only slightly) which shows the difference between a feisty young band high on adrenaline as opposed to one that is a bit more seasoned and in touch with what audiences want to hear. The album is a one-stop shop for XALPH's entire career and a fascinating case study of how a crazy adventurous underground prog band from the 70s evolved.

This is exactly the kind of underground prog that does it for me. Rather than comfortably copying the Magma playbook and changing the recipe a bit, XALPH took the zeuhl style into bolder and more brazen directions. It's even hard to call this zeuhl at times as the avant-prog and jazz-fusion aspects often dominate but just as often they play together and also deviate into wild experimental freak shows. This is what crazy complex prog is all about! Too hot to handle for even the most adventurous proggers of the era! Even by today's standards this is some seriously demanding music to follow. Panhead fever all the way! Sounding something like a concoction of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Magma, Weather Report, Univers Zero and Henry Cow, XALPH were and remain one of a kind. I am so utterly grateful for whoever saved these long lost tapes from disappearing forever. This is some of the coolest music i've ever heard! I am really digging these archival bands that were too extreme for their own era. Utter brilliance!

Thanks to octopus-4 for the artist addition.

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