- Another Obscure One (Rolf Spengler)
- ‘Kobaïa’ Seventh IV/V (Martin Longley)
- Xaal Théâtre Clavel – 05-06-93
- Zukunft Théâtre Clavel – Paris 05-06-93
- ‘A Fiièh’ (Seventh A IX)
- Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’ (Roman Vlad)
- ‘Les Voix’ (Mark Paytress)
- ‘Rêve de Singe’ – Sophia Domancich (Michael Draine)
- The haunted world of Univers Zero (Michael Draine)
- Lons-le-Saunier 09-07-93
- The Longest Day 10-07-93
- Ork! Update
ANOTHER OBSCURE ONE
Talking to several fans over the years, I have found out that there is some confusion about a MAGMA concert at Dortmund in late June 1977. The following article will try to explain what really happened as far as I can remember the facts.
Let’s start with me driving through my hometown Essen in spring 1977, when I cast a glance at a poster announcing several groups for a local free festival of the “Jusos”, the juniors’ organization of our social democratic party. Was it true what had just reached my subconsciousness in a split second? Really, beside some German bands like RELEASE MUSIC ORCHESTRA, EMBRYO1 and VOLKER KRIEGEL & MILD MANIAC ORCHESTRA, …MAGMA were announced as the top act. I was electrified. At once I remembered my last enlightening meeting with Kobaïan extra-terrestrials in November 1975, leaving behind a hypnotized audience, deeply impressed not only by technical brilliance but much more by a musical force like an explosion, made by putting together all antithesis’s of the universe.
No question but to be at the Grugahalle on Friday 17.6.77 to have another experience like this. The hall had filled up with some five thousand people. MAGMA were announced to begin at midnight and Zebëhn Strain dë Geustaah and his crew were waiting behind the stage ready for contact. But the misery began with some delays in the continuity of the festival programme in the afternoon and evening, which postponed MAGMA’s appearance until three o’clock in the morning. When MAGMA should have entered the stage at last, the gig was suddenly cancelled on the grounds that Christian’s girlfriend had been lying in a Parisian hospital for two days because of a car accident and the doctors had announced their bulletin for the morning of 18.6.77. When the delay was already foreseeable, Vander had offered to change with Volker Krieger, who should have played just before MAGMA. After his rejection Christian drove back to Paris immediately to be back in the. But fortunately the festival’s organizer – the Essener Rock Fabrik – arranged with MAGMA’s manager to make up the concert the following week in a nearby hail for an entrance fee which would just repay the costs.
Early next week the concert was announced for 29.6.77 at the Westfalenhalle III in Dortmund beginning at 8pm. When I reached there at 7pm., a bunch of people were on the way to the hall, despite all those annoyances the week before. Next surprise was when I got a really cheap ticket for only five Deutschmarks. Getting into the hall I found the equipment already set up on stage. By degrees I got the hope that it would work well this night. At 8pm. the hall was crowded with nearly fifteen hundred people and the concert could have begun. But instead of MAGMA, Holger Krüssman from the “Essener Rock Fabrik” entered the stage to announce, that the band had arrived from Copenhagen in the and were waiting for their appearance backstage, all except Christian Vander. He was on the way to Dortmund in his own car and no one knew where he was. But as soon he arrived the concert could start immediately. After Holger had asked for a little more patience – as he would do some more times that evening – answered by some grumbling and whistling, the audience waited, sometimes interrupted by several rumours of C.V.’s arrival. Then at half-past nine it was announced, that those of MAGMA who were present would do a session to bridge the waiting period.
First of all Benoît Widemann entered the right side of the stage and started to play a long keyboard intro, beginning with some sprinkling chords but soon leaning over to more spacey sounds and some funky stuff. Then a funky-flanged earth-bass played by Guy Delacroix struck in. Soon after Klaus Blasquiz took the place behind the drums and at last Jean de Antoni was added on guitar. Together they played some kind of Zeuhl-jazzrock-SpaceFunk. This was not what we had really expected to hear from MAGMA.
After a while Klötsz was replaced by Clement Bailly on drums and he left the stage, while the rest of the band continued doing alternate guitar / keyboard solos. After some thirty minutes this led seamlessly over to a version of Jan Hammer’s ‘Red And Orange’ from ‘Oh Yeah!’ including a lasting guitar solo by Jean de Antoni again, but dominated by Benoît Widemann’s keyboards. The next and last song for this evening presented Klötsz on bass. It was opened by a powerful drum intro, but soon they began to repeat themselves. They had played all the variations of stringing guitar and keyboard solos they could do. It was obvious that they were blown out and had no further idea what to do. Christian Vander still hadn’t appeared and so the “concert” ended after a nearly one-hour session.
After I had left the hall I discovered Klaus Blasquiz on his way to the hotel opposite the Westfalenhalle. I rushed to reach him and an evidently annoyed K.B. kindly told me that he too had no further information about Christian’s absence. But a few days later Holger Krüssmann2 told me the rest of the story. According to him, at twenty minutes past midnight a black Ferrari stopped in front of the Westlalenhalle containing C.V. after a 650km detour via Paris instead of driving from Copenhagen, where they had played the day before, to Dortmund directly.
No hope for a concert in Germany for the next few months. The whole German music press had published articles about it and no promoter would book them after this disaster. But luckily Klötsz Zaspïaahk had promised to send me some future French tour dates – which he actually did in autumn 1979 (Thanks again, Klaus!). Moreover he had given me the dates of concerts at Reims and at Troyes in early July. After both these injuries I needed to hear the real MAGMA more than ever before and so I decided to go to Reims. After I had arrived there, following an eight-hour tour in my 2CV, I had to realize, that the misery was to continue. Klaus had been wrong with the dates and the concert had taken place just two days before. But that’s another obscure one…
1. They were really great at that time, with their own style. Just listen to ‘Embryo Live’ (with Charlie Mariano), if you see it at your local 2nd hand dealer. Good jazz-rock to spliff away with in those days. 2 Maybe some of you know him from his work with the German jazz label MPS.
Seventh / Harmonia Mundi REX IV / V
Martin Longley – Q magazine August 1993
Of legendary influence but rarely heard nowadays, Magma’s motivating force is French composer/drummer Christian Vander, who employed a constantly shifting roster of idiosyncratic sidemen to chase his initial Coltrane inspiration. He then refused to duplicate existing musical terrain.
This debut double album from 1970 is an ambitious, complex jazz/rock/noise labyrinth, sung in an invented language and drawing on its own science fiction mythos, but tainted by dated progressiveness. Tar pit bass, tripping drums, bleeding fuzz guitar, waif melodies offset by propulsive outbursts, toy factory gypsy dancing, slaughtered-goat sax, a warped operatic underbelly provide impressions of a music with few antecedents and some good reasons to forgive the occasional pompous sequence.
Théâtre Clavel – Paris (05-06-93)
Jad Ayache’s Zeuhl power trio XAAL played two electrifying concerts in June in Paris as the support group for the Magma offshoot band ZUKUNFT. They performed material from both their first cassette album and the CD release ‘En Chemin’.
I can not recall all the titles, but I’m sure they played ‘Piege’, ‘En Chemin’, ‘Talisman’, ‘L’enfant’, ‘Ballade’ and ‘Le Jardin’ as well as a few tunes I have not heard before. They obviously enjoy their unusual blend of King Crimsonesque dynamics and Vanderienne melodies, which they fuse together with a modern progressive feel. Patrick Boileau, the drummer, and Jad Ayache, who plays some really exquisite guitar licks and pulls the trio together, have always been among Christian Vander’s most ardent supporters. Initially, bassist Nicolas Neimer sounds like he is a plain rock and roller, but occasionally springs forth with a flourish to surprise everyone and draw attention away from Jad for a while. He uses an active bass with a midi interface and a 5-string octave bass.
They played an enchanting set of about eighty minutes duration with a vast range of neo-progressive similarities and an armoury of tonal shifts from Jad’s midi-guitar which fluidly darted from flute-like passages to woodwind chorus effects and back to searing lead guitar. Boileau’s drum patterns varied incessantly too as he has progressed into a more complex and energetic drummer since I first discovered the XAAL cassette. His style this afternoon reminded me more of Bill Bruford than Vander and much of their (instrumental) work is currently more in line with the King Crimson influence. Yet ‘Le Jardin’ also reminds me of ANGE.
The tunes, which I can’t recall the names for (perhaps their Zeuhl influenced ‘Byblos’ was one of them) had strong ‘Üdü Wüdü’ qualities and a constant feel of Jannick Top in composition and the pounding bass work. Eventually I was left with the impression that if only they would add a keyboard to their live shows, then Jad could stretch out his style and not have to keep switching back and forth. Some of those snatches deserved to be blown up to full length solo’s but the limitations of just bass and drum support mean that he has to take on the role of multi-instrumentalist with just two hands trying to play an orchestral score. As a guitarist he is phenomenal, can you imagine Mike Oldfield playing ‘Tubular Bells’ live without a huge backing group? XAAL’s music is more complex than that, but unless you saw it, you just would not believe that three people could produce such a panoramic sound without overdubs.
Théâtre Clavel – Paris (05-06-93)
During the half-hour interval after Xaal’s set, the crowd sprawled out into the sunshine to cool down; it was that hot inside the theatre. I popped backstage to meet René Garber and Stella Vander.
Soon the crowd swarmed back into the still steaming auditorium for the ZUKUNFT show. Their set started with ‘Köhntarkösz’ a full thirty-five minute version. The new additions to the group were Luke Vejux the male vocalist in a red T-shirt who left out some of the vocal parts when he seemed to forget the lyrics and Julie Vander (Aïna Kobaïa) who was quite low in the mix, making it difficult to hear everything she sang clearly. The core musicians of Zukunft were: Philippe Bussonet on bass, Vincent Dupuy on Fender piano and moog, James McGaw on guitar (and twin keyboards at one point) and naturally their leader is still Marc Delouya on red Gretsch drums.
I felt that Luke was struggling a bit and it probably was not helped by some of the audience who sang along – noticeably filling in all the original parts that Luke missed. Apart from that, Zukunft have improved with a great leap since I saw them in March 1991. The performance was competent, although lacking a lot of the zest that a real Magma show would have. Overall this was more than an adequate alternative.
The vocalists left the floor, (there is no stage as such at the Théâtre Clavel) and the instrumentalists stormed through a cracking version of ‘De Futura’ with some titanic bass playing from Bussonet – shut your eyes and it becomes a real Magma concert from the seventies in parts. At the start the bass seemed a little slow and stilted but gradually the keyboard parts enhanced the interpretation and Philippe’s bass took on a growling omnipresence. After ten minutes, McGaw stopped playing guitar and played the synth siren section. They followed this with ‘KMX – B XII’ with Zukunft still a quartet. When the vocalists came back at the end of this instrumental diversion, there were three of them. A redhead called Isabelle had joined them.
After a wavering start the opus ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ was reasonably successful, perhaps not quite as tight as it should have been, and hampered by the lacklustre acoustics of the theatre. There was no P.A. system to speak of, just the main amplifiers and monitors. I guess that with a reasonable amount of rehearsal, particularly on the first ten minutes, and in a decent acoustic environment they will steadily improve. Still it is always an impressive song to hear live. Of course one great advantage of this line-up’s version of ‘MDK’ is the presence of electric bass, played in Jannick Top’s style. In the third quarter of the piece, the special quest came forward from the audience and plugged in his Yamaha WX7 electric sax – it was Stöht Wurdah Melekaahm Stündëhr!
René jammed along, trading riffs with McGaw and filling out the sound very well. But it seemed as if he was not a real part of the group as yet. For an encore the group returned with Stündëhr on WX7 sax again to play a terrific ‘Om Zanka’. Looking back now, I think ‘Köhntarkösz’ was the best part of their show, because it is one piece I had not seen live for almost twenty years. That, for me, is the principal justification for a cover’s band. I want more!
There is of course an obvious danger for a cover’s band such as Zukunft: How can you observe their performances without at least sub-consciously comparing them to the originals? And with such unique original musicians as Jannick Top and Christian Vander there is no chance that any imitators can match their skills. Klaus Blasquiz’s vocals with Magma are also impossible to recreate totally successfully. From that point of view a Magma cover’s band has an insurmountable battle. When they play pieces that Magma can no longer perform, such as ‘De Futura’ and to an extent ‘Köhntarkösz’, they succeed because many of the audience have never had a chance to see this material in concert. But with ‘Mekanïk’ which is still being played by Magma and LES VOIX DE MAGMA, the comparisons are unavoidable.
I accept that it is totally unfair to compare any group’s live performance with the studio albums. But I feel that ZUKUNFT should concentrate on the material that Magma are unlikely to perform again, or develop their own material. Their musicianship is proven, and they are certainly entertaining – but the survival of a cover’s band, playing material of limited appeal is unlikely. Having said that – you should still go to see them, because opportunities to see MAGMA themselves perform are very rare and, for us Zeuhl fans at least, these classic works deserved to be heard live.
Théâtre Clavel – Paris 06-06-93
The following evening, Xaal had started their show quite late in the afternoon, therefore Zukunft’s set started later than planned. Because of this they had to drop ‘Om Zanka’ from their set, but otherwise the 6th of June show was almost the same as above. Many of the problems with the acoustics had been sorted out and the vocalists were more confident and less nervous. An even more enjoyable show, except for the lack of the great rendition of ‘Om Zanka’ – speaking to René Garber before the show he had confirmed that this would be played. It’s just a shame that the the ran out and presumably someone else required the hall later that night.
(Seventh A IX)
Well, the sudden release at the end of May of this, the new OFFERING studio album took us by surprise. I expect by the the you read this that many of you will have bought it already. It is not quite the album I had expected, but overall I think it is the most successful of the three Offering albums to date. My principal reason for that initial reaction is that it contains the most Zeuhl music that Vander has released in the last twelve years, with a general feel of a MAGMA album. That’s not to say that the arrangements are like the classic Magma sound, like ‘Offerings I – IV’ the overall tone is a more acoustic and subdued musical form. We will have further reviews in future issues, but could not hold back this issue any longer, so these are my initial reactions:
The disc starts with a strange piece I cannot recall hearing Offering perform before: ‘Hymne Kobaïen’, which is a solo improvisation by Christian Vander on an electronic keyboard. It is based in part on the French national anthem ‘La Marsellaise’. This sounds like a piece left over from the ‘Les voyages de Christophe Colomb’ album, which itself is reminiscent of Carl Orff’s Greek period. And fits in with the album in a similar manner to the intro tapes that Offering use in concert.
‘Cosmos’ comes next, and for me this is the real beginning, as with the stage shows. The title track ‘A Fiïèh’ is just overwhelming. Stella Vander recorded this couplet with the core members of Offering in December last year. Then the Voix de Magma band (without the keyboard players) perform ‘La Marche Celeste’ – this version does not feature the electronic ending that was played in concert and is generally tighter and more controlled than the live versions.Another oddball piece: ‘Magnifi’ seems to be sung/spoken (sprechstimme) in German mainly by Vander double tracking himself with minimal keyboard accompaniment and two choirs.
‘Purificatem (Accord of the instruments)’ is a short instrumental statement leading into a live (in the Uni?erïa Zekt studio) recording from a late night session on 26-02-93; ‘Purificatem’ itself is a 26 minute epic of vocal and piano gymnastics by Christian, with keyboards by Pierre-Michel Sivadier, sax by Alex Ferrand, Philippe Dardelle’s fluid double bass and percussionists Ogun and Marc Delouya.
IGOR STRAVINSKY’S ‘LES NOCES’
You might be wondering why this particular composition should be featured in a Zeuhl bulletin… It is well known that Carl Orff’s early works: including ‘Carmina Burana’ and ‘Triomphe d’Aphrodite’ were a strong influence on the music of Christian Vander. It is also fairly common knowledge that he admires and borrows from Igor Stravinsky at times too. The actual composition that is most rhythmically reminiscent of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ however is ‘Les Noces’, a four part work lasting about 22 minutes in total. Check the classical CD racks for [D][D][D] compilations of Stravinsky’s work and look for ‘The Wedding’ or ‘Les Noces’. You should try to get a copy where the lyrics are sung in Russian, because in places it sounds very similar to Magma singing in Kobaïan. There is also a double CD of Orff’s ‘Catulli Carmina’ and Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’ but that is not easy to locate. – Ed.
Stravinsky’s “Neo-Classical” period began in 1919 with ‘Pulcinella’, but came to fruition only four or five years later. In the meantime Stravinsky published two works which belong to the “Russian ” period and mark the end of his compositions in this manner – the comic opera ‘Mavra’, written in 1921, and the choreographic scenes entitled ‘Les Noces’ (The Wedding, Svadebka), completed in their orchestral form in 1923. (The first performance took place in Paris, June 13, 1923).
Stravinsky first conceived the idea in 1914, shortly after finishing the composition of ‘The Rite of Spring’. Indeed, if we consider the two works together, ‘Les Noces’ may be regarded as the second panel of a diptych taking its inspiration from the pagan rites practised in ancient Russia. ‘The Rite of Spring’ celebrated the rebirth of nature. The music seemed to express the release of sinister earth forces, reducing mere man to a state of panic-stricken terror. ‘Les Noces’ describes the matrimonial rites of the Russian peasants. Here mere man will not be silenced; he sings and sings, hardly giving the instruments a single phrase of their own, except for the pealing of bells in the final bars of the work.
Stravinsky was never quite certain how to describe the work, but he insisted it was not a ballet. Early performances around 1919 were officially subtitled “a divertissement… in two parts with soloists and chorus and an ensemble of several instruments.” He also described the orchestral ‘Les Noces’ as “Russian dance scenes with song and music”.
Here is what he had to say of the underlying conception of the work: “According to my idea, the spectacle should have been a divertissement, and that is what I wanted to call it. It was not my intention to reproduce the ritual of peasant weddings, and I paid little heed to ethnographical considerations. My idea was to compose a sort of scenic ceremony, using, as I liked those ritualistic elements so abundantly provided by village customs, which had been established for centuries in the celebration of Russian marriages. I took my inspirations from those customs, but reserved to myself the right to use them with absolute freedom”.
There are four scenes following each other without a break. The words of the songs sung in this series of “stage cantata” are taken from the folk-tales brought back by Stravinsky from his travels in Russia a short time earlier. In preparing the libretto for ‘Les Noces’ Stravinsky made use chiefly of material from a book by Kirievsky. It is interesting to note what Stravinsky has to say about it: Incidentally, Kirievsky had asked Pushkin to send him his collection of folk verse and Pushkin sent him some verses with a note reading: “Some of these are my own verses; can you tell the difference?” Kirievsky could not, and took them all for his book, so perhaps a line of Pushkin is in ‘Les Noces’. The melodic themes, on the other hand, are all Stravinsky’s own, with one single exception, namely the setting of the words “jusqu la ceinture j’ai de l’or qui pend”, which is a popular melody commonly heard in the factories in Russia.
Although the music of ‘Les Noces’ was composed between 1914 and 1917, six years elapsed before Stravinsky finally orchestrated it. For several years after the composition of ‘The Rite of Spring’ he had shied away from the conventional orchestra. His original idea in ‘Les Noces’ had been to bracket together with the solo voices and the chorus two diametrically opposed bodies of instruments, one consisting of brass and the other of strings, some playing pizzicato only. He abandoned the device after writing a few pages of the score and started off on a new draft. In the second version the brass was replaced by a harmonium and the strings by a pianola and two gipsy cymbaloms. Both the pianola and the harmonium were to be electrically operated. This plan turned out to be impracticable owing to the difficulty of synchronizing the mechanical instruments and those of the orchestra.
Work on ‘Les Noces’ was constantly interrupted, but Stravinsky settled down to it again in 1921. Two more years passed, however, before the score was ready in its final form. The orchestration of the final version was four pianos and a large group of percussion instruments: four timpani, xylophone, bells, two tenor drums, two side drums, tambourine, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and two castanets. For practical purposes the instrumental ensemble consists of percussion – even the pianos are used throughout with a hammering action. The sound effects produced by this unusual group of instruments are of incomparable splendour and brilliance.
There is some justification in the comparison of the sonority of the instrumental ensemble of ‘Les Noces’ with Javanese and Balinese music, which is also based on the percussive and resonant qualities of melodic instruments (xylophones) and others which produce “pedal” effects (bells, gongs, anvils, etc.).
No less incomparable is the vitality of this music. But the irresistible, scintillating, and at times orgiastic exuberance, far from hiding the underlying tragic note, throws it into relief. It is as though the participants in these rites were singing, in fact shouting, so loudly in order to cover up the sense of misery and anguish they feel. All the characters involved play out their own drama: in the first scene the betrothed, weeping at having to leave her home and her companions; in the second scene the parents, with nothing further to live for, grieving over the loss of their daughter; then the bridegroom, seeking his father’s blessing in a musical figure which is very reminiscent of a Byzantine liturgy:
An early reviewer maintained that this theme is based on liturgical motives taken from a collection of Russian Christmas chants. This would mean that Stravinsky “borrowed” two themes for ‘Les Noces’ and not one, as he himself claimed. On the other hand, in the case of the liturgical motif Stravinsky probably transformed it to such an extent that he felt justified in claiming it as his own.
In the third scene, after the bride and bridegroom have left, the two mothers sing a lament imploring their children to return home; and in the last scene, after the Saturnalian music of the banquet, the bride and bridegroom express, along with the joy and emotion of a newly-wedded couple, their profound awe and trepidation at the thought that life must be renewed through them. This disquiet in the face of the twofold mystery of life ending and life beginning is the most significant feature of ‘Les Noces’. In this respect it resembles ‘The Rite of Spring’, a significant component of that work also being the expression of the pain, which overtakes mankind at the contemplation of the dreaded forces by which it is surrounded.
LES VOIX (AKT I)
Mark Paytress – Record Collector 2-93
More firmly linked with the high art aesthetic are Magma, the Franco-German (oh really? – ed) collection of musicians led by percussionist Christian Vander and his wife Stella. Their heyday probably occured over here in the “Kraut Rock” mini-boom of the early 70′s, although they did receive some welcome publicity a few years back when snooker ace Steve Davis confessed he was a fan, brought them over for a couple of gigs, and elevated his credibility in the process.
The group always saw itself in the modernist operatic field, as much as it ever imagined it was playing rock music, which is probably why they’ve not enjoyed the reputationof their more accessible contemporaries, Can and Faust. And this concert from earlier this yeardoes nothing to alter that. The vocal arrangements are still strong, ranging from near-sublime moments of choral music that sounds like it’s coming from the other side of the clouds, to some rather awful, sub-Cleo Laine jazz-scat pyrotechnicsthat threaten to reduce the majesty of the music to a joke. Probably for diehards only … but those heavenly vocal moments really have to be heard to be believed. Vaughan Williams would have been proud to have had them in his ‘Sinfonia Antarctica’
‘RÊVE DE SINGE’ CD (Gimini Music)
Michael Draine (© 2003 Michael Draine)
It’s a mystery to me why American jazz bandleaders routinely complain how hard it is to find good backing musicians in France, considering the long list of distinguished players who have moved in the orbit of Christian Vander. On ‘Rêve de Singe’, pianist Sophia Domancich, formerly of the Zeuhl group Anaïd, teams with five-string bassist Paul Rogers and drummer Tony Levin for a 76 minute set of eloquent, even-tempered acoustic jazz recorded live to digital two-track. Elegant in presentation and lyrical in tone, ‘Rêve de Singe’ is quite accessible and engaging, even to an admittedly jazz-ignorant listener such as myself. Domancich composed seven of the disc’s eight tracks, with Rogers running the gamut of outré effects that can be produced on string bass on his sole composition, ‘Mon Rêve Familiar’. Taken on its own terms, ‘Rêve de Singe’ is a beautiful album, but the Domancich Trio’s adherence to a traditional jazz idiom places them only at the periphery of the tastes of most Magmaphiles.
THE HAUNTED WORLD OF UNIVERS ZERO
Michael Draine 1993 (© 2003 Michael Draine)
Formed in Brussels in 1974, Univers Zero made their recording debut in 1977 with a unique seven piece line-up comprised of Michel Berckmans (bassoon), Marcel Dufrane (violin), Patrick Hanappier (violin, viola, pocket cello), Emmanuel Nicaise (harmonium, spinet harpsichord), Christian Genet (electric bass), Roger Trigaux (guitar), and Daniel Denis (drums). Under the leadership of principal composer Daniel Denis, the group integrated influences as diverse as Magma, Henry Cow, the oboe-fronted Third Ear Band, Bela Bartok, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Albert Huybrechts, an obscure twentieth-century Belgian composer. All of Univers Zero’s five albums, reissued on CD by Cuneiform, showcase intricate compositions, consummate instrumental craft, stunningly textured arrangements, and an air of malignancy that’s at once seductive and sinister.
Univers Zero’s roots date back to Daniel Denis’ days with the Soft Machine-inspired trio Arkham. After Arkham served as Magma’s opening act in 1971, Christian Vander invited Denis and Arkham keyboardist Jean-Luc Mandelier to join Magma. After a few concerts as Magma’s second drummer, Denis withdrew, while Mandelier stayed with Magma for a year, performing on the classic ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ LP. The dissolution of Arkham precipitated Denis’ 1973 formation of Necronomicon with Roger Trigaux, bassist Guy Segers, and Arkham trumpeter Claude Deron. With some changes in personnel and a shift from improvised to composed material, the group evolved into Univers Zero, a name derived from a French science fiction novel Trigaux was reading at the time, and from the fact that the group felt they were exploring a new musical universe.
Darting, ever-shifting rhythms, angular melodies, and dissonant chromaticism pervade Univers Zero’s eponymous first LP, re-titled ’1313′ in subsequent Cryonic and Cuneiform reissues. Tension is repeatedly built up and released throughout the taut, wiry fifteen-minute opening track ‘La Ronde’, with ominous swellings giving way to poignant, introspective passages. A certain black humour crops up in the form of an occasional mocking phrase or ironic light flourish, immediately dispelled by a sudden attack of massed strings. Originally released in a private edition of five hundred in 1977, ‘Univers Zero’ was reissued before the year’s end by Atem, the label affiliated with the French magazine of the same name. Under the title ’1313′, Univers Zero’s debut recording appears on Cuneiform CD in the clear, spacious mix prepared for the 1984 Cryonic release.
With Guy Segers replacing Christian Genet on bass, the departure of Marcel Dufrane and Emmanuel Nicaise, and Roger Trigaux adding keyboard chores to his guitar work, Univers Zero plunged even deeper into brackish waters with 1979′s awesome, monolithic ‘Heresie’. With the baleful, twenty-five minute opener, ‘La Faulx’, the group paints a series of dark, expansive landscapes of unremitting despondence without ever lapsing into the grandiosity generally fatal to rockers with symphonic aspirations. The remaining pieces ‘Jack the Ripper’ and ‘Vous le Saurez en Temps Voulu’ are more concise, but equally uncompromising in their evocation of Lovecraftian imagery and haunted states of mind. The production (by the now-retired Etienne Conod, who sat at the board for Henry Cow, Art Bears, Fred Frith, and Art Zoyd) is startlingly crisp, pushing the chthonic rumblings of the bassoon and organ up front, raising into stark relief the dry scrapings of the violin.
Despite his contribution of several powerful compositions, Roger Trigaux limits his guitar to spidery filigree on ’1313′ and ‘Heresie’, in contrast to the searing leads that distinguish his subsequent tenure with Present. The absence of electronic synthesis on Univers Zero’s first two albums imparts the music with a timeless quality that’s both mysteriously antique and arrestingly modern. Unlike the band’s later recordings, ’1313′ and ‘Heresie’ are without the jazz influence common to other constituents of the radical Rock In Opposition collective, further removing the early Univers Zero from any contemporary frame of reference. At Rock In Opposition’s March, 1978 London concert (which included Henry Cow, Etron Fou Leloublan, Stormy Six, and Samla Mammas Manna) Univers Zero received the least applause, yet sold the most records of all the groups on the bill. (Perhaps the audience was too stunned to react.)
The undercurrent of menace flowing through Roger Trigaux’s work with Univers Zero boiled to the surface in the form of the tortured sound of his Crimsonesque guitar vehicle, Present. Joined by Daniel Denis, pianist Alain Rochette, and bassist Christian Genet, Trigaux led this concussive quartet through extended, rhythmically complex compositions, seamlessly shifting from writhing, sinuous high-speed rock to haunting, quiet interludes. Present’s rare 1981 Atem debut ‘Triskaidekaphobie’ is now combined with their potent 1985 Cuneiform follow-up ‘Le Poison Qui Rend Fou’ on one indispensable CD.
Sprinting tempos, jazz sonorities, the departure of Roger Trigaux, and the addition of Andy Kirk on keyboards all contribute to the more kinetic pace of Univers Zero’s ‘Ceux du Dehors’ (1981, “The Outsiders”). The entire album is suggestive of an amplified chamber ensemble running through variations on King Crimson’s dense, polymetric ‘Fracture’. Andy Kirk makes his compositional debut with the thirteen-minute ‘Combat’, a tense, multifaceted work alternating martial rhythms with eerie lento passages and soaring jazz progressions. Magma’s influence asserts itself in the form of Guy Segers’ growling bass and Ilone Chale’s ethereal, wordless vocal solo. Compared to the rich harmonium textures on ’1313′ and ‘Heresie’, Kirk’s keyboard tone strikes me as a bit nasal, and the band’s overall sound began to shift toward a brighter, less bass-heavy balance. The replacement of Michel Berckmans’ double reeds with Dirk Desheemaeker’s sax and clarinets on the subsequent ‘Crawling Wind’, ‘UZED’, and ‘Heatwave’ comprises a further contributing factor in Univers Zero’s departure from the Plutonian tonal palette of their early years.
Included on the ‘Ceux du Dehors’ CD is ‘Triomphe des Mouches’ (“Triumph of the Flies”), a rare single once issued by Recommended with flies silk-screened on the B-side. Missing from Cuneiform’s reissue catalogue is the 1983 ‘Crawling Wind’ EP, one track of which turns up on Musea’s excellent compilation of Magma-inspired artists, ‘Enneade’. Univers Zero also contributed the Andy Kirk-authored ‘Influences’ to the classic double-LP compilation, the ‘Recommended Records Sampler’ (out of print).
The athletic rhythms Univers Zero burn through on ‘Ceux du Dehors’ mark a radical departure from the brooding pace of ‘Heresie’, and serve as a transition toward the electric fusion of 1984′s ‘UZED’. The fact that Daniel Denis and Christian Genet are the only pre-’Crawling Wind’ members remaining in the group (even relative newcomer Andy Kirk is temporarily displaced by keyboardist Jean-Luc Plouvier) may account for its stylistic divergence from the established Univers Zero oeuvre. While the collective instrumental prowess displayed on ‘UZED’ is above reproach, the album comes across as a bit cold and inexpressive when compared to the band’s more atmospheric prior works. Still, it has its compelling moments, such as the evocative Bartokian miniature, ‘L’etrange Mixture du Dr. Schwartz’.
Univers Zero’s final statement, ‘Heatwave’ (1987) proved to be the group’s harshest and most intense recording. An intriguing blend of virtuosic chamber playing and industrial-style electronics, ‘Heatwave’ showcases some of Daniel Denis’ most tumultuous percussive assaults. While devoid of programmed percussion, Heatwave’s arsenal of sizzling digital effects has much in common with the sound of Art Zoyd’s ‘Le Mariage du ceil et de 1′enfer’ (1985). Andy Kirk’s ‘The Funeral Plain’ ranks among Univers Zero’s best, a labyrinthine threnody integrating unnerving electronic and acoustic sources into a slowly building series of increasingly seismic crescendos.
‘Heatwave’ marked the return of Andy Kirk and viola/violinist Patrick Hanappier, retaining all members of the ‘UZED’ line-up except cellist Andre Mergen.
After ‘Heatwave’, the economic and organizational problems endemic to an under-appreciated avant-garde ensemble finally eroded Daniel Denis’ previously indefatigable perseverance, bringing an end to Belgium’s boldest and longest-lived progressive band. In the late ’80s, a Denis/Trigaux/Kirk/Segers Univers Zero reunion was in the air, but financial obstacles prevented it from getting beyond the planning stage. In 1991 Denis issued a solo CD, ‘Sirius and the ghosts’ (USA: Cuneiform, Europe: Musea) followed by a 1993 release ‘Les Eaux Troubles’ (Musea).
Many of Univers Zero’s thirteen constituents have participated in Europe’s finest new music ensembles, with bassoonist/oboist Michel Berckmans playing with Aqsak Maboul, Samla Mammas Manna, Maximalist, and the elegant Belgian neoclassical group Julverne; Dirk Desheemaeker with Hector Zazou; Andre Mergen (Mergenthaler) and Daniel Denis with Art Zoyd; and most remarkably, Univers Zero and Art Zoyd performing in concert as a single ensemble in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Daniel Denis’ visionary leadership of a rotating line-up invites comparison to Robert Fripp’s role in King Crimson, as well as to Christian Vander’s command of Magma. Despite personnel changes, Univers Zero always maintained a cohesive, yet continually evolving musical identity. Never content to repeat themselves, Univers Zero defined the cutting edge in compositionally-intensive rock throughout their thirteen-year history.
Thanks to a three day Eurodomino rail pass, the Trans-France trek was well planned in advance and I arrived in Lons at two in the afternoon. Seven hours later, LES VOIX DE MAGMA took the stage. The impressive Théâtre Municipal reminded me of London’s Rainbow theatre but with a Michelangelo ceiling. The audience was literally hanging from the balconies in readiness for a surprisingly rare event – a “Magma” concert. The lighting was predominantly lilac and cyan with green and orange elements, punctuated by frequent scarlet bursts which silhouetted the choir against a black backdrop and swirling dry ice. As usual the set commenced with the intriguing choral introduction of ‘Ëmëhntëht-Rê’, then ‘To Love’, ‘I must return’, ‘C’est pour nous’, ‘Zëss’ and ‘Ronde de Nuit’. Each piece flowed effortlessly into the next as the group demonstrated their well-rehearsed professionalism. It had been a hot dry day and all but Alex Ferrand had discarded their jackets for this show, Jean-Christophe Gamet was the only band member in a Magma T-shirt, but Philippe Dardelle wore a Mekanïk Kommandöh shirt and sunglasses. After the only unreleased song, ‘Tous Ensemble’ (which featured Simon Goubert on Glockenspiel) even Alex shed his grey jacket.
Goubert then crossed the stage to take up the grand piano for the next three songs, leaving the electronic keyboards under Patrick Gauthier’s control. If you have ever seen Les Voix de Magma (or read Ork Alarm! recently) you will know what those next three songs were of course: ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’, ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ and ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’. I doubt if there is any Magma fan who would not give their eyeteeth to hear this sequence of classics performed by the ’73 – ’74 line-up. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen (unless the rumoured special concerts with Michel Graillier, Jannick Top, Stündëhr and Klaus Blasquiz allow for plenty of rehearsals) one has to accept that Vander’s current choral ensemble interpretation is the closest you will get to excellence – normally.
Tonight, however, I felt that something crucial was missing from the first two parts of this trilogy. Maybe it was travel or heat fatigue, but Christian did not throw himself completely into these numbers. He held back as if he was saving all his energy for the culmination. When it came, it was shattering – the full force of ‘Mekanïk’ came like crazed ball lightning, electrifying and orgasmic.
Before I tell you what I can recall of ‘MDK’ I guess I ought to mention something about the preceding works. Midway through ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ the choir filed off to the left and right, while Stella Vander went to the bank of keyboards beside Gauthier where she played her “plink plink plink” bit for a few minutes. Then she used the main vocal mike to herald the choir’s return with the cry: “loss”. A slightly mediocre rendition melted into ‘Wurdah Ïtah’, which also did not have the power of the performances we saw in Paris last autumn. I know that for many of the newcomers to live Magma, these were incredible performances – I just know that they can do better when everything is going well.
For most of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ Christian was bathed in amber, sometimes a dark menacing figure trying to break free from its grasp, often clearly revelling in his mastery of percussive melody. The choir fluidly enhancing every stroke and the twin keyboards embellishing his most magnificent creation. Dardelle’s double bass throbbed away almost imperceptibly, but the lack of electric bass in Offering and Les Voix de Magma is always the strongest recollection when one reflects on the overall performance. Personally I don’t miss the guitar parts, only having seen Claude Olmos play them once. The sound of the old Elka keyboards can’t be matched with modem synths either. But generally apart from the lack of real bass, I prefer the current version of ‘MDK’ to the late seventies performances. And I can assure you that the rest of the trilogy is usually up to that tremendous high standard.
‘Chorus Zebëhn Straïn de Geustaah’ brought that lightning out into the hail again, mesmerising all present. Yet another riveting display of technique and supreme artistry – yeah, probably our hero was saving his energy earlier for this one, and who can blame him when he still holds the power to uplift the souls of his legion of admirers with such subtlety and controlled aggression.
At the end of the main section, Vander, Gauthier, Goubert and Dardelle played a “jazz quartet” variation on the ‘MDK’ theme. This was obviously deliberate and rehearsed, unlike Goubert’s improvisations in earlier shows. Then the choir returned for the “Zïss ünt ëtnah” interlude before another brief drum solo. After that Christian left the stage coughing and soothing his throat from a bottle of neat Evian. Unfortunately his drums were still vibrating after he had almost shook them off the dias with his incessant pounding. As the keyboards (somewhat clumsily) thumped out the next sequence, a roadie rushed up to switch off the microphone, which was rattling against the kit.
The choir sung a glorious closing passage with just Goubert’s piano and Gauthier’s synth as backing – “Sün ïwéhn do wéhrï sün” – simply marvellous. Stephan said later that his eight-hour drive from the fatherland to see this was worth every millimetre. And I think Yves would have crawled the 55km from Dole from the look on his face! The eight vocalists (four of the ladies on the left with Benedicte Ragu and the three guys on the right) were all framed in a red glow. The moment passed all too soon and they walked off, but were quickly brought back for an encore of ‘La Marche Celeste’ (again without the peculiar electronic ending that was not so popular in Paris). The first half of this is used to back the presentations of the group: Goubert, Gauthier, Dardelle, Zebëhn, his daughter Aïna Kobaïa (Julie), Isabelle Feuillebois, Tauhd Zaïa, Addie Deat, Benedicte, Alex, Jean-Christophe Garnet (the principal male vocalist on ‘MDK’), and Jean-François Deat.
After ‘La Marche Celeste’ (a traditional french song with a typically Vanderienne variation) the ensemble filtered away again but the audience just would not give up. Yells for ‘Köhntarkösz’ abounded and the stomping / wild applause successfully brought Zebëhn back to the piano where he started the show. Gauthier then joined him and Goubert and he began ‘Ehn Deïss’, I immediately sensed that this would be a very interesting interpretation of one of my all-time favourites. Christian sang a large part of the song solo. Memories flooded back of that time in London in 1988 when this song was just so beautiful – I was not alone in leaving the theatre in tears that night. Then no sooner had I begun to think this would be a unique solo rendition than the entire choir all lined up to sing their collective hearts out, accompanied by Patrick Gauthier playing the flute parts that Guy Khalifa had originally performed – but on one of the keyboards naturally. Tonight ‘Ehn Deïss’ was one of the most awesome choral pieces they have played in their first year together. But more than that, I think it was the absolute best version of the song I can recall. Simply Stunning!
Finally Stella announced that since the band had a long journey to Prades the next day, they could not sing anything more tonight. But just before she left the stage she did announce the “Grand Fête” in Paris in November, which would include Zukunft on the bill. I am guessing now, but that would mean that it would be possible to hear ‘Köhntarkösz’, ‘De Futura’ and ‘Om Zanka’ in the same show as the classic trilogy that tonight’s line-up performed. I certainly won’t want to miss that show – even if the song list is not as glorious as I predict above. Another wild, unconfirmed guess is that this could be one of the special concerts.
THE LONGEST DAY
Prades – Cancellation
After a scorching day in Lons-le Saunier, it rained all night and all the next day throughout France. We had caught the tail end of an Atlantic depression that had drenched England the day before and was now doing its best to flood France. After a twelve-hour train journey (involving seven changes) I arrived in Prades for the next gig by Les Voix de Magma at 18h00. Unfortunately all the hotels were booked, so after meeting Olivier and his wife we found the concert venue at around 19h30 where they were still erecting the lighting equipment.
The concert was going to be in a petanque bowling ground and, as I had dreaded all the way to Prades, yes it was in the open air. The weather was still pretty foul but had at last stopped raining when Stella Vander arrived with Francis and Marcus, I directed them to the venue and went off again in search of a dry spot for the night. When I came back forty-five minutes later I met Nolan (another English fan) who had just arrived from Spain. Then somewhat puzzled by Nolan’s conversation, I met Francis Linon who said that the concert was cancelled because the stage and everything was just too wet to erect the equipment. I discovered later that the band had argued with the promoter and tried everything they could to stage the event, but the festival was too far behind schedule to go ahead that night and Les Voix de Magma had to return to Paris the next morning. Nolan talked to some of the band (including Stündëhr) and was told that unfortunately there would be no more gigs until October, because the various members had other jobs in various combos until then, or were on holiday. Feeling rather sad, Nolan and I rushed to the station just in time to get the last train to Perpignan. On the way Nolan showed me his rare cassette copy of ‘Üdü Wüdü’ with the original black cover design and Vandertop logo, surrounded by a beige border with the song titles. In the morning I went back to Paris, in a reflective mood. Lons-le-Saunier had been good enough to make the whole trip worthwhile. O.K. as I said before, it could have been even better. Obviously, in the middle of July the southernmost tip of France is too hot for an indoor concert and therefore one always runs a slight risk with outdoor gigs that the weather might turn evil. I know that Magma had a lot of problems in the Seventies with cancelled concerts, but this one was certainly not their fault and totally beyond their control. C’est la Vie.
CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO
16-06-93 Le Sunset, Paris
17-06-93 Le Sunset, Paris
18-06-93 Le Sunset, Paris
19-06-93 Le Sunset, Paris
LES VOIX DE MAGMA
09-07-93 Théâtre Municipal, Lons-le-Saunier
ZEUHL FAMILY TREE
I have not had a chance to update the monster A0 size family tree lately. The last time I revised it, turned into a disaster when the main disc on the mainframe computer that it is drawn on crashed later that day. There was no time to backup the data, so the current version is still the 21-12-91 issue which Klaus Blasquiz refers to as a “work of art”. This giant flow diagram / schematic still does not use accented French or Kobaïan characters as yet, but I am reasonably happy that it lists every important recording of every musician who played with Magma from 1969 to 1991. It is probably going to be impossible to track down every one of Jannick Top’s sessions unless one of you already has a list with recording dates and full album personnel details.
CARL ORFF: ‘Carmina Burana – The Piano Version’
Carl Orff: ‘Carmina Burana – The Piano Version’ – (Wergo 6217-2) is a totally new arrangement of the fascinating origins of Zeuhl Music. It is a recording by the young Swiss pianist Eric Chumachenco of a transcription he made himself. Performed on a Yamaha 7C Grand piano in Salzburg in 1992. The piano was for Orff a percussion instrument, consisting of strings, hammers and keys. Here he went far beyond Bartok’s ‘Allegro barbaro’, beyond Prokofiev and Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’. The hammered sound makes the rhythm clear, as it does in the case of timpani, glockenspiel, xylophone etc. The piano version of ‘Carmina Burana’ is not a piano score; what the vocal soloists and the choir sing is integrated into the sound just as the piano part is. Carl Orff thought of himself as a melodic composer. His melody swings away on the keyboard here. There is also a seven CD box set of Carl Orff’s work (1970′s analogue recordings) that is available for around £50 in major music stores (PILZ ACANTA 44 2086 to 44 2099). And Michael Draine insists that you investigate ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ by Orff, he will tell you why it is so important in our next issue, perhaps.
RICHARD PINHAS / HELDON
Most of the Richard Pinhas / Heldon albums are now available on CD, here’s what Steve Feigenbaum has to say about them: “Richard Pinhas, aka. the leader of HELDON, is a mythic name in the prog/electronic world. During the 7OEs, he released a dozen albums coupling his famed guitar playing with unique, stormy electronics. The second Heldon album ‘Allez Teia’ is a spacey / progressive must! ‘Chronolyse’ was his second solo: half live Moog electronics and half featuring Heldon in a thirty minute, King Crimson-ish stormy epic of mellotrons, electronics, guitar, bass and drums. ‘Interface’ features the classic Heldon line-up of Auger, Gauthier and Pinhas. This is one of Heldon’s heaviest discs, featuring their most intense and relentless electronic fusillades. ‘Iceland’ conjures up impressions of icy, pristine landscapes. Includes a previously unreleased twenty-five minute track. ‘L’Ethique’ has members of Magma and Heldon, and includes a bonus track. ‘DWW’ is his first new release in a decade! Despite the long lay-off, this is not a radical departure from his past work, but expands upon his past solo works.” And the Laser’s Edge says: “Quite simply the greatest group from France, Heldon/Pinhas made a legacy that few bands could match. Richard Pinhas made progressive music in the truest sense of the word.”
‘RETROSPEKTÏW I et II’
Magma’s live CD from the 1980 celebrations ‘RetrospektïW I et II’ will be released in September. So too will the second album by the Christian Vander Trio, this was recorded during the week ending 12-06- 93.
Daniel DENIS has finished his second solo album ‘Les Eaux troubles’ and it is now available from Musea Distribution. Featured musicians include Andy Kirk, Guy Segers, Dirk Descheemaeker and Wurd ^ëmgalaï himself; Bernard Paganotti, on two tracks. Essentially Daniel has concentrated on the drums to achieve a live feel.
Xaal have re-released their ‘En Chemin’ CD in France with a different (blue/black) cover and alternative photographs on the MSI label.
IL BERLIONE are an intriguing Japanese Zeuhl/Avant-rock band with a major bias towards horns. But our readers in Tokyo tell me that there are several other Zeuhl bands of great interest in Japan, where that style of music is becoming evermore popular. These include HAPPY FAMILY (who are the top Zeuhl group in Japan at the moment) and of course TATSUYA YOSHIDA. Yoshida is probably most well known as the excellent drummer with his Japanese avant-rock band RUINS, but he has another Zeuhl group called KOUENJI HYAKKEI and has now formed a third group to play cover versions of MAGMA material, including ‘MDK’, ‘De Futura’ and ‘Weidorje’. The new Magma cover group has two bassists, two keyboards, drums, and a choir. One of the bassists is Tatsuya Miyaho who also plays bass with HAPPY FAMILY. They will play their first gig at the Housei University Concert Hall on August 22nd 1993 with KOUENJI HYAKKEI as support. – Thanks for the info Naotsugu, Shuichi and Hitoshi, see you all next year. Features on these interesting developments in Japan in a future issue hopefully.
Paga Group will release their next album in September 93 on the Bleu Citron label. Meanwhile work is progressing on the Patrick Gauthier album, mentioned in Ork Alarm! #11, his group features Aïna Kobaïa and Antoine Paganotti.
The Japanese new-music magazine MARQUEE published in June 1993 was for me, and probably every Ork Alarm! reader, the finest tribute / overview of MAGMA I have ever seen. Of course it was all in Japanese and I cannot read a word of it. The main reasons why I feel it is still worth tracking down are the extensive collection of rare colour photographs used and the new family tree, and in particular the section with photographs of all the single releases by Magma which is also in colour. I do not have spare copies to sell but the issue you will want to track down is MARQUEE #048. Those of you who swap live tapes will probably already have contacts in Japan that can get it for you easily.
AD PERPETUAM MEMORIAM
A new Swedish CD label called AD PERPETUAM MEMORIAM, “dedicated to timeless sounds” has announced a limited edition release of ‘Barndomens Sugar’ by KULTIVATOR. “This band offers heavy progressive rock in the Canterbury vein, but with a typically French attitude. Elements of Swedish Folk are added and then melted in a pot to create a substance hot as Magma.” The original LP release on BAUTA records has long been deleted.
On the 17th and 18th of June, ART ZOYD played two live concerts at the Passage du Nord-Ouest in Paris. The musicians were: Patricia Daub (keyboards), Armand Filafero (trumpets), Gérard Hourbette (Viola, keyboards, percussion, tapes and samples), André Mergenthaler (Cello, alto sax, keyboards), Thierry Zaboitzeff (Cello, electric bass, keyboards, voice, percussion, tapes and samples). They played mostly Hourbette’s and Zaboitzeff’s compositions.
Then on the 19th June at 7pm ART ZOYD returned for the first of two shows that night, with the backdrop of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s classic film ‘Nosferatu’. “In working more and more closely on ‘Nosferatu’, we found that a natural complicity sprang up between the images and our music. Thus we came to realize that the instinct which compelled us to invade Murnau’s universe (in particular his film ‘Nosferatu’), rather than that of another film-maker, was well founded.” (AZ) Work is now in progress to interpret Murnau’s ‘Faust’.
The ART ZOYD CD’s ‘Marathonnerre volumes I et II’ are now available Meanwhile the Wayside music maestro Steve Feigenbaum has this to say about the Art Zoyd albums: Art Zoyd are a drummer less, very rhythmically strong, French band using unique instrumentation, symphonic influences and electronics. ‘Symphonie/Musique/Generation Sans Futur/Archives 1′ (Mantra 065) has their first three (and absolute BEST) works in one double CD package. ‘Phase IV / Les Espaces Inquiets / Archives 2′ also combines two older, classic discs. Both these double CD’s contain rare additional material, are the releases that made A.Z.’s reputation, and are as good as avant/progressive music gets! ‘Le Mariage du Ciel et de L’Enfer’ is similar, but is more minimal and stark, a trend that accelerates pace on ‘Berlin’ and ‘Nosferatu’. (These last three are all single CD’s by the way). Wayside also have the hard to find compilation CD by ART ZOYD /J.A. DEANE /J. GREINKE and Patricia Dallio’s superb solo album ‘Procession’ too.
AKT / SEVENTH
My chat with Stöht Wurdah Melekaahm Stündëhr in Paris in June was too brief to call an interview, but he discussed the influence of Carl Orff’s work and Stravinsky’s Russian period on Vander. Specifically he agreed that ‘Les Noces’ was the major reference point, rhythmically, for ‘Mekanïk’, and that’s why this issue contains items on Stravinsky and Orff. He did however reveal some interesting plans that Christian Vander has for future releases on AKT or Seventh (in 1994 perhaps?). “They are planning a box set of ‘MDK, ‘Köhntarkösz’ and ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ with a fourth (bonus) CD of some other work. The box will also include all the lyrics to these first three albums and, at last, the Dictionary of Kobaïan / French translations. One plan is to release each of the discs individually (but not the bonus disk), then release the whole package in a box”. I hope that René meant to put that the other way round, as it sounds like a rip-off to me. When asked about the timescales involved in this project, he went on to explain: “The dictionary project is delayed because, it is naturally important that the Kobaïan characters are drawn correctly, and it is not easy to achieve this on a personal computer. They are currently trying to find a way to do it and when the results are correct, then the dictionary can be created. Christian is adamant that the alphabet should be right.” There are a few software packages that allow you to create your own fonts and define your own characters. You can also achieve limited success with the Equation editor in Microsoft Word for Windows. Some of the characters are available if you play around with the international settings for what IBM called CODE PAGES. But in my experience the only real solution is to spend a couple of hundred pounds on a True type font editing package and then draw up a complete 256 character set. I am afraid my readers will have to accept the limited alphabet I have been able to conjure up from “Da Kohmputëhr” so far…
It was not clear whether René was referring to Live or studio recordings, and in particular I wish I had been able to get confirmation whether or not he was talking about new recordings or old tapes from the vaults. Obviously if René meant unreleased versions of these pieces, then they would be of great interest, no matter when they were recorded, let’s hope that will be the case, and not just reissues of existing albums…
Seventh Records announced in mid-June that they will soon release a musical score of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ which will be solely for voice and piano. And recently told us that there are plans for a studio album by LES VOIX DE MAGMA.
Since we have still got some space to fill, and Mr Feigenbaum is so wonderfully succinct in summarising some of my favourite groups – let’s hear what he has to say about those cheerful Belgian folks, UNVERS ZERO:
Univers Zero play fascinating, modern chamber music-influenced rock. Simultaneously gothic and futuristic, they are somewhat like the very best of Magma or Crimson, but infinitely darker, with a touch of Eastern European folk melodies added. ’1313′ is a unique disc of dark, mostly acoustic chamber rock. ‘Heresie’ is absolutely one of the darkest albums ever made. ‘Ceux du Dehors’ and ‘UZED’ are more overtly electric discs, and use reeds, strings, keyboards, bass and drums. ‘Heatwave’ showcases a more high-tech sound, while leaving their distinctive edge intact and sharper than ever. “… a must for lovers of adventurous music”. – Keyboard. “A remarkably subtle weaving of rock, classical and avantgarde tactics…” – Alternative Press. “Univers Zero’s first three albums are quite categorically amongst the finest examples of Zeuhl music ever recorded, sometimes I can think of only one album (‘To Love’) that I would rather listen to.” – Ork Alarm!
One of our readers is proposing to start a new Magma/Vander fanzine, to be written en Français. He has asked Christian Vander for permission for this venture. SUNDÏA, as it is likely to be known, should cost 15 Francs and the plan is for an issue every two months. This is all subject to approval by Christian, and therefore I cannot pass on further details as yet. We will let you know if the venture does reach fruition, and of course Ork Alarm! supports this new proposal entirely. I hope this will lead to a spirit of co-operation between us and perhaps the exchange of interviews and news – with both Sündïa and Ork Alarm! providing information in whichever language you prefer.