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ZEUHL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaan, 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.

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Zeuhl Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Zeuhl | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.29 | 1168 ratings
MEKANK DESTRUKTW KOMMANDH
Magma
4.33 | 291 ratings
4 VISIONS
Eskaton
4.25 | 773 ratings
K.A (KHNTARKSZ ANTERIA)
Magma
4.24 | 574 ratings
MHNTHTT-R
Magma
4.24 | 521 ratings
EROS
Dn
4.30 | 200 ratings
MATHEMATICAL MOTHER
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.17 | 390 ratings
CHRISTIAN VANDER: TRISTAN ET ISEULT [AKA: ẀURDAH TAH] (OST)
Magma
4.14 | 562 ratings
KHNTARKSZ
Magma
4.18 | 246 ratings
WEIDORJE
Weidorje
4.10 | 506 ratings
1001 CENTIGRADES [AKA: 2]
Magma
4.08 | 434 ratings
FLICIT THSZ
Magma
4.27 | 96 ratings
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
4.13 | 157 ratings
THE MAGUS
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.22 | 90 ratings
SLAǧ TANƶ
Magma
4.02 | 557 ratings
MAGMA [AKA: KOBAA]
Magma
4.28 | 68 ratings
BONDAGE FRUIT II
Bondage Fruit
4.09 | 148 ratings
INFERNAL MACHINA
Top, Jannick
4.08 | 161 ratings
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
4.10 | 128 ratings
RITUALE ALIENO
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.51 | 32 ratings
200 000
Zwoyld

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Zeuhl experts team

TOSCCO
Happy Family
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
TRIMEGISTO
Runaway Totem
NEFFESH MUSIC: GHILGOUL
Seffer, Yochk'o

Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews


 Mathematical Mother by UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.30 | 200 ratings

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Mathematical Mother
Universal Totem Orchestra Zeuhl

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

5 stars Although UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA formed all the way back in 1998, this eclectic zeuhl hybrid act hasn't exactly been the most prolific artist in the world of prog having only released three albums in its quarter of a century existence but while UTO Giorgio Golin's former band Runaway Totem has been much more productive as far as releasing a large quantity of albums, UTO has rather focused on quality which is something i appreciate very much. It took nine years for UTO to follow up it's 1999 debut "Rituale Alieno" and finally in 2008 "The Magus" emerged and it would take another eight years to release its third album MATHEMATICAL MOTHER which came out in 2016. As of this calendar year 2024 it seems that it's time for a fourth installment in the UTO universe as the band appears to remain active and given the creative mind-blowing albums it's delivered so far, i sure hope that's the case!

Amazingly this third album retains the exact same lineup as the previous one while the second album featured an almost completely new lineup! Once again Ana Torres Fraile, Antonio Fedeli (vocals), Daniele Valle (guitar), Fabrizio Mattuzzi (keyboard, piano), Uto Giorgio Golin (drums) and Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta (bass) along with seven guest musicians and vocalists to deliver another slice of extraordinary diverse prog rock primarily based on the Magma inspired zeuhl flavors of yore. Adventurous and exceedingly eccentric, UTO fortifies its zeuhl foundation with all kinds of classic prog flavors including dissonant guitar rumbling in the vein of classic King Crimson, knotty time signature raucousness reminiscent of Gentle Giant, Middle Eastern flavored folk fusion reminding of the Italian classic of Area and even moments of Renaissance inspired symphonic prog. Add a few spacier moments courtesy of the world of Krautrock and Pink Floyd, elements of jazz, opera and medieval music and you have one amazingly diverse slice of top notch zeuhl here!

It's really hard to describe such an album that infuses so much into its six tracks that add up to about 54 minutes of playing time. While retaining that bouncy zeuhl grooviness most notably in the bass lines and vocalist Ana Torres Fraile's vocal style right out of the Stella Vander playbook, the "extras" on this album have no limits. It's crazy electronic keyboard solos one minutes and Indian vocal chanting the next from the multitude of backing singers who offer opposing contrapuntal elements to Fraile's mostly uniform vocal style. Sounds you almost never associate with zeuhl are fair game with UTO. This includes Middle Eastern musical scales, guitar solos, Phillip Glass inspired keyboard virtuosity, Gregorian chants, touches of gothic rock, crazy avant-prog diversions and well the list goes on! UTO also retains its Italian prog heritage by delivering lyrics not in some fictitious language but rather in its native tongue.

With so many elements on board it would be easy for album like MATHEMATICAL MOTHER to spiral out of control but UTO does an impeccable job of keeping it all organized in a logical and cohesive procession with Fraile's motherly vocals providing the stabilizing force to let the rest of the band run wild. Of course the zeuhl bass grooves also add a bit of cohesiveness to the entire affair but even Andreatta is let off the leash a bit allowing more dynamic bass grooves than pretty much any other zeuhl act i've yet encountered. Perhaps the most unexpected element of MATHEMATICAL MOTHER is the recurring use of those exotic Middle Eastern musical scales that evoke Area's early albums. Add to that the abundant use of crazy time signature rich adventurism and i could easily call this one of the most diverse and demanding zeuhl albums out there. It's not all technical wizardry though. Plenty of slow and contemplative moments occur as breathing room such as the soft and warming beginning of "Architettura Dell'Acqua." In other words, the album is well balanced.

I was thoroughly impressed with UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA first two releases but this one just takes all the wild and unrestrained creativity to a new level and not only that pulls it off with ease! Perhaps it required the entire eight years to polish the early rough gem into the sparkling diamond that it would become. The band has also strayed further from the Magma influences than most others all without deemphasizing its dedication to the zeuhl branch of progressive rock that it has nurtured so well into a totally new independent offspring. A demanding album that requires a few spins to sink in but a rewarding one with so many twists and turns that it's impossible NOT to be impressed! Bravo. It'll probably require another eight years of hard work to top this one!

 Soleil D'Ork by TOP, JANNICK album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.76 | 31 ratings

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Soleil D'Ork
Jannick Top Zeuhl

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

4 stars For most he's everybody's favorite bassist in Christian Vander's eccentrically wild and adventurous band Magma but JANNICK TOP has enjoyed a fruitful career collaborating with a number of other acts including Fusion, Heldon, Space, Speed Limit, STS, Troc and the one-off live gathering as Utopic Sporadic Orchestra. Add to that impressive resume, TOP has also carved out a sparse yet lively solo career by releasing his own material mostly in archival form from tracks he's recorded throughout the years.

While catching the prog world's attention with his stunningly brilliant 2008 "Infernal Machina" which showcased his eclectic bass virtuosity in the context of zeuhl, jazz and Bulgarian folk music, TOP has collaborated with many other artists throughout the decades and in 2001 released some of his secret valued solo recordings that never found their way onto any of the projects he was a participant in. The result was this archival collection titled SOLEIL D'ORK which was named after a track on the 1976 Magma album "d Ẁd."

This album features six tracks including the near 23-minute sprawling reinterpretation of Magma's "De Futura." The album features tracks recorded between 1974-1980 during his hiatus from Magma however the fourth track "Mekanik Machine" is actually credited to Magma, features Christian Vander and friends and is presumably a TOP penned track that didn't quite make it onto any particular Magma release. Likewise the track "De Futura" is a reworked version of Magma's 18-minute B-side from the "d Ẁd" album with Richard Pinhas on guitar.

As one can imagine this is an odds and sods sort of album with tracks recorded at different times to reflect musical moods and whims that didn't jive well with any of the projects TOP was engaged in with a very diverse palette of styles that don't add up to a cohesive album's worth of material but rather a collection of intriguing one-offs that showcase TOP's virtuosic bass playing skills. While evoking the majesty of Magma, the opening "Epithecantropus Erectus" offers a bouncy bass groove that could be interpreted as danceable however the menacing gruff nonsensical vocals and freaky keyboard runs keep it in the dark dank underworld of zeuhl. "Utopia Viva" sounds a bit more like Magma only with more experimental production including echo effects as well as what sounds like a banjo? No way! A strange mix of freaky keyboard contributions and a greater emphasis on guitar rock heft, TOP's bass playing techniques are undeniable but like the majority of his music features rather Teutonic wordless vocal parts that keep it in that Magma mindset. "La Musique Des Sphres" offers a more spaced out journey with sparse percussion and a trippy progressive electronic atmosphere that sounds like an angel's choir. Presumably this was inspired by his affiliation with electronic pioneer Richard Pinhas' Heldon project and sounds like Heldon with the marital percussion of Magma.

"Mekanik Machine" is basically a Magma track and sounds like any of their classic 70s albums with its members performing instrumental duties including Christian Vander on drums, Claude Olmos on guitar, Patrick Gauthier on keys as well as Klaus Blasquisz on vocals. "Soleil "D'Ork" is a bizarre track as it starts with a wild vocal call with freaky synthesizer swirlies. TOP's distinct bass antics quickly jump in and the track proceeds sounding like an ancient post-rock track with cyclical loops, trippy atmospherics and a hypnotic excursion into the wild. The shamanic vocal calling is pretty wild! This one is unlike anything else on the album however TOP's bass playing always makes it clear he is involved as it forever retains that Magma-esque zeuhl groove.

The strangest track has to be the 23-minute "De Futura" which is a reworking of the Magma track but starts out unrecognizable as such as it starts off as a progressive electronic type of track with spoken word narrative in the German language. After a short while though a bouncy drumbeat jumps in and Pinhas offers his best take on Frippian guitar wizardry as heard in the Heldon project. More Teutonic wordless vocals add a sense of intensity. It's a bizarre motorik sort of electronic drumbeat. Around 14 minutes the tempo is increased the guitar, vocals and keys get more turbulent and frenetic. A very strange version but pretty cool as the keyboards sound like UFOs with sirens.

The closing "Glas" is primarily an ambient track with swirling winds as the backdrop with a slow plodding bass note and subdued monkish vocal chants. It's like a journey through the Sahara during a sandstorm. Overall this is an interesting album of tidbits that may not quite match the majesty of "Infernal Machina" but pieces together the lost years when TOPP stepped out of Magma for a breather. Not really cohesive as an album but rather a collection of interesting experimental tracks that showcase TOP's unique bass gymnastics in different contexts beyond the usual Magma inspired zeuhl but then again there's plenty of that too! Too bad JANNICK doesn't release more solo material because i'm actually quite fond of it. Distinctly unique and completely different spins on the world of zeuhl and beyond.

 Black Equus by GA'AN album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.54 | 23 ratings

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Black Equus
Ga'an Zeuhl

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

4 stars One of the rare examples of a zeuhl space rock band, the Chicago based GA'AN released two albums, the first self-titled album in 2009 and then followed it with BLACK EQUUS in 2011. During this short time synthesizer player Jeremiah Fisher and bassist / synth player Jason Sublette both left the band leaving only vocalist Lindsay Powell and drummer Seth Sher. The duo added Tyson Torstensen to the team who played not only bass and synthesizers but also added the electric piano making the band a trio. At this point the band also enjoyed the benefit of the Captcha label releasing not only this second album but also reissuing its cassette only debut on vinyl. Still no CD versions of either album exist. A combo package would be nice.

Continuing the mix of Magma inspired zeuhl martial rhythms along with the ethereal space rock style of Popol Vuh and other Krautrock bands, GA'AN's second album is more of the same but also quite different in many ways as well. The main difference are the vocals of Lindsay Powell who on the debut existed on the ethereal plane and delivered a consistent flow of angelic high register wordless utterances. On BLACK EQUUS she has reentered the Earthly realms and sounds less aerial as well as sounding like she's actually singing although i'm not able to tel if she's singing in some fictitious language or just nonsensical words this time. She rather sounds like Grace Slick on this one with a lower register vocal style. Once again the album is drenched in synthesized atmospheres, a bouncy bass groove and the frenetic drumming style of Seth Sher.

Also the tracks are much longer on BLACK EQUUS as this album has only three long ones rather than six shorter ones with the the closing "Call Of The Black Equus" almost reaching 19 minutes. Also this second album is more musical and less hypnotic. The vocals form clusters of melodies like Powell is perpetually trying to break into a Jefferson Airplane song but never quite does. The bass and synthesizers add cyclical melodic loops that offer a bit more variation than the droning and ethereal Kraut-zeuhl of the debut. The bass features a thicker distortion and there are many more moments of genuine rock. For example the closing track breaks up into a few motifs with rock as key player. The keys play different roles this time around too with one active and the other sort of passively ambient. The drumming is more diverse as are the throbbing bass grooves. Basically this one isn't as minimalistic as the self-titled debut.

This one will appeal more to those who want more of a progressive rock feel to the album whereas the debut will appeal to the space trippers who want a detached and free floating kosmische experience. Personally i think they've both excellent however i do prefer the higher register angelic vocal style of the debut to this Grace Slick impersonator shtick. It's not horrible or anything but just not as pleasant however as far as the instrumental side of the equation is concerned, this album is much more dynamic whereas the other one proceeded with caution. This one just goes for it with bold reckless abandon. Very distinct differences on this one but still a very unique expression of zeuhl and space rock commingling together. I'm not sure what happened to this band because they appear to still be active but since it's been 13 years since BLACK EQUUS was released there's no telling when or even if a third album will emerge. GA'AN definitely stands out as something unique though. Recommended for adventurous listeners looking for something different.

 Ga'an by GA'AN album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.99 | 23 ratings

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Ga'an
Ga'an Zeuhl

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

4 stars Named after the Sacred Mountain Spirits of the Apache people who are sent to teach people how to live in harmony, GA'AN is one of the stranger bands that has fallen into the zeuhl camp of progressive rock for eschewing any strong jazz connections and merging the style with extremely heady and psychedelic space rock. This band was formed in Chicago by Lindsay Powell (vocals, keyboards), Seth Sher (drums), Jeremiah Fisher (synthesiizers) and Jason Sublette (bass, synthesizers) and has recorded two albums. While this 2009 self-titled debut featured all four original members, the band's followup "Black Equus" found Fisher and Sublette moving on and the replacement of bassist / keyboardist Tyson Torstensen replaced both of them making the band a trio.

Owing as much inspiration to bands like the horror flick soundtrack masters Goblin or the electronic Kraut wizardry of Popol Vuh as it does to the zeuhl pioneers Magma, GA'AN crafted one of the most originally bizarre hybrids of psychedelic zeuhl rock that i've ever experienced. Hypnotic, ethereal and possibly drug induced in its making, GA'AN's unique style of Kraut-zeuhl very much evokes a spiritual force infiltrating the sound spectrum to deliver encoded messages of love and light and harmonic resonance in a world that has fallen woefully out of balance. The musical delivery is fairly straight forward in its simplistic martial procession in the vein of Magma with bouncing groovy bass run and energetic percussion throughout but kept light and elevated through the tapestry of synthesizer ambience that subtly oscillates through the album's six track run.

Lindsay Powell evokes the divine feminine aspects of nature that represent care and unconditional love through her siren calls of wordless utterances. The male members offer similar backing vocals. The keys often evoke a religious liturgy only more like a sermon of a psychedelic mushroom cult or some similarly minded break off group that exists in its own bubble of reality. Despite the rather pacifying nature of the entire affair, drummer Seth Sher delivers some of the most demanding percussive workouts akin to Christian Vander himself except on technical jazzy death metal mode as his fiery workouts offer the most surreal of contrast to the otherwise ethereal astral journey into the higher planes of the dream state. And let me not forget to mention Jason Sublette's extraordinary bass thumping skills as his relentless drive is as impressive as Jannick Top or the best of the zeuhl camp. Whereas some bands focus on virtuosity, GA'AN practices the art of restrain, endurance and repetitive cyclical craftsmanship.

This is pretty much an underground affair and will only appeal to the most adventurous seekers of true cosmic rock that evokes a trip to the spiritual world and back. The album was originally only released on cassette but has since been re-issued on vinyl and available as a digital download but still rather off the radar even for those into zeuhl and space rock. Still no CD version either. The only other act that comes close in matching this band's sound is the 70s space zeuhl act Archaa which delivers a similar martial drive and synthesized trip-a-thon. While not as proficiently weird with the synthesizer action as that classic band, GA'AN nevertheless mastered the art of atmospheric overload where you are literally transported to an alternative reality and taken for an initiation of some sort. While Archaa's music could be scary and down right freaky, GA'AN provides an escape to the angelic realm with the calming soothing vocal style of Lindsay Powell to keep you tethered to the Earthly realms.

The album also blurs the distinction between zeuhl and post-rock. I mean wasn't zeuhl sort of an early form of post-rock? Given the lack of jazzy elements here save the percussive gymnastics which are clustered into the proper zeuhl delivery system, the album comes off as a zeuhl space rock version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Whatever you want to call this wild ride, it's utterly unique and quite addictive at the same time. It's almost like the angelic realms have dialed into your soul frequency and downloading a message of love in musical form!

 Fulmines Regularis by MUSIQUE NOISE album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.08 | 16 ratings

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Fulmines Regularis
Musique Noise Zeuhl

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

4 stars While the 80s sallied forth with the commercial music industry cranking out simpler music art forms that eschewed the psychedelic and progressive tendencies of the previous decades, the prog underground was busy keeping the art form alive and well. While the UK was resuscitating prog's popularity in the form of the catchier neo-prog expressions brought forth by Marillion and others, France on the other hand primarily set its gaze upon its own homegrown heroes from Magma who had single-handedly put France on the map with its distinct style of crazy jazz-infused progressive rock that spawned an entirely new subsection of the prog universe called zeuhl.

MUSIQUE NOISE was just one of many 80s second wavers who were smitten with the crazy Kobaian art form that was structured with bubbly repetitive grooves, stentorian choirs and crafty crescendoes. This band started in Paris in 1986 and featured Denis Levasseur (piano, synthesizers, percussion),Jean-Philippe Gallet (vocals, saxophone) and Philippe Zarka (drums, vocals) from Eskaton as well as members from another band Autopsie that never released anything. The band enjoyed live gigs in the Paris club scene and featured two keyboard players, a bassist, drummer and of course, a female choir. Unique to the band's sound was a trumpet and saxophone which evoked the earliest jazz fusion efforts of Magma.

Engaging in a style that could be considered zeuhl-light at times, MUSIQUE NOISE evoked the world of soulful vocal jazz with less reliance on Magma's dark Teutonic musical processions and rather on more colorful arrangements that delivered a more standard form of progressive rock decorated with zeuhl motifs. The band's debut FULMINES REGULARIS ("Regular Lighting" in Latin) was originally released in 1989 with only six tracks and then reissued in 2014 with an extra four which were some demos and unreleased material. The music is a much more cheerful expression of zeuhl and if comparisons to any Magma release could be made, perhaps the the spiritual jazz nature of "Flicit Thsz" would be the closest thing to what MUSIQUE NOISE delivers on its sole offering of the era.

While the album starts out in a rather tame almost zeuhl meets gospel type of vibe with "Pas Encore," the album slowly but surely ratchets up the progressive tendencies and delivers energetic performances, playful arrangements and three-part vocal arrangements that offer just as many male vocal contributes as female which often deliver a call and response delivery system. The band also breaks into more straight forward smooth jazz moments with only the steadfast bass groove anchoring the band's sound to the world of zeuhl. The solo vocal performances often deliver moments of skat however for the most part the zeuhl characteristics dominate the musical flow on FULMINES REGULARIS. With a lineup of eight performers, the instrumental and vocal interplay are robust and the team really knows how to deliver the zeuhl in its own idiosyncratic way.

I honestly don't like how this album starts out. It almost seems like it's going to deliver a watered down version of zeuhl with more focus on soul pop and R&B flavors but as the album proceeds it gets more and more wild and culminates in the speed-induced "Pzkr!" (on the bonus track version) which showcases the fastest vocal harmony action i'ver ever heard. Given the original vinyl is probably hard to find, most will experience the 10 track version of this album. I highly recommend doing so because the last four tracks are some of the most experimental. The first couple of songs make me not want to like this band but then it magically and mysteriously earns my respect through a never-ending series of innovative approaches that make MUSIQUE NOISE's approach to zeuhl all their own. The band found little success in 1989 when this was released (imagine that) and after this album was released the members started to jump ship until the band was no more although in 2016 a second album was finally released. Not sure if it was archival or a regrouping.

 Fiction by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.96 | 78 ratings

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Fiction
Eskaton Zeuhl

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

4 stars Despite a rather turbulent beginning where it would take ESKATON (formed in 1970 at the same time Magma released its debut) eight years to record what was supposed to be its first album in 1978 and then another two to record a second which would be released as the debut, ESKATON kept the world of zeuhl alive in the early 1980s just when the progenitors of the genre, Magma had taken a leave of absence while Christian Vander and friends were engaging in side projects such as the short-lived Fusion. ESKATON was just one of the revivalists who took the post-Magma zeuhl into new unthinkable worlds that would keep the unique avant-garde musical form alive and well in the French underground during the prog starved 1980s.

After releasing its intended debut turned sophomore release "4 Visions," ESKATON was propelled to the top of the French underground and praised for its wild and unhinged take on Magma inspired zeuhl only with a fresh energetic infusion of crafty ingenuity. The band had gone through more than a few lineup changes but retained the same lineup from "Ardeur" for its third and final album FICTION which was released in 1983. A fourth album was recorded and intended to be released as "Icare" but never saw the light of day and after guitarist / keyboardist Giles Rozenberg left the band in 1984, the band would disintegrate and fall into obscurity until the Soleil Zeuhl reissued the band's cassette only canon into the proper vinyl and CD formats.

While both "Ardeur" and especially "4 Visions" showcased an ambitious zeuhl band that displayed a virtuosity and creative edge above and beyond much of the competition, those two albums were very much steeped in Magma worship unfortunately often sounding like a Magma clone to my ears. The third album FICTION on the other hand showcased a creative new beginning (or ending as destiny would have it) that found the band deemphasizing the overt Magma influences and finding its own unique stamp on the world of zeuhl. While still delivering the bubbling zeuhl bass grooves, steady rhythmic drive and ecstatic and even giddy female vocal playfulness right out of the Stella Vander playbook, ESKATON delivered a strange mix of zeuhl that added the more contemporary sounds of new wave in the form of repetitive keyboard patterns, synthesized sounds and an occasional bouncy even danceable drive.

Despite the adaptation to the demands of the early 80s that favored catchy synthpop and pop punk fueled ear worms, ESKATON kept these tendencies in check by keeping the musical flow dark and mysterious with crafty even angular keyboard workouts, jazzy drumming outbursts and the unmistakable zeuhl-ish mix of a rhythmic drive and stentorian choir technqiues. The strangest and most unique part of the album surely comes from the dueling vocal performances of vocalists Amara Tahir and Paule Kleynnaert who together provide a sort of rapping technique to trade off vocals on such tracks as "Plus Et Moins" and "Le Cinema" which implant a primeval vocal rap similar to Debbie Harry's on the mega-hit single "Rapture" from Blondie. While that sounds like a recipe for disaster, this bold move is used sparingly throughout the album's run in between the oft instrumental or more traditional sounding zeuhl tracks.

The album also features more electronic based slow burners such as the short instrumental "Paranthse" and "La More De Tristan," the latter of which even features a few nods to the Canterbury jazz keyboard sounds that had been nurtured into fruition by the likes of Soft Machine and Hatfield & The North. The results of all this fusion of traditional zeuhl with an infusion of contemporary craftiness makes FICTION perhaps the most innovative of all the three albums of its canon. While not nearly as technical and lacking the virtuosic display of fiery zeuhl action that "4 Visions" delivered in abundance, FICTION has unfairly taken a back seat to its more popular sibling however there is no doubt that FICTION is the most unique album of the band's all too short career and delivers just the right amount of new influences to make the album a very compelling listening experience although prog purists may cringe and call it pandering to the world of new wave which was dominating the music scene in 1983.

There are two very different versions of FICTION with differing track orders: the original version which emerged, and the 2005 Soleil Zeuhl reissue which for whatever reason displayed the album with tracks mixed up per the band's request. In addition the newer version also features five tracks that were supposed to comprise the "Icare" album which was slated to be the fourth ESKATON album however due to the band's proclivity to deemphasize the progressiveness of their music and veering into the watered down world of pop which FICTION does indeed point to, the more commercial tracks were scrapped leaving five extras that more or less followed in the footsteps of what was laid out on FICTION. Yes indeed FICTION does find a progressive rock band adapting to the 80s however ESKATON forged a unique bridge between two seemingly disparate worlds quite successfully and although the band would soon drift off more into the pop world before disbanding, FICTION is without a doubt more on the side of progressive zeuhl than anything remotely new wave. I know i'm in the minority but this is my favorite ESKATON album.

 Nicolas II by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.85 | 62 ratings

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Nicolas II
Potemkine Zeuhl

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

3 stars After the second album "Triton," the Toulouse based POTEMKINE engaged in a hefty touring schedule with bands such as Art Zoyd, Mosaik and Etron Fou Leloublan and performed all over the band's home nation of France all throughout 1977 and during that tour the band decided to drift off more in a jazz rock fusion direction and left behind most of its 20th century classical and zeuhl influences. The third and final album NICOLAS II came out in 1979 and refers to the last reigning Emperor of Russia before the 1917 revolution. The band's interest in Russia's history isn't surprising considering its very name POTEMKINE is a Russian word that refers to a construction (literal or figurative) with the purpose of providing an external faade to a situation that makes people believe the situation is better than it is. Often used in the term Potemkin Village.

This third and final album from POTEMKINE swung more in the direction of the debut "Foetus" and reverted to a more jazz oriented style of fusion and deemphasized the 20th century classical, avant-prog and zeuhl complexities of the band's second album "Triton." The album also sounds a lot like Soft Machine's jazz fusion years roughly from "Six," "Seven" and especially "Bundles" although no Alan Holdsworth around to ignite the fire that brings the music to another level. While more energetic and with more substantial composiitons, NICOLAS II sounds a bit like a standard jazz fusion affair from the 1970s rather than an innovative work that sets the band apart from its competition unlike the unique stylistic approach achieved on "Triton." Basically this album sounds an amalgamation of any influences the band could garner up. A touch of Brand X here, a dab of Weather Report there with other influences coming to mind but the keyboard work of Michel Goubin brings the Soft Machine connections to light.

While the Magma influences had been deemphasized, they still come through on some tracks such as "Ode de Mars" courtesy of Dominique Dubuisson's beefy bass riffing so every once in a while the album feels like a mix of Magma, Soft Machine, Weather Report and Brand X although the POTEMKINE of "Triton" is sorely missing as it much more experimental and daring in its approach and NICOLAS II sounds like the band is trying to play it all safe in order to fit in with the accepted jazz fusion sounds of the day. The problem is that the band didn't deliver a sound that is unique and neither are the compositions enthralling in any way although the performances are acceptable. Charles Goubin is quite busy on this album with his guitar playing yet he seems like a second rate guitarist in the world of jazz fusion in an era that has produced veritable guitar gods such as John McLaughlin, Alan Holdsworth, John Albercombie and Al DiMeola just to name a few.

While better than "Foetus" which was a rather dull album that barely steamed above simmer, NICOLAS II is a rather by the books jazz fusion album of the 1970s and doesn't really stand out in any particular way. This is sad because "Triton" on the other hand was engaging and dynamic all the way through its run. While this is perfectly acceptable jazz fusion that won't disappoint as far as enjoyability, the album to me sounds a bit generic considering by 1978 the prog world was chock full of classic jazz fusion albums that far exceeded anything POTEMKINE crafted on NICOLAS II. Overall this is an OK if average jazz fusion release that found the band lose its momentum and although would carry on for a few more years until its demise in 1982, never was able to release another album after this one as the tides were turning against complex music in the market and POTEMKINE seemed to peak and then rapidly decline.

3.5 stars rounded down

 Triton by POTEMKINE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.63 | 49 ratings

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Triton
Potemkine Zeuhl

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

4 stars POTEMKINE formed all the way back in 1971 in Toulouse, France and started off as a cover band of classic rock like the Rolling Stones and Deep Purple but turned to the world of jazz fusion once the founder and brother Charles and Gilles Goubin discovered the wild worlds of the Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Somewhere before the band's debut "Foetus" the world of zeuhl began creeping into the band's sound after attending Magma concerts. The debut "Foetus" was an interesting take on the potentials of mixing jazz rock with the idiosyncratic characteristics of zeuhl but lacked any real cohesion and sorely lacked any bite.

The band followed up with its sophomore release TRITON which came out in 1977 and offered a much more accomplished roster of five tracks that added up to just over 37 minutes of playing time. TRITON found POTEMKINE taking its jazz rock and zeuhl fusion to the world of 20th century classical complexity with composers such as Edgar Varese, Erik Satie and Claude DeBussy serving as the primary inspirational figures. The title of the album refers to the tritone which was considered the work of the devil by the Spanish Inquisition and only reintroduced to Western Music by composers such as Stravinsky and Bartok.

The lineup expanded as well which included the three Goubin brothers: Charles (guitar) Michael (keyboards), Phillipe (drums) and Dominque Dubuisson back on bass as well as Xavier Vidal returning on violins. However yet another Goubin, this time bassist Gilles joined the team as well as an extra drummer Maurice Bataille on a couple of tracks. At this same time POTEMKINE also started to dabble in the world of avant-prog with a more abstract sound courtesy of exposure to bands like Art Zoyd and Etron Fou Leloublan. The results of all this newfound inspiration made TRITON a much more interesting album than the band's debut "Foetus." Likewise the zeuhl rhythms and influences are much more apparent on TRITON which created a very original sound that set the band easily apart from the competition.

The album is primarily an instrumental fusion of the avant-prog delivered by the Rock In Opposition bands that were popping up around Belgium and France in the late 1970s along with the Magma and already established jazz fusion tendencies although still no woodwinds or jazzy horn sections in the mix. The album also offers a few wordless vocals that serve as an extra instrument mostly in the form of haunting backdrops to creepy avant-garde musical processions. The music is much more diverse on TRITON with the tracks offering a wide range of musical exploration and chock full of various time signature workouts that offer a huge sonic expansion of timbres, dynamics and complexity of the compositions. The distinct use of guitar work also was unique for any major zeuhl works of the 1970s.

This album really features a nice mix of things: various percussive instruments, a unique bouncy bass presence and a quirky way of delivering the guitar parts. Lots of virtuoso piano runs and best of all the compositions are ridiculously complex with difficult to follow yet logically cohesive processions through various motifs and disparate cadences. An uncredited female vocalist sort of drops in and out unexpectedly offering a spectral haunting effect with wordless vocals. The album is extremely engaging and infinitely more dynamic than the rather sleepy indeterminate debut. The jazzy interludes are delivered by the combo effect of the percussion and piano rolls at key moments which keeps this album juggling the worlds of jazz, classical, zeuhl and avant-prog quite nicely.

The album closes with the lengthiest track "Eiram" which at 13 1/2 minutes really takes the band into its full potential and offers a wild ride through the world of wild unhinged prog that had been established on the previous tracks. A huge step up for POTEMKINE and one of those crazy complex prog albums for those who like it knotty and angular as it can possibly get. The reissues offer a whopping four bonus tracks which are equally as captivating especially the feisty "Rictus" which is more energetic than anything on TRITON's original track listing as the album itself simmers on mid-tempo for the majority of its run. Great album and the only one of POTEMKINE's three album run to really implement zeuhl bass grooves in full force.

 DMK by RYORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.00 | 5 ratings

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DMK
Ryorchestra Zeuhl

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

4 stars RYORCHESTRA is basically the duo of Ryoko Ono and Atsutomo Ishigaki. Ono is well known as a Japanese flautist and saxophonist and was born in Sapporo and currently resides in Nagoya. She has been on the scene for quite some time cranking out some of the wildest improvisational music that Japan has offered but also has been at home playing the blues, jazz, progressive rock, noise rock and other forms of avant-garde music. She has been involved in numerous band experiences including Plastic Dogs, Gakusei Jikken Shitsu, O-Jazz, Murmur, Ryogui, RyokoSam and Sax Ruins. Ishigaki while not as well known is a bassist who has appeared in Next Order and with the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya.

Together these two crank out a seriously wild and unhinged album with DMK which is based on the traditional French zeuhl rhythms but also includes the noisiest effects of the Japanese zeuhl scene as in the vein of Ruins and Koenjihyakkei. DMK features eight tracks at about 43 minutes of playing time and features Ono on alto sax, keyboards, flute and backing vocals and Ishigaki on bass however this is a band effort with other musicians joining in. Yasuhiro and Yuji Muto perform some powerful guitar parts and Nobukazu Katagiri offers the percussion. There are also numerous vocalists which include Sayaka Shiraki, Daijiro Matsuda and Yuzumi Tanimukai.

DMK is a varied album indeed and finds that perfect balance between extremely melodic and inviting with the excessively brutal and bombastic. The sweet flute performances and slew of female vocalists providing the stentorian choir antics of Magma can cede to a brash guitar based noisy style of metal with growly vocals accompanied by John Zorn inspired saxophone frenzies. Much attention is paid to how these two extremes balance out and in the end it's actually a perfected recipe. The album is both exquisitely rhythmic and beautifully melodic while adding chaotic brutal prog elements for a major contrast at the right places and never for so long that it all outstays its welcome. The album is always in danger of becoming too sickly sweet or derailing into a complete chaotic mess but Ono has mastered the Japanese art of balancing these two dynamics like a samurai.

The bizarre "Night Song" is one of the more placid moments on the album but finds its own methodology of conveying bizarre musical freedom especially towards the end as the bass grooves reach virtuosic intensity and then the guitar and sax chaos erupts but for the majority of the track it's almost the closest thing the album has to a "ballad." The songs while quite different from each other all share the same basic characteristics by providing the classic over-the-top Japanese style of zeuhl that runs the gamut from placidly beautiful to hysterically dramatic. Operatic vocals whiz up and down the octaves in pure angelic form while other vocalists scream, growl and deliver anguishing, even hellish sounds while tempos may simmer on slow and blissful to as fast as possible with all the instruments fighting it out to be heard.

While many of the characteristics displayed by RYORCHESTRA aren't unknown in the whacky world of Japanese zeuhl, this band certainly has taken it all to a more polished and streamlined level without sacrificing either melodic control or noisy chaotic eruptions. The ultimate beauty and the beast type of album, Ono has struck gold again in her zany cult way and remains one of the top acts in this strange nook of the Japanese underground. DMK in effects delivers all the right ingredients in the right proportions to make a delicious musical bento box of top notch extreme zeuhl madness for you and your demented loved ones to thoroughly enjoy at a quality control that is unthinkable in how many details were ironed out to craft such an intricately precise album. Highly recommended and one of my favorite Japanese zeuhl albums of the modern era!

 Egars by UNIT WAIL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.13 | 8 ratings

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Egars
Unit Wail Zeuhl

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

3 stars The fourth installment in the universe of French zeuhl / heavy avant-proggers UNIT WAIL offers surprises for the first time in the band's complex and noisy career. Escaping the colorful psychedelic album cover art that the previous album "Beyond Space Edges" offered, UNIT WAIL once again reengages the black and white abstruse business of the album covers that began its career. GARS has numerous meanings in French ranging from lost, missing, distraught and wild-eyed to simply referring to an ashtray! However i think the definition that fits best is "haunted" as UNIT WAIL's musical approach has always taken on a spookier than average mix of sonic experiments designed to startle and titillate as well as just pummel your senses with unceasing chaos and discord.

There has been a major disruption of the band at this point with ex-Shu-Niggurath founder Franck Fromy being relegated to a mere two tracks (designated merely as the soloist) on the album with keyboardist and main songwriter Vincent Sicot-Vantalon picking up the vacant guitar slot only not really performing up to Fromy's high energy standards. In addition GARS finds the surprise addition of ex-Art Zoyd trumpet player Jean-Pierre Soarez The album features nine tracks that clock in at around 46 minutes and despite the continuation of the basically stylistic approach laid down on "Pangaea Proxima" which showcases the band's unique mix of Shub-Niggurath, Univers Zero, heavy 70s King Crimson varying traces of zeuhl inspired rhythms, GARS is a noticeably less impactful album in relation to the excessive wildness the previous three efforts.

Noticeably absent are the excellent guitar contributions of Fromy and while Vantalon can get the job done as far as keeping the rhythmic aspects going, his forte clearly isn't in the guitar playing department. It's clear the band is giving it their all in crafting an album as worthy of soaking in as the previous three but the quality marker has clearly fallen a few notches despite a noble effort to spice things up with more clever moments of psychedelic keyboard events, moments of super funky bass and excursions into where the sonic textures of the trumpet can lead but none of it seems as satisfying as the unabashed noisy skronk-fest that constituted the band's first three albums. While not inherently bad per se, GARS very much feels like a band that lost a key member and is grasping at straws in how to fill the void. Unfortunately the void wasn't filled. The album is noticeably tamer with less freneticism and more moments of just straight forward avant-prog moments. The guitar tones that Vantalon implements are also much softer and tame in comparison which makes the album feel like its lost that edge.

OK, i see that perhaps i had it all wrong and that the title GARS actually refers to LOST after all as the band truly does sound like it lost some ground and is struggling to regroup. It could be that the band's formulaic run has simply run its course and Fromy lost interest as any particular band sound especially of the instrumental ilk does become stale after a while if considerable effort into reviving and infusing new creative efforts aren't pursued. On GARS the members of UNIT WAIL seem like they're all basically performing business as usual and the moral has been upset in a major way. This is definitely the least compelling album of the band's four album run in their canon and more easily understood once it becomes clear of the crack in the chemistry that made UNIT WAIL an extremely well-oiled machine. It's an OK album that is perfectly listenable but in comparison to its predecessors seems like the band has lost its footing in many ways.

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTAS France
AMYGDALA Japan
ANAID France
ARCHAIA France
ARKHAM Belgium
BONDAGE FRUIT Japan
SERGE BRINGOLF France
CAILLOU France
CORIMA United States
DAI KAHT Finland
DAIMONJI Japan
DN France
EIDER STELLAIRE France
ELEPHANT TOK France
ESKATON France
VOH France
FOEHN France
FRACTALE France
FREE HUMAN ZOO France
GA'AN United States
HAPPY FAMILY Japan
HIATUS France
HONEYELK France
IKARUS Switzerland
KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU (BASE OF FICTION) Japan
KOENJI HYAKKEI Japan
LAGGER BLUES MACHINE Belgium
LAKTATING YAK United States
JAMES MAC GAW France
MAGISTER DIXIT France
MAGMA France
MUSIQUE NOISE France
NEOM France
NEW PLEASURE Canada
NOA France
OFFERING France
RYOKO ONO Japan
ORVALIANS France
PAGA (PAGA GROUP) France
PERCEPTION France
POTEMKINE France
PROTOPLASMA Hungary
PSEU France
RLISP Mexico
RHN France
RIALZU France
RUINS Japan
RUNAWAY TOTEM Italy
RYORCHESTRA Japan
SC'F Switzerland
SCHERZOO France
YOCHK'O SEFFER France
SEKKUTSU JEAN Japan
SETNA France
KENTA SHIMAKAWA United States
SHUB-NIGGURATH France
STALINGRAD 119 France
SUPER FREEGO France
SYNCOPATED SILENCE Russia
LAURENT THIBAULT France
FRANOIS THOLLOT France
JANNICK TOP France
UNIT WAIL France
UNIVERIA ZEKT France
UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Italy
UPPSALA France
UTOPIC SPORADIC ORCHESTRA France
VAK France
CHRISTIAN VANDER France
VAULTS OF ZIN United States
VAZYTOUILLE France
WEIDORJE France
XALPH France
XING SA France
ZAO France
ZIG ZAG France
ZOIKHEM France
ZWOYLD France

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