- One is Impressed (Steve Lake)
- Zeuhl Rhythms
- Portrait of Isabelle Feuillebois (André Liedet)
- Janik Top’s Compositions (Oliver Fromentin)
- Christian Vander A tous les enfants… (Bruno Heuzé)
- Rialzu (Bernard Gueffier)
- Magma Brussels 74 (Ehn Aïmaah)
- Offering Epernay 3-3-95
- Fusion Talence 11-3-95 (photos: courtesy of Patrick Duval and Thierry Moreau)
- Christian Vander’s Showcase Paris 23-3-95 (André Liedet)
- Christian Vander A tous les enfants…
- Sheets of Sound The legacy of John Coltrane (Dick Pole)
- Ork! Reviews
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
- Ork! Update
One is impressed
Steve Lake – Melody Maker 07-06-75
Magma (France): Paris based Magma aren’t exactly a band that one likes. One is impressed – overwhelmed even. Their kind of black ferocity inspires, rather, horrified fascination. Myriad line-up changes seem to have made very little difference to the dark designs of composer/drummer/leader Christian Vander whose obsession with apocalyptic themes makes Black Sabbath seem like easy listening. Although of French origin, the heaviness of Magma’s music has more in common with German composers.
Saying something profound about rhythms in Zeuhl-music is a bit difficult, for prejudice says that most of the avant- and prog-rock-freaks are quite enthusiastic rhythm counters and don’t need any teaching about what polyrhythms and triplets etc. are. Yet thinking that most of the readers of this mag are primarily musically interested and not that much into personal stuff and home stories, here are some things I discovered about rhythmic structures in Zeuhl-music.
Four primal sources of rhythmic invention are as follows:
1 Stravinsky’s use of rhythm in compositions like “Les Noces”‘ (where we can find the 7/4 beat of “Mekanïk “‘) and other pieces of his early period that are partly derived from East-European folk-music.
2 Minimalistic music and its use of additive rhythms (small rhythmic units, that are repeated and varied) which influenced tracks like “De Futura”.
3 Marching rhythms as used by Carl Orff in his “Trionfi” trilogy (for example the start of “Mekanïk “, where we can find Vander using four takes from “Trionfo di Afrodite”), but even more traditional types, as the use of snare drum rolls in “Theusz Hamtaahk” and much of UNIVERS ZERO’s music. They are often combined with the first two forms (2/4 against 7/8 etc.).
4 The use of polyrhythms in modal jazz (as during CVs falsetto solo in ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’).
Yet the element that makes Zeuhl-music unique, at least to me, is the way the rhythm section is dealing with this basic rhythmic material (apart from its often unrivalled physic power and subtlety): on one hand there is a very disciplined playing of the rhythms, on the other hand the fill-ins at the end of phrases and takes often push the music (and rock music itself) to the edge by sometimes playing totally against the beat or dissolving it for a few moments yet somehow always finding a way back to it in a most surprising way, while the rest of the band has to play its regular patterns with merciless precision. This creates an enormous tension between order and freedom (machine and humanity) which I have not yet discovered in any other type of music – neither in prog-rock, nor in jazz-rock, nor free jazz, nor in free funk, nor in this century’s avant-garde. The best Zeuhl drummers have a striking ability to stretch and compress time, space and rhythm to its extremes without destroying it. In this category, the prize goes to Vander for his performance on “The Last Seven Minutes”, closely followed by Daniel Denis’ drumming on “The Funeral Plain”.
In my view, ZAO and ART ZOYD are more gifted in other aspects of music: Zao have great melodies and interplay between voice, sax and violin, while Art Zoyd stress the machine-aspect and play their rhythmically complicated pieces so precisely that it becomes magical (more about that in “Zeuhl-melodies”!).
“Hhai” is the only piece 1 know where a band plays triplets consistently against a binary keyboard pattern for about ten minutes. Obviously CV’s drumming is often in triplets (apart from some fill-ins), while I’m not so sure about the rest. ART ZOYD also play triplets against binary structures in longer pieces, but they sometimes use the help of sequencers (ART ZOYD’s “Cryogenese”, – both parts – on “Le Manage du Ciel et de l’Enfer”).
I just can’t find the track of MAGMA “using a 5:4 relation, “where five equally spaced beats are played in the space of four” (Chris Cutler in OA! 13). “Köhntarkösz ? The only track I could find that has a totally “queer” rhythmic proportion is ART ZOYD’s “Chemins de Lumiere” where the relation is 40:63 (piano:trumpet, time code 9:39 to 10:03), but the trumpet is not played somewhat irregulary, and it does not sound like it’s been planned.
We can find some interesting similarities between the treatment of rhythms in Zeuhl-music and the understanding of time, for example the use of editing in French film before world-war II as described by Gilles Deleuze (the French philosopher). Montage as used in these French movies has a “psychic-quantitative” characteristic. French movie-makers of the time (e.g. l’Herbier, Gremillon, Gance, Epstein) turned away from organic qualities (value-free speaking) and used mathematical relations and periodic alternations of shadow and light, different settings, combined with a feeling for “the sublime”. In ART ZOYD’s music, almost everything is clearly located in rhythmic terms – even most of the noises are used in a rhythmic manner. Of course their affinity to grandiosity is obvious.
If we summarize the changes in Zeuhl music during the last twenty years it’s obvious that many of the musicians have turned to more traditional and accepted modes of playing, which is on one hand modal jazz and sixties-type polyrhythmic playing, and on the other hand the stronger emphasis on minimalistic influences such as ART ZOYD are doing now (not to forget millions of boring Fusion records). Treated marching rhythms (save Daniel Denis and Vander’s “La Marche Celeste”) have become rare, as the Stravinsky-influence in combination with marching drums has decreased.Of course no-one wants to hear the same stuff all the time – even if it’s mid-seventies’ Zeuhl, but being a person that lives in constant fear of another blues revival, I doubt that traditionalism should be a way to go for avant-rockers. I would like to hear more Zeuhl-music combined with modern styles like SHUB NIGGURATH who do it with noise music and OFFERING who dig some advanced esoteric Ambient influences on “Cosmos” (listen to Klaus Wiese’s “Space” and you’ll know what I mean), because I think that contains a lot of possibilities (everything should be better than Fusion in the nineties…). If the musicians don’t wake up, I predict that Zeuhl-music will soon have a glorious past and no future.
PORTRAIT OF ISABELLE FEUILLEBOIS
André Liedet (25th January 1995)
Isabelle has been singing with Offering for more than eight years and she appears regularly in most of the groups alongside Christian and Stella. ORK ALARM! would like you to make Isabelle’s acquaintance with this interview – made in the form of a portrait.
How did you first discover the music of Christian?
By chance, because at home we listened to variety music, and a little opera. I also had a rock period where I listened to the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. I learned piano too, for two years, when I was young. One day, at a friend’s house, I heard ‘De Futura’. It was the first time that I had heard Magma and it was a big shock! Since that time I began to listen to the records and to go to the shows. Unfortunately I only saw four because it was the provisional end of the group.
How did you come to know Christian?
Very simply, I went to see him one day at the end of a concert, we talked and sometime later I was at the recording studio to assist in the recording of ‘Merci’. I can say that I met the music, Magma and Christian all at the same time.
Some years later you were on stage with Offering…
Yes, I don’t really remember how it happened, it came about quite naturally, I followed the tours with Offering and I knew the pieces very well. I started to rehearse three weeks or a month before the concert (Manege, Munich, 25th October 1986). That was not too difficult. In fact I was totally unconscious, I was not aware of what would happen. I almost fainted as I first came on stage. Fortunately all the other members of the group were very kind! Since then, I have worked a lot, I started at the bottom, but Christian and Stella are good teachers.
Is there a precise place for each singer in Christian’s music?
Not really. When there are several voices we experiment, anyone can sing the high part or the low part but there is no planned distribution of voices according to the range. Otherwise, Stella generally sings the solo parts. Julie and I have the job of choristers, but Christian does not like that description. There are so few people within Offering, that he wants us all to sings as if we are soloists.
However, on the last record, ‘A Tous Les Enfants’, you sing solo Parts on several tracks!
Yes, on ‘J’ai du bon tabac’ and ‘A la claire fontaine’. It is an experience; Christian found that my voice rang well. But this is not my thing; I prefer to sing in a choir, I am more comfortable to be part of the ensemble. When I sing alone I am tense.
So you have no plans to work on a solo album for the moment?
No, I still have so much work to do!
Are some works more or less difficult to sing?
For me, yes. I have been familiar with the repertoire of Magma for a long time, I feel well with it, liberated. It is a pleasure to sing. I do not find that totally in Offering’s music, which seems more difficult to me. For example, in the “birds” section of ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’; in the beginning there were only keyboards and I could not understand anything because the music changes non-stop! And then Christian decided to add vocals at that point, so I had to learn and understand. It’s a kind of pleasure too. But I believe I need some more years for me to feel truly free in Offering.>/p>
Do you ever participate in the composing?
Not at all, I am primarily an interpreter. It’s Christian and Stella who search for the vocal Harmonisations.
Is Christian always the only composer?
No! Of course, generally he is the originator of the pieces, but he is glad that there are other composers in the group. There is a lot of freedom in the group; everyone can bring their own ideas. For example, Pierre-Michel Sivadier composed for Offering.
How did Christian compose ‘A Tous Les Enfants’?
For this album, Christian did everything alone and very rapidly, with of course, Francis Linon for the sound and Stella keyboard programming. Several tracks, like ‘J’ai du bon tabac’, ‘A la claire fontaine’ and ‘Le ballet des sorcières’ were already prepared. We went to the studio and he gradually composed the melodies, the texts and the transitions between pieces while we were recording. Each day he found something. ‘Monsieur Vent’ for example, he sat at the piano, and just played and it all came very rapidly. Perhaps he needed two hours for the words! On the whole the recording of the disc took two and a half months, with some breaks. With our own studio, we are lucky to be able to work when we want and to stop when tired. Actually Christian doesn’t always compose like that. This album was special; he wanted to sit at the piano in the studio without knowing what was going to happen, to be put in a position of urgency, of danger. For other albums it can be very different.
Is Christian very demanding?
Not really demanding, more a perfectionist, especially for recordings. He can make us repeat the same part fifty times. It’s very hard but justified. Of course he prefers natural cuts, recorded in one take.
What inspires you about this music today?
It’s easy because I love everything that Christian does, from Magma to Offering, including the Trio and Welcome. For me it is a totality, a sound, the same music that is inspired by John Coltrane from the beginning. I like a lot of Coltrane’s music; the themes are magnificent. Of course, I also like other music, like some works of Wagner and lots of other things, but Christian is the sole composer of whom I like the whole work.
What do you think of the evolution of his musical style?
To me it seems entirely logical. Magma stopped temporarily because it became too difficult. It would have needed too big an orchestra to interpret ‘Merci’ on stage. Today it’s easier to resume the same repertoire with Les Voix de Magma. Christian created Offering because he wanted to sing and to play the piano. The group is very acoustic; in a way it is a return to the roots.
How did the idea of Les Voix de Magma occur?
We have friends (the French band DON’T DIE) in Vichy; we were at their house on New Year’s Day 1990. They were rehearsing and had some small problems with ‘Mekanïk’, so Christian sat in on drums. We stayed there for three or four days and that gave Christian a great urge to play the works of Magma again. We began by playing ‘Mekanïk’ at La Cigale (in Paris) with musicians from Don’t Die. Klaus came and everyone, the spectators, Christian, Stella, enjoyed it. So we continued.
Were the first solo concerts by Stella successful as well?
Yes, in 1991, we played three consecutive evenings at the Passage du Nord-Ouest. I have a very nice memory of this period, of the rehearsals and the concerts. There was an excellent atmosphere.
What recollections do you have of the “Sans Tambour Ni Trompette” show (Le Plessis Robinson, 27th March 1993)?
It’s a very bad memory, actually. It was just Christian, Stella and me, but without Julie and without keyboards. It was very hard; I seemed to sing out-of-tune. I was very disappointed with it – perhaps it was too early for me, too heavy to support?
You seem to have a special relationship with Stella and Julie…
We are very good friends and it is a real pleasure to sing together. Besides I have always sung with Stella and I adore that. I must say that Stella is a true locomotive; she pulls everyone together. She does a lot of work.
Does she have other musical activities?
Not a lot. She sang on the last album by Lydia Domancich (the excellent and very Zeuhl ‘Chambre 13′) and at this moment she is touring with her. I believe that they want to do more things together.
Nothing! That’s not to say that I don’t want to do anything else. I like Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and Jazz, but there are so many girls who sing those styles of music better than me! That would be good for me, but I don’t know if I could bring something new.
How does Offering manage to function?
It is not a permanent group. If there were fifteen concerts each month, then that would be sufficient to pay for the rehearsals of the musicians and we could have a lot work. But we have so very few concerts… So everyone has another job, often within music, but not all of them near Paris.
And what about the record sales?
Apart from ‘Mekanïk’, the sales are not those of the Top 50. We are rarely on the television or the radio, they don’t want us, and we don’t make the audience ratings climb on the audiometer. So it’s always the same people that buy our discs. That’s just enough to allow the studio to stay alive. However Welcome were on television recently on the “Le cercle de minuit” show, thanks to our press attaché who calls them non-stop, sometimes he succeeds, but we are on late in the evening.
What is there in preparation at the moment?
Not much in the immediate future. Christian has put a lot of energy into his album and there is a kind of backlash. We will soon prepare the show for the Espace Kiron. This will be different from what we usually do. There will be a magician who will come and perform tricks. We want to open to a larger public, not only the initiated. We would like to have a lot of children to come. We are going to try to contact the schools, but of course, without making any concessions.
Will there be new pieces as well as those on the album?
No, we have no songs in reserve, we are going to perform the whole album as well as some titles that we have already recorded, for example on Stella’s solo album. We intend to discuss this soon.
Have you had a chance to see what impression the songs make on children?
Yes, generally they please them a lot. It’s the parents rather than the children who feel uncomfortable. They find them a bit alarming or frightening. But we have also received letters from parents who thank us and say that their children adore the songs. It makes a change from the silly things that they usually listen to!
Are there any other plans?
Christian is thinking of a concert with a large orchestra and many singers who would interpret the works of Magma in 1996. Christian also wants to make an album of drum solos for AKT. The solos will be from all periods, for example there will be some that he played during Magma concerts. He needs to listen to the tapes and to select the best…
Do you have a Kobaïan name?
No, because I began with Offering and I have never sung in Magma. It’s funny; Stella talked about that only two days ago… In fact, why not?
JANIK TOP’S COMPOSITIONS
(Olivier Fromentin – additions to the main list in Ork Alarm! #21)
SPACE - Pop LP – ‘The Best of Space’ (Vogue 574023)
- Pop SP – ‘Tender Force’ / ‘Robbots’ (Vogue 101398)
Co-compositions with Roland Romanelli: ‘Tender Force’, ‘Robbots’, ‘Inner Voices’.
EURYDICE - Disco EP ‘Music of Stars’ / ‘From me to me’ (Atropa ATR 410 353)
- Disco SP ‘Music of Stars’ I ‘From me to me’ (Atropa ATR 170 353)
Co-compositions with Roland Romanelli: Music of Stars’, ‘From me to me’.
ROLAND ROMANELLI / JANNICK TOP - Illustration 2LP ‘Recorded Music for Film, Radio and Television’ (Sysmo SYS 001)
Co-compositions with Roland Romanelli: Melody for a Soul’, ‘Love’s Memories’, ‘Futur’, ‘Note-Rain’, ‘Video’, ‘Child-Dream’, ‘Ascension’, ‘Video’, ‘Cosmic Pursuit’, ‘Arabesk’, ‘Star-Dance’, ‘Spring Walk’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘Bryce Canyon’, ‘Water-Plays’, ‘Feast Night’, ‘Classic Century’, More and More Fright’, ‘Chinese Boy’, ‘Skate’, ‘Indian-Man’ (ZEUHL TRACK), ‘Logarythms’.
ROMANELLI - Pop LP – ‘Connecting Flight’ (21 Records 2311177)
- Pop EP – ‘Connecting Flight’ / ‘Chain Reaction’ (21 Records 2141 559)
- Pop SP – ‘Connecting Flight’ / ‘Chain Reaction’ (21 Records 2056 972)
Co-compositions with Roland Romanelli (& Rusty Egan): ‘Departure’, ‘Chain Reaction’ (+ Egan), ‘The Pulse’, ‘The Other Side of Tune’, ‘Connecting Flight’ (+ Egan), ‘Passion’.
SERGE PERATHONER / JANNICK TOP Soundtrack CD ‘Simple Mortel’ (Fnac Music 592010)
Co-compositions with Serge Perathoner: ‘Flesh and Blood’, ‘Crosstown Traffic’, ‘Why me?’, ‘Rasta Master’, ‘Simple Sam, ‘Arakis’ ‘Simple Mortel’, ‘A Ia Poursuite de Fabien’, ‘Ecritures au Mur’, ‘Retour de Brigitte’. ‘Appartement de Philippe’.
MAGMA - Zeuhl 2CD – ‘Brussels 74′ (Spiral 001-2)
Co-composition with Christian Vander: ‘Sowiloï’ (‘KMX), live in Brussels, 14th February 1974.
CHRISTIAN VANDER ‘A TOUS LES ENFANTS’
(Seventh A XIV, Distr: Harmonia Mundi)
Bruno Heuzé (Keyboards Magazine, Février 1995)
This disc is essentially beautiful. Christian Vander has suffered anguish and torrents of fury, in order to find the child within himself – which he offers here, exposed and vulnerable – that which has always been at the root of his music: the ingenuousness. In the void between ‘To Love’ and Stella Vander’s ‘D’épreuves d’amour’ album, ‘A Tous les Enfants’ unfolds as a complete picture book of stars, where birds come to spin, to turn the ferris wheels and sorceresses to dance. Nursery rhymes in rounds, the arrangements with their mystery, the songs full of fervour and keyboards that have the roundness and brilliance of bells. The tales of Christmas and of Kobaïa are laid before you. They have the ineffable charm of these unclouded and crystalline melodies, that softly fly away from a musical box that one opens, and that one shuts in order that their treasure does not escape.
Rialzu (Ricoridu LM 16) 1978
Bernard Gueffier – La Discographie du Rock Francais (Translation: Dan Techno)
This group, led by the Renne brothers (with Gilles on the guitar) and the McDaniel brothers, recorded this album in a day but it was distributed solely in Corsica. RIALZU merge progressive rock, Zeuhl music and the Corsican culture. On side A, they develop a single theme, beginning with an energetic rhythm, broken by a sequence, which fades out, to be succeeded by the main theme. The vocals sung in Corsican, increase on the former and institute a solemn climate, loaded with emotion and tension. Ample feminine and male choruses relay this sombre chant. Side B is introduced by the blowing, anguishing wind, to which is chained a slow and muffled climbing of choruses impregnated with this fervour, this tender chant of Corsican sadness. The ascension of the theme continues, punctuated by incisive strings of the violin or flights of the guitar before dying with the disappearance of choruses snatched by the wind. Constantly, a sombre lyricism reigns on this disc devoted to legends or poems – a marriage of Corsican culture with rock music. Between Magma, Ottobre and King Crimson. – Album deleted, but “La Discographie” is available from Musea.(Something that the incredibly good “a Discographie du Rock Francais” failed to mention is that RIALZU introduced their album with ‘Köhntarkösz’).
Spiral 001 – 002 1994
As bootlegs go, the quality of this one is marginal, but at least it has not been mastered from an old vinyl bootleg. When I first got into collecting Magma tapes this was the show that everyone seemed to have, and most of the copies in circulation were about the same quality as the one used to make this set. However as time passes, the tapes wear out and I got fresh copies of this show in the late eighties, these were a couple of generations better quality. So although the (presumably) Japanese folks who made this disc could have found slightly better source material, they could hardly have found a better concert to immortalise.
This show (along with many of the concerts from late 73 / early 74) was astonishing. The musicianship is superb, the songs played are all Magma’s greatest works, and possession of this recording is absolutely vital to most Zeuhl fans! So why is it a bootleg? And even more annoying, why is it a limited edition of only 300 copies? I suspect it is a bootleg because AKT have not given any indication whether or not they will release it themselves and someone could not wait to have this memento metallised.
It is a common bootleg marketing ploy to state that the disc is a limited edition. Many of Zappa’s live shows were bootlegged in editions of only 50 copies… Then they get reissued and recycled interminably, often with new titles and new covers in order to fleece the punters. The FZ bootleggers have released at least 500 different titles and don’t intend to stop. So you could reasonably expect to see this one released again and again, but the way to stop this criminal situation is for AKT to beat the bootleggers. The planned release of ‘Douai 1974′ on AKT should be more than adequate compensation for the woefully inadequate supplies of ‘Brussels ’74′.
My first impression of this recording from the Université Libre on 14-2-74 was of too much hiss and a muffled bass. After a few minutes you can get used to these problems, but this shortcoming could easily be resolved by an AKT release or a digital remix. Beginning with a weak recording of the hallelujah version of ‘Köhntarkösz’ (23:10), it continues with ‘Sowiloï’ segued into ‘Om Zanka’ (13:17). The exuberant drum solo ‘Chorus Zebëhn’ (24:20) closes zünd 1, but amongst the tape hiss, the drums sound a little fuzzy. The second disc also has a high level of white noise covering Klaus’ opening announcement about the history of the people of Ork Central, the song of these people is: ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ (33:50). Christian’s numbing drums and the subterranean growl of Top’s bass are like distant thunder. This is certainly a consummate early ’74 version, but I would be even more elated to have a record or video of the winter 1973 band when Stella enhanced Magma concerts with her lustrous vocals. The master tape used for the ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ (24:08) seems an inferior one to that used for the rest of the album. Finally, Klaus announces that the Kobaïan name of the last piece means goodbye, so with a final chorus section of hallelujahs we have, ‘Gamma Anterïa’.
Coming soon on the Spiral label (according to current rumours) is another (Japanese?) Magma bootleg: Magma ‘De Futura 1975′. Informed sources suggest that the material used could come from 1977 and 1972 tapes and that ‘Morrison in the storm’ could be included.
Théâtre Gabrielle Dorziat – Epernay 03-03-95
At 21h00 without the customary intro tapes, Christian suddenly emerged from the wings and commenced ‘Joïa’ on the grand piano, gradually the rest of the ensemble joined in. This extended piece included a drum solo by Marc and a sax solo from Alex. ‘C’est Pour Nous’ began with just Christian and Stella singing in the centre of the stage until eventually Isabelle and Julie backed them up from the far corners of the raised platform. Next up was ‘Cosmos’ (the slow version) for which Pierre-Michel took over the piano stool and Christian re-entered stage left for ‘A Fiïèh’.
Christian then returned to the piano, swigging a bottle of water – which he joked, was actually vodka. For the next fifty minutes they performed ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’, which is still being re-arranged at every rehearsal – so each performance is totally unique. Offering were further enlarged when Lydia joined them on keyboards. ‘Les Cygnes’ now has long dense keyboard passages and some extreme dual drumming. The combination of Buire picking out a melody while Delouya plays the rhythm approaches the sound of a Christian Vander drum solo in full flight.
Eventually, the swans have flown away leaving just Christian at the piano with Stella bathed in a cyan aura for ‘Hello’. Then the drummers materialise from the darkness with Pierre-Michel to embellish the sound. Lydia and Isabelle add gongs to the percussive assault. After the presentations they are recalled for a double encore: ‘Purificatem’ is almost a solo effort with Christian on the precipice. Finally we have the anticipated culmination ‘Ehn Deïss’, a nifty new vocal arrangement with Stella and Julie playing out a call and response interlude. Pierre-Michel spoils it slightly by over-emphasising the “flute” section on synth, thus unbalancing the mix of the best song of the night. Having said farewell (“Ehn Deïss”) to the hordes, Stella tried to entice them to the Espace Kiron for the “Tous les Enfants” shows. Then the house manager re-lit the candles and swiftly ushered us into the darkness.
Espace Médoquine, Talence 11-3-95
The first support group, Denis Gouzil’s “Special Trio”, were extremely interesting, with subdued scat vocals reminiscent of Uppsala, but Monsieur Poulet (a clown / mime artist) who messed around onstage during their set was just an unwelcome nuisance. UPPSALA, newly reformed with Philippe Cauvin, Dany Marcombe and Didier Lamarque are planning an album soon, their set was simply terrific. Then the event of the decade…. Christian and Janik on-stage together again at last! Beginning with ‘Overdrive’ their performance was marvellous. Didier started to annihilate his bow whilst getting into ‘GHK Go To Miles’ in a big way. Benoît played a lot of the melodies, which surprised me because I had thought they were violin parts on the album.
Janik played an awesome mini-solo in the middle of ‘Sept Cent Soixante Sept – ZX’. The main part of the set concluded with ‘Reliefs’. Didier said it was nice to play some of the things they had recorded in 1981 but that were not released, or played live at the time. By which we presume he meant the encore: ‘Fred’ – a Tony Williams’ Lifetime number. The final track might have been the promised new number written by Janik Top, but it seemed familiar to me – so I am not sure about that. Afterwards everyone seemed ecstatic to have witnessed such a glorious event.
Christian Vander’s Showcase
Fnac Forum, Paris 23-03-95
This was one of the two showcases organised by FNAC to present Christian’s show of the Espace Kiron and the latest CD ‘A Tous Les Enfants…’. As previously, in December 1994, Stella, Julie and Isabelle joined Christian. They played five tracks from the album: ‘Ronde de Nuit’, ‘A la claire fontaine’, ‘J’ai du bon tabac’, ‘Mr Vent’ and finally ‘Hymne aux enfants’.
The show was stopped twice between songs to allow a discussion with a journalist, about the origin of the album, and with the public, mainly about Christian’s future plans. Concerning the show at the Espace Kiron, Christian said that Pierre-Michel Sivadier and Lydia Domancich would play keyboards but that Philippe Dardelle will not be there. Magma will soon be twenty-five years old and so there will be a concert by Les Voix de Magma in the autumn with a choir of about one-hundred children singing ‘MDK’. Several concerts with a symphonic orchestra and a choir playing the three movements of ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ are foreseen in the spring of 1996. But the problem is to find sponsors. The next productions by AKT will be the album ‘Inedits’, a CD with drum solos and one from the 1981 Bobino concerts. Christian hopes to record the next Offering album soon, with ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’, but this tune is very complicated and it has to be played again and again. So it will probably not be done before 1996. Furthermore, he has a project in mind with keyboards and machines for Magma. The final work could be the result of the fight between him and the machines. In answer to a question about Magma’s videos, he said that there are no films from that period that are good enough for release. Making a film today could be possible but it would need a lot of money to achieve a good quality result, but there would be no sense in bringing the former musicians of Magma together again.
A tous les enfants…(Seventh A XIV) 1994
Not one of those beastly Magma records, instead Christian offers us a wonderfully enchanting collection of songs that should appeal to all the family. After several years of hesitancy over this, the results greatly exceed my expectations. I thought Christian’s opening announcement was a bit frightening for the little ones, but the next few songs flow into a magical sequence before the first piece that I recognised; ‘J’ai du bon tabac’ with its haunting melody. The jolly ‘Mr Vent’, ‘Le ballet de sorcières’ and the superb ‘Ronde de Nuit’ are more tunes that will fix themselves in your head, I find myself recalling these simple melodies unexpectedly at the oddest moments. It is a shame that this recording of ‘Ronde de Nuit’ is taken directly from Stella Vander’s solo album, but in fact this whole concept has a strong affinity with Stella’s CD and at times reminds me of the spiritual intensity of ‘To Love’ – an album that is shamefully ignored by some fans yet I feel is possibly Vander’s finest achievement. As expected there are a few appearances by the children but it is not a record by children, or solely for children. It is a work of love, seemingly intended to recall the joys of youth and good health. Christian says that the prime intention of the record is to liberate your consciousness. The disc slips into the back of what is effectively a small hardback book. The book contains all the lyrics and some poignant messages from Christian. The book is a splendid work by UZ Grafik, and features a lovely shot of Christian visiting Father Christmas in 1951. Towards the end of the album come two tunes that I suppose one must recall from the presentations in Le Plessis Robinson and at the Bataclan, ‘A la clare fontane’ and ‘Dodo l’enfant do’, both magical interpretations, far removed from Christian’s previous records but just as spellbinding. Your enjoyment of the whole package would be increased if you can read French, but even if you can’t understand a word of it, the pure joy shines through. Unless you are totally blinkered, you really should check this out.
Sheets of Sound
The legacy of John Coltrane
When I look back at past issues, and glance at my record collection, I find it incredible that Ork Alarm! has not yet written at any length about John Coltrane. During his tragically short life he was undoubtedly one of the most influential and important jazz players of all time and, it could genuinely be said, a pivotal figure in redefining the musical boundaries of the twentieth century. “Trane” died in 1967, aged 41, leaving behind him a phenomenal legacy not only for his recorded studio work but also for his live concerts – which often pushed experimentation to the very edge. Proof of his greatness can be found in the newly published second edition of the excellent Penguin Guide to Jazz which awards a number of his works the much coveted maximum points for their importance in an extremely short list amongst thousands of reviews. I think I would have added some more.
The reason I have the opportunity to mention all this is that Impulse Records have continued their admirable re-issuing / re-packaging policy in respect of “Trane” by recently issuing in double CD format ‘Live In Seattle’, a concert recorded in the heady days of 1965. It features what many regard as the classic quartet of Trane, McCoy Tyner piano, Jimmy Garrison bass and Elvin Jones drums. This set is augmented with Pharoah Sanders and Donald Garrett providing additional tenor and bass – and what a powerful set it is!
This was an astonishingly fertile period for Trane, beginning with the recording in December ’64 of what many regard as his masterpiece ‘A Love Supreme’ followed by ‘Ascension’ and, towards the end of the year, ‘Meditations’ classic recordings all. He was becoming an immensely spiritual person, examining in depth Eastern cultures and philosophies and this is fully reflected in the music on offer here. Disc 1 opens with ‘Cosmos’ followed by two lengthy interpretations – both over 20 minutes long – of ‘Out of This World’ first recorded in 1962, then the great standard ‘Body and Soul’ featuring some outstanding solos. The disc concludes with ‘Tapestry in Sound’, a Garrison composition with some inspired bass playing.
Not even the technological wonders of CD can accommodate Trane fully on Disc 2, as the two tracks here ‘Evolution’ and ‘Afro Blue’ weigh in over 30 minutes long and ‘Afro Blue’ cannot be accompanied in its entirety. It should be remembered that despite the raw, fierce intensity of much of Trane’s playing in this period, he was also capable of moments of extreme tenderness and both sides are reflected here. Quite how long the incomplete ‘Afro Blue’ lasted I don’t know, but it ends here with the musicians firing on all cylinders and certainly remains echoing through the listener’s head for some time afterwards. Those lucky enough to have been present must have been on cloud nine for weeks afterwards and the famous description of Trane’s music as “sheets of sound” is certainly appropriate. This release is another valuable addition in respect of Trane’s recorded work, and cannot be recommended highly enough.
In addition to recordings already mentioned I would also add ‘The Major Works’, ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘Interstellar Space’ as being indispensable – together with Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue’, a seminal album which features Coltrane at his most sublime.
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
Dancing on A’A (Cuneiform Rune 69) 1995
Fifteen years ago this American band began as a recording project only. Three years later they released their first eponymous EP. Two years later they unleashed an LP ‘Magnetic Flip’ and started working as a live band to support said album. In 1985 they released a second EP; ‘Beat of time Mesozoic’. In 1987, now working with Cuneiform Records, a revised line-up recorded ‘Faultline’ and in 1992 ‘Pyroclastics’. 1993 saw the release of ‘The Fossil Record’, which is a collection of previously unreleased material. Here we have Birdsongs of the Mesozoic’s eighth release, with the line-up that have worked together for the last three years. The first three tracks are incidental music by two keyboards, guitar and saxophone amalgamated with assorted percussion – providing a melange of classical and jazz overtones. Then on ‘Readymen’ the group begin to exhibit a style more akin to ‘Ceux du Dehors’ era of Univers Zero. ‘Swamp’ begins slowly with a piano and assorted sound effects before the distorted guitar entrance of Michael Bierylo. Gradually a complex tune evolves – full of invention, reminiscent perhaps of ‘Uncle Meat’. ‘The Pearly Eyed March’ closes the album and is just one of the many eery and impressive themes thereon. Definitely an avant-rock disc to check out.
Happy Family (Cuneiform Rune 73) 1995
Recorded in August and November last year, this is a perfect example of the new school of Zeuhl Music emerging in Japan. These guys have released several tapes, which are impossible to find in Europe, so this studio recording will probably be your first experience of their music. The band formed in 1987 at University in Tokyo. If you have managed to find one of their live tapes you will be familiar with these instrumental pieces and I recommend you read the review of one of their concerts we featured in Ork Alarm! #21. They play about six concerts each year at the Silver Elephant in Tokyo. Keyboard player Kenichi Morimoto composes most of the music. Their main influences are Magma, Univers Zero and Henry Cow, so I suspect every reader of this journal will find something to their taste on this album. The opening track ‘Rock & Young’ is like a crazed mix of the solo works of Bernard Paganotti (especially ‘Urantia’) and Janik Top. Track two – ‘Shige et Osanna’ is more akin to the Univers Zero style of new European music, although the recording of this track sounds oddly like a live cut. The guitarist Shigeru Makino also plays in various heavy metal bands, so his style of playing makes for a very different type of Zeuhl (there is of course no such thing as Zeuhl-Metal or Zeuh-Jazz). Drummer Keilchi Nagase and bassist Tatsuya Miyano keep time band firmly under control, and whilst throughout the record you can hear the influence of Christian Vander, the band themselves refer to their music as chamber jazz-rock driven by hard-rock rhythms. This is another essential purchase.
Les Eaux Troubles (Musea FGBG 4092.AR) 1993
Another classic release by the phenomenal Univers Zero / Art Zoyd / Present musician. Since releasing ‘Sirius and the Ghosts’ in 1991, Daniel Denis has put a lot of effort into developing his keyboard skills and remains an exceptional drummer. On this, his second solo project he is assisted by some of his cohorts from Univers Zero – Dirk Descheemaeker (saxes and clarinets), Guy Segers (bass) and Andy Kirk (guitar / piano). The whole 53-minute disc is a masterpiece of dense Zeuhl-inspired sound, similar to all the Univers Zero recordings, and that’s why I love it. The staccato riffs and deep bass enriched rhythms run throughout the work.In particular, the mighty ‘Second Presage’ is a scorcher, with Denis’ trademark dramatic introduction and swirling frenetic musicianship recalling the joys of ‘Ceux du Dehors’. Highly recommended.
(Black Widow BWR CD 004-2) 1995
Runaway Totem are an Italian Zeuhl inspired group who released ‘Trimegisto’ as a limited edition of 666 copies on vinyl some years ago. Finally Black Widow have reissued it in CD format with two bonus tracks ‘O:.T:.’ and ‘Ein Tag in das Haus Von Hermann’. The sound is somewhat akin to Happy Family but with vocals sung in Italian. Their music initially reminded me of the Latin branch of RIO, e.g. Stormy Six, but that was simply due to the vocals. Runaway Totem is actually the keyboard player Renê Modena with two vocalists. They are backed up by the Totem Orchestra, which comprises of a heavy rhythm section of Maahnt Golin Giorio on drums, Buttiglione Guiseppe on bass and a rock guitarist Cahal Gottardi Roberto – splendid names, revealing their obsession with our Kobaïan friends. Their music is a glorious blend of Zeuhl and paleo-progressive. Enormously recommended, especially for the superb track ‘Mekanïk Ritual’.
CHRISTIAN VANDER & FRIENDS
(A Tous les Enfants concerts)
03-10-95 Centre Jean Vilar, Champigny 04-10-95 Centre Jean Vilar, Champigny 05-10-95 Centre Jean Vilar, Champigny (Five shows)
LES VOIX DE MAGMA
(25th anniversary performance) Support: ‘MDK’ performed by a choir of 100 children.
14-10-95 Espace Lumière, Epinay sur Seine (20h00)
The German innovators FAUST will soon have two new CD’s released on the Table of the Elements label, one is a new studio album and the other ‘Faust Concerts vol. 3′ is their concert from San Francisco 1993. Their recent London concert with Tony Conrad was astounding and brutal in its sonic and physical violence. Jean Hervé Peron broke a string on his bass almost immediately, and once again Zappi’s drum kit was soon failing apart with a half of it flung across the stage at one point and his drum sticks sent flying in all directions. ‘Faust Concerts volumes 1 & 2′ are almost sold out and will not be re-pressed. Recommended Megacorp mention a release of Faust’s 1973 BBC session as an imminent possibility.
Tatsuya Yoshida’s new group, KOENJI HYAKKEI have released their first CD on the God Mountain label, entitled ‘Hundred Lights of Koenji’ (GMCD 012). Koenji is a district of Tokyo.
Bernard Paganotti and his wife Naoko were on the skyjacked flight from Tokyo to Hokkaido on 22-6-95. After 16 hours imprisonment at Hokkaido airport, a special commando force overwhelmed the ice-pick wielding skyjacker and the three hundred passengers were released. Bernard was on a concert tour of Japan with the female singer, Tokiko Kato; Paganotti plays on her recently recorded album.
Thierry Moreau recently quizzed Christian Vander about the origins of the graphic symbol used on the AKT releases. Apparently Christian thought of this symbol in the old Magma days, long before the birth of Seventh Records and AKT. Christian also said that there would definitely be another FUSION concert in 1996.
JAPANESE KING REISSUES
On May 24th, King Records released three classic Magma CD’s in Japan. They were ‘Hhaï / Live’, ‘Üdü Wüdü’ and ‘Attahk’. The discs and booklets are imported directly from Seventh Records to which King Records have added Japanese inserts. There is a possibility that King Records may release ‘Retrospektïw vols 1 & 2′ with a Japanese booklet containing photos by Thierry Moreau and J-P Boffo’.
Future plans for AKT records were (in February 95) as follows: ‘Les Inedits’ (AKT VII), ‘Ptäh – chorus batterie’ (AKT VIII) and one that Christian was keen to release ‘Magma – Concert 1974 – Douai’ (AKT IX). The concert on 16-1-74 at the Hippodrome in Douai (north-eastern France) was over two hours long and they played ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’, ‘Köhntarkösz’, ‘Soï-Soï’, ‘Ptäh’ and ‘MDK’. However, by the third of March, Christian had begun to change his mind about the ‘Douai 1974′ album and this has been delayed or even shelved completely. In April, Christian eventually decided to release an album from the Magma concerts at the Bobino, Paris recorded in 1981. This was released in July 1995 as a 2CD (AKT V), and as a video (AKT VI). The 2CD contains extracts from the concerts on the 27th and 30th of May 1981, but the video is the full TV performance of 16-05-81. The video is available from Seventh Records in both PAL and SECAM formats.
The Christian Vander Trio concert scheduled for 4-2-95 at the Centre de Beaulieu, Poitiers was cancelled due to illness.
Klaus Blasquiz had a concert at L’Utopia (Paris) with Le Grand Blues Band on 21-12-94. His book is currently ‘on hold’, we are not sure if it will be available in 1995.
Francis Moze was playing bass with Olivier Hutman in Paris in February.
The English modern music magazine ‘THE WIRE’ published an excellent interview (by Paul Stump) with Christian Vander in their July 1995 issue (#137). The article entitled ‘Magma – Apocalypse Now’ was one of the best pieces of English journalism about Magma.
Art Zoyd are in the middle of a world tour (of sorts). Over the winter of 94 / 95 they were presenting their version of ‘Faust’ in Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Italy, Holland and Switzerland. They popped over to the Union Chapel, Islington on the 31st of May to perform the London premiere of ‘Nosferatu’ which was truly awesome.
APM records have announced their intention to release a live album by SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA, another disc by ENSEMBLE NIMBUS and of course the two CDs by ESKATON when finances permit.
The concert by WELCOME (Vander’s jazz Septet) at the New Morning club in Paris on 8-12-94 was taped by Seventh Records who might be releasing a live album from this show, of which Christian was justly proud.
“WELCOME redynamise jazz through two rhythmic sections from hell (Vander, Goubert, Persiani, Dardelle), uniting the best soloists of the moment”.
“The spirit and the inheritance of John Coltrane in Welcome, the incendiary formation. Side by side, the drums of Christian Vander and Simon Goubert, and the double basses Michel Zenino and Philippe Dardelle leave no respite for the soloists (the Belmondo brothers and Emmanuel Borghi)”.
Christian and Welcome were featured on the ‘Le Cercle du Minuit’ TV programme (Antenne 2) on 5-12-94 with an interview about ‘A tous les enfants’. Welcome played two pieces; ‘Day after day’ and ‘Lonnie’s lament’.
Groupe Ktône, the consortium of artists influenced by Vander (and love in the darkness, I expect) who we told you about last year, staged an exhibition on 28-1-95 in Angoulême. This was accompanied by an improvised concert by a new group from Angoulême called ZOOL. This was their first live appearance and was interesting but not really Zeuhl music. The music was experimental hardcore or jazz-core, with some cool pieces. At times they were reminiscent of PRESENT. The three young musicians (bass, drums, pianos) all played excellently, perhaps they have to work a bit more on their compositions.
Musea are working on the re-release of the first two albums by Benoît Widemann; ‘Stress’ and ‘Tsunami’. Both of these CDs will feature additional photographs (by Thierry Moreau) in their booklets. They have at last re-released ZAO’s ‘Osiris’ album.
Daniel Denis has reformed UNIVERS ZERO as a quintet featuring Andy Kirk and Dirk Descheemaeker.
A TOUS LES ENFNTS
‘A tous les enfants’ has been reviewed in the February issues of French magazines ‘Batteur’ and ‘Keyboards’.
There is a band touring the UK this summer called MAGMA…. but they are actually a Wishbone Ash tribute band! You have been warned….
Didier Lockwood and the Ochestre de Lille are playing a concert on 26-2-96. A mini-bus trip from the UK is being arranged. The ‘premiere partie’ will be Peter Hammill & Orchestra.
Christian Vander, Emmanuel Borghi and Philippe Dardelle took part in a master class at a school of music in Epernay from the 13th to the 17th of March. They demonstrated the theory and practise of their instruments and different approaches to harmony, melody and rhythm. They also explored various forms of tonal, modal and free improvisation that are used in contemporary jazz. Jean-Michel Couchet (sax) and Jérome Barde (guitar) accompanied them.
We have never been very good on the technical information in Ork Alarm! So one of our American readers, Lane Bayliss has sent us the following information – based on studying the photographs on the sleeves of ‘Hhaï / Live’ and ‘Retrospektïw III’. The Gretsch wood stained drums are as follows: Bass Drum 14″ x 18″ diameter, 8″ x 12″ and 9″ x 13″ tom toms, 16″ x 16″ and 16″ x 18″ floor toms. These are the same sizes as Elvin Jones uses. The snare drum is of special interest, as it appears to be a drum known as the Hinger drum using black cast iron rims on top and bottom and has cable snares as opposed to wire. This drum was designed by Fred and Bill Hinger and used mostly by symphonic players. The first fifty drums made around 1970 were of sewer pipe type heavy metal and somewhat ugly but sounded great. The second version were the same except they used a lighter composite material. The heads are plenty tight on all drums.
Michel Ettori, the ex-Weidorje guitarist has recorded an album called ‘Higher Life’ for Musea, with Patrick Gauthier on keyboards.
The RHESUS O album which Musea plan to reissue shortly features Jean-Pol Asseline, Francis Moze, Bernard Paganotti, Alain Hatot and Richard Raux playing music reminiscent of Magma’s ‘Kobaïa’.
A new label called ’1305 Unterharz’ is being set up in the States, it will be devoted to Zeuhl music and the record company are currently talking to Seventh Records about a compilation album of rare Magma tracks.
The Univerïa Zekt studio was flooded at the beginning of the year when torrential storms swept through northern Europe. One morning Christian walked down the steps and found he was wading through a pool of water amongst the amplifiers and other electrical equipment. Therefore all new recording activities have had to be delayed whilst the studio is repaired.
Sadly, Seventh Records have told Marquee Magazine not to translate and reprint the interview with Klaus Blasquiz first published in Ork Alarm! #22. Furthermore, Seventh said that if it had already been reprinted they wanted to send refutation for the next issue. Presumably someone at Seventh took exception to certain remarks about the past organisation of concerts…
The preview edition (# 0) of the new French language Zeuhl fanzine SÜNDÏA was on sale at the Fusion concert at Talence. Issue #1 of Sündïa is now on sale. The editors of THE KOBAÏAN TIMES and TRANSE never got in touch with us here at ORK ALARM!, so we have no idea whether back numbers of TRANSE are still available (probably not) and can only guess that TKT never materialised. We would like to take this opportunity to wish SÜNDÏA all time very best of luck.
It is extremely likely that Ork Alarm! will expire shortly after this issue. Subscriptions will of course be refunded if we are forced to stop. So farewell fellow travellers, perhaps we will meet again in the winter…