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RIO/Avant-Prog • France

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Vortex biography
Originating from Lyon, France Vortex is a band which would have had their deserved success in a fair world. The band came to be officially in April 1975, but its roots lay in the preceding bands in which the members played. One such band was called Testu Band which was mainly a Soft Machine cover band.

This band had the most of the first lineup of Vortex in it. Jean-Pierre Vivante (at that time aged 16), who played originally the guitar, then switched to bass, and eventually, after a mystical event, returned to piano which was the instrument he'd learned to play as a young boy. The other members were drummer Francois Gerald and flautist Jean-Francois Trouillet. When Jacques Vivante, Jean-Pierre's brother, came back from his engineering studies in Paris he joined his brother's band as bassist. Jacques began as a guitarist and switched to bass. While in Paris Jacques discovered of several novel groups such as Gong and Soft Machine whose sound would influence the first album of Vortex.

It is this alliance between the brothers that would determine the various paths in which Vortex set upon, and the compositional style they took. They talk of a complementary compositional relationship between them.
Following a fascination the two brothers had with the book "Livre D'Urantia" they changed their name to Urantia. The lineup had grown with the arrival of sax player Gerard Jolivet towards the end of 1974. It is then that the band moved to composing and playing their music. It was created by both brothers and was done in collaboration with Jean-Pierre coming up with the basic structures and Jacques dealing with the melodies and the overall of the composition. They kept the name Urantia several months and even gave one show in a school where Jacques worked, under that name. But after attending a Magma show and realizing that Christian Vander of Magma used that book too as inspiration and source for his music, they decided to switch name, in order to avoid any claim of plagiarism. The name Vortex represents their approach to music - creating a spiral of musical ideas that surround one steady and calm component, which is the eye of the vortex.

The compositions for what became their first album were done while working on an avant-garde theatrical play called M'dame S91. The band was asked to provide the music for this play and it turned out that the play was done according to the music, instead. This play was to be in Avignon festival organized...
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VORTEX discography

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VORTEX top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.21 | 46 ratings
4.11 | 56 ratings
Les Cycles De Thanatos

VORTEX Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

VORTEX Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

VORTEX Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.72 | 19 ratings

VORTEX Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

VORTEX Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Les Cycles De Thanatos by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.11 | 56 ratings

Les Cycles De Thanatos
Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Greek God of Lycra Says Bicycle Clips Just Postpone the Death of Flair

Every once in a while I like to venture outside my habitual comfort zone when it comes to sourcing new music. The older I've become, the harder these off-piste forays become, and yes, that does make me vulnerable to mistaking the resultant cold sores as vindication for falling into the arms of the world's worst ski instructor: the Venus de Milo (thanks Tom). However, I plucked up every vestige of derring do remaining in my overripe soul for this release. That Bartok and Stravinsky are name-dropped piqued my curiosity of course, and any band that are reckoned to have intuited the sublime chamber rock of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd are deserving of some of anyone's time innit?.

Given that this music was recorded in 1977 when (un)conventional wisdom was asking itself if anyone over the age of 25, with a centre parting and in gainful employment could be deemed a bona fide punk provacateur, the prescience of this like minded amalgam of French artists is humbling to behold. All manner of subsequent musical developments can be discerned on Les Cycles De Thanatos waaay before their time: chamber rock, math rock, what might pass for pre-post rock and the earnest orientation of shoegaze (at a pinch) There is even a deferential nod to 20th Century post-modern luvvies like Steve Reich and Terry Reilly. Yep, commercial hara-kiri is being acted out here and the victims never looked or sounded healthier. You will also hear faint remnants of Gong, Zappa and a considerably less volatile Mahavishnu from time to time. (see God is Good For You John for some unexpectedly mordant Gallic humour)

Very little of what might be recognised as even tenuously Prog, is remotely equipped to withstand the scrutiny afforded to 'academic' or 'art' music. I'm quite happy to admit that if the 17 year old me had heard this record when it was released I would, in all likelihood , have dismissed it crassly as 'old hippies art wank blather'. Whether we care to accede to the idea or otherwise, our beloved, eccentric and wilfully esoteric Prog mongrel is never gonna earn that Best In Show prize rosette from those judges we pretend don't matter. We can but console ourselves in the knowledge that our rebellious pup can at least be trained to defecate in that stuck up bastard's conservatory next door. The music presented by Vortex on this album is about as close as rawk was ever going to get to donning the swishing vestments of orthodoxy in my lifetime. It should be self evident that the estimated sales of circa 3000 units would have been insufficient to provide any working ensemble with the viability for a professional career. People don't take popular music seriously because people who like or understand it don't take popular music seriously.(loop to fade) What survives as 'Serious' Music now requires to be heavily subsidised while 'obscure' Popular music will always be disqualified for subsidy as it ain't popular enough to be self sustaining. (DS al Coda) I know, the irony of toff's music being immunised from the germ warfare currently endemic in the free marketplace is hideous.

Thanatos was the Greek God of Death and with relatives holding offices as the equivalent deities for suffering, old age, deception, doom, blame, strife and retribution he was clearly not the sort of guy you would hang with on a Friday night to drink beer and stare at girls. We're advised the seeds of the ambitious title track were sown from a 15 second fragment of a Messiaen piece. I don't know Messiaen at all but I do know Bartok and Stavinsky and even shorn of the eastern european peasant melodies and neo classical conceits, I can still recognise their palpable influence in the pacing, textures, percussion and developmental ideas deployed in this work. Such is the forensic rigour of the undertaking that this new found formal discipline would designate hooks, riffs or killer choruses followed by 'heroic' solos as hopelessly kitsch and plain vanilla tacky. You will require patience and perseverance to elicit the many delights that this composition can deliver so stick with it and just try to train your expectations away from those you are routinely inured to.

Listeners new to this band should maybe dip their blushing tootsies in the more welcoming waters of God Is Good For You, John and Prolegomenes first before negotiating the uncharted territory of the title track. No-one should dive headlong into terra incognita (Ouch)

 1975-1979 by VORTEX album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
4.72 | 19 ratings

Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by tmay102436

5 stars What a hidden gem this group Vortex is! I had not heard of them, but gave them a try through our good friend Syn-Phonic Music.

Surprise, surprise, RIO giant.

The playing is superb, the usage of the instrumentation's voicing is stripped down, yet huge. But what makes this so irresistible is the composition. Such a wonderful blending of RIO with a lighter jazz feel, that you never stop listening with open ears. Instead once the music starts, your sucked into their world.

Both CD's are wonderful, but I enjoy the second more, as I really like the darker, more ominous setting it pictures in your mind. This would have been wonderful in a live setting, as it has enough energy to be that perfect RIO: the rock element driving the underside of the giant ship that prowls in the Avante Guard sea of bliss.

I must also mention that the recording is superb, which is a blessing, since this era of our beloved progressive music was beginning to be frowned on, and production quality downgraded to less than pro quality. But not here, as the recording quality is clean and thick with power of the big label artist.

Thank goodness this Progarchives exist, and there are retail dealers that support our addiction. If you like Univers Zero (the gods of this stuff) mixed with a slight jazzier, dare I say Canterbury influence, go get this CD, it'll be a nice gift to yourself!

 Les Cycles De Thanatos by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.11 | 56 ratings

Les Cycles De Thanatos
Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars VORTEX has expanded their lineup from a five piece band(on their debut) to an eight piece band for this one.There are also two guest musicians who each play on one track. I really enjoyed their first one, but this one has topped it as far as i'm concerned. I know I tend to gush when i really like an album, so let's just say this is the perfect record to review on this special day(December 25). The first two songs very much reminded me of one of my favourite bands ZAO, while the over 25 minute epic is like a cross between UNIVERS ZERO and ART ZOYD. Interesting that ART ZOYD actually played on stage with VORTEX to perform this very song. Certainly the album cover has more to do with this self titled track then it does the first two songs.The fact there is a guest basson player on it pretty much says it all doesn't it ?

"God Is Good For You, John" is apparently a reference to John McLaughlin. Once it gets going the air is filled with some beautiful guest violin melodies and intricate sounds. I love this track. It reminds me so much of ZAO. Piano and light drums help to create that jazz flavour. Bass comes to the fore 3 1/2 minutes in. This sounds so good. "Prolegomenes" opens with percussion and cymbals that build as piano, xylophone and horns come in. It kicks into gear 2 1/2 minutes in with drums and sax leading the way. Great sound. The bass becomes more prominant. Check out the drumming that follows. A change 5 minutes in as it becomes more jazzy. Terrific uptempo melody. Percussion before xylophone returns 7 minutes in. A darker more dramatic sound a minute later with some prominant drumming to follow. The uptempo melody of earlier is back to close out the song.

"Les Cycles De Thanatos" begins slowly and darkly with what sounds like solemn sax and basson. This slow moving UNIVERS ZERO("Heresie") flavour continues for over 4 minutes. Then it comes alive, and the sound is filled with suspense and tension as we continue in "Heresie" territory. This is chamber music at it's finest. Incredible intricate sounds come and go including percussion and sax. Amazing stuff. The tempo picks up 16 1/2 minutes in and it's not as dark either. Again we get lots of intricate sounds that are fabulous. An actual catchy rhythm before 21 minutes that turns into an uptempo mind boggling section 2 minutes later. This song has to be heard to be believed. And heard many times to be comprehended. The two bonus tracks begin with "Hipopotalamus Negrus" that quickly shows off the band interplay as we hear a collage of intricate sounds. The last 2 minutes turn into a calm, cool jazzy vibe with smooth sax melodies along with bass, light drums and piano. "Ivanhoe" again features so many different sounds coming and going after the 1 1/2 minute dramatic intro.The sound becomes light and smooth as sax becomes more prominant later on.

This is jaw-dropping music folks. And if your a fan of ZAO or UNIVERS ZERO you owe it to yourself to track this recording down. A must have.

 Vortex by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.21 | 46 ratings

Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I don't think there is any question that this is a very significant record in the Rio / Avant-Prog genre. As Sean Trane mentions this came out before both ART ZOYD and UNIVERS ZERO's debut albums. That alone makes this a special record. Three of the Five guys in this band were in a band previous to this that played a lot of SOFT MACHINE songs, and you can hear the jazz influence throughout this record. There is no lead guitar, but it is very much flute and sax led with piano, bass and drums filling out the sound.

"Haroun' Thasckouack" has some nice drumming in the intro before it calms down a minute in. Piano, light drums and flute 2 minutes in as the sound is building. Sax joins in and we have a great sound 5 minutes in, especially the drumming. The flute then returns with sax to a full sound. Check out the bass before 7 minutes with flute and drums. A calm after 9 minutes is brief. What a ride that was ! "Ahsquoumboum ' is darker with sax,drums and piano to begin with. Flute joins in. Sax and heavy drums 4 1/2 minutes in. "Delicieuse Creature" is the longest track at almost 15 minutes, it opens with a sax/drum melody before a calm with flute takes over. This contrast continues. The flute and sax melodies are so impressive.

"Abominable Creature" is a short track with some dissonant moments. Very much a group effort on this one. There are two bonus tracks beginning with "C'est Cool,Raoul" a slow moving affair that begins with the flute leading the way with some percussion. The sax starts to take over and the tempo picks up after 5 minutes as the drums come in. The tempo shifts a lot from here on in. The last couple of minutes are the best part of the song as it becomes quite solemn with a SINKADUS flavour(flute). "Prolige 1" opens like a house on fire with sax and drums leading the way. It calms down quickly as piano becomes the focus until the flute arrives. The tempo picks back up as sax returns.

This is an essential record to add to your Rio / Avant-prog collection. Sort of a landmark really when it comes to this style of music.

 1975-1979 by VORTEX album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
4.72 | 19 ratings

Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

5 stars An excellent compilation that reissues two difficult-to-acquiure albums and gives on each disc some superb bonus tracks that add much value to the the respective albums. Vortex was one of France's more bscure group, but in no way was that justified as they were probably one of the most gifted. While most will prefer the second album, Les Cycles De Tanathos, I have a weaknesss for the debut album which is not only happier jazz-rock, rather than sombre chamber prog, but also sounds much like the great Out Of Focus group.
 Les Cycles De Thanatos by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.11 | 56 ratings

Les Cycles De Thanatos
Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars 4.5 stars really!!

Over four years after their superb self-titled debut album's release, finally came out on an independent label called Faites-Le-Vous- Même (FLVM is DIY in French) their second (and last) album called Les Cycles De Tanathos (based on you know what book, right? ..), but the group had finished the album for over one year, but where unable to find a label to issue this little pearl. In the meantime, the group had undergone a few line-up changes, losing some mostly growing from a quintet into an octet, something not exactly wise for a group whose music was not exactly drawing huge crowds.

The opening track God Is Good To You is more of late 70's JR/F tune in the JL Ponty style than anything they had gotten us used to in their debut album. The following Prolegomènes (of which we have a previous version in the bonus tracks of the debut album) starts out on a Ratlege/Jenkins mode, staying jazz for a while, but as the track extends it goes more progressive, flirts with RIO, borders with Chamber Rock, reaching the sublime between the tenth and the twelfth minutes and subtly veering Zeuhl in the lasrt two minutes. Awesome stuff and just a preview of what's to come on the flipside.

The Cd reissue gives us the full 25 minutes of the sidelong title track, something that had not been feasible on the vinyl of those years. Indeed the epic Tanathos starts out heavily depressive and AZoyd and UZero are not far away in terms of gloomy ambiance. Yes, obviously there are also many moments when HCow or Hatfield &TN are hinted at, principaly

Again with the Cd reissue this second album comes with two bonus tracks, and just as it was the case with the debut album, they add much value to the original album, so much that you'd swear they'd always been part of it. Hypopotalamus Negro is subtle and superb deconstruction of a Zoydian Zeuhl music into a simpler but just as superb jazz-rock. Ivanoe (Invanhoe for the English) is more of a full-blown Mahavishnu Orchestra-style jazz-rock-prog again growing a bit softer into a mid-70's Weather Report.

Just as incredible as its forerunner, Tanathos is a splendid album veering between chamber rock, Zeuhl, JR/F and RIO, and it might just be that it is the single best example of the four distinct styles merging together to form one single musical ensemble. Clearly Vortex has not usurped its name

 Vortex by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.21 | 46 ratings

Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

5 stars Recorded in the summer of 75, Vortex's self titled is one of the most accomplished Jazz-rock inflected prog rock from that era and came from France's second city. Still nowadays regarded as the country's best kept secret, Vortex only recorded two albums throughout their decade of music adventures that saw the group come from Testu Band to Urantia the Vortex. This debut album must be seen nowadays as an absolutely essential piece of RIO, clearly preceding Art Zoyd and Univers Zero by a good 18 months headstart. Indeed, the Vivante brothers' group was always scared of being compared to Magma's spectre

Starting on the rather startling (compared with the rest of the album's more sombre material) Haroun' Tasckouack opener the psychedelic jazz rock that seemed to ogle towards Out Of Focus, with its sax and flute works over Fender Rhodes and slowly evolving rhythms. The Ahsquoumboum is very different, borrowing a Kobaian rhythm, but keeping the sax Out Of Focus, but not out of tune.

The 14-mins+ Délicieuse Créature track starts out again a bit in the OOF mode, but soon veers in a chamber rock but in a solid jazz-) rock vein with Vivante's great Fender Rhodes (being reminiscent of Ratledge or Jenkins >> Soft Machine and Nucleus respectively) underlining the whole pedestrian march, somewhere between Magma and Zoyd, yet keeping an excellent psyched-out flute and sax duo around. As an afterthought, the closing but all too short Abominable Créature is a good outro, ending in a near chaotic free jazz.

The reissue of this album comes with two bonus tracks, which add much value to anotherwise rather short album. The superbly slow eastern-sounding chimes'n-all track of Cool Raoul is an absolute joy and a slow evolving thing subtly evolving to another Nuclueus- Soft Machine and Out Of Focus wild track, before slowly reverting to its quieter entrance. These almost 12 minutes bonus could be even better than what the rest of the album had to offer. Prolégo 1 is a more Zeuhlian monster, even if the

An amazing album that can be likened to Out Of Focus, but heading out in a more Zeuhl-ish direction than the breass heavy German group's direction. Vortex's self-titled is definitely one of the most stunning album around from France in the 70's.

 Vortex by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.21 | 46 ratings

Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VanderGraafKommandöh
Prog Reviewer

4 stars French instrumental avant-prog band Vortex's debut album is a wonderful, jazz-fueled album, featuring lots of impressive flute, saxophone and Fender Rhodes piano throughout.

The opener Haroun' Thasckouack is a great start to an impressive album and if you like this track, you will like the rest of the album. It is a chamber-rock orientated track, but stripped bare a little, it is not as dark and avant as they would later become. The standout piece for me is Délicieuse Créature, which always keeps my ears on their toes. The intro to this track reminds me of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Our Favorite Things", yet I am not sure if it is coincidental. The Fender Rhodes playing of Jean-Pierre Vivant is most notable, yet the whole band keep everything together superbly and the bass playing is also sublime, subtlely being played in the background, yet actually being very prominent to the overall sound; for me, this is the sign of an excellent band with lots of ideas. On Ahsquoumboum the bass playing becomes more prominent and the band play a slight jazzed-up Eastern sound.

As for avant-prog moments, well there are a few of them, but this is mainly impressively well composed jazz pieces with avant and prog leanings in small amounts. They remind me a little of Jenkins/Ratledge era Soft Machine in places, yet without the Holdsworth/Etheridge guitar playing, which is intriguing, as the Vivant brothers were more likely influenced by Third era Soft Machine (they started their careers in a Soft Machine covers band). They also have a distinct influence from 20th century composers, such as Olivier Messiaen, Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók, which underpins their more obvious jazz fixations.

Even though this is very little related to progressive rock, it is a wonderful album to listen to. The band would get much more avant-prog orientated on their follow-up album "Les Cycles de Thanatos", dropping their jazz rock forays and incorporating a darker, more psychotic chamber rock sound.

My copy of "Vortex" features two bonus tracks, the first of which, C'est Cool, Raoul, is a tremendously slow and often haunting piece and much more akin to progressive rock than the previous tracks. The Chinese cymbals at the beginning add a nice bit of atmosphere here, as does what sounds like a 'cello (not credited as such though). Infact, it reminds me of Italian progressive rock at times, with the melancholic atmosphere.

The other bonus number is Prolégo 1, a faster, more bass orientated track, with lush and fluid flute and saxophone throughout.

This is an excellent introduction to a much forgotten band with a lot of power in their playing and incorporating a lot of thought in their compositions. Their follow-up, as stated, continues on in a different vain, yet if they had never released it, this album would be classed as a masterpiece of chamber rock and jazz.

 Les Cycles De Thanatos by VORTEX album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.11 | 56 ratings

Les Cycles De Thanatos
Vortex RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Yukorin

5 stars [i]Distant cymbal crashes, controlled snare rolls brushed with the touch of a feather and an electric piano sounding unnervingly like Chick Corea and we're off into an ever descending journey to hell accompanied only by a dozen or so mute Frenchmen from Lyons sporting tight fitting Pringle jumpers, facial hair configurations designed by Deep Blue, and a general disregard for personal hygiene. Oh an' The Electric Light Orchestra and the Dutch '74 World Cup squad's hairdresser and fashion adviser is taggin' along for good measure. Pot-Pourri.

When I close my eyes and really listen to the sumptuous opener I see two things. The first is Valerie Leon and Claudia Cardinale having a catfight in 1968. The second is a crack-squad of teenage North Korean female unicyclists wearing brown and orange striped hot-pants waving ribbons in one hand and AK-47's in the other guarding a sacred river that has water so pure it is said to alleviate stresses from the back of one's mind caused by a general lack of understanding of how an ant can expect to see an average life-span of approximately five years.

This gentle opener can not prepare anyone for what is about to follow. The greatest piece of music ever created by humans.

If there was ever a detective series set in France from 1979 starring Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo as two men who wandered the rain drenched streets of autumnal Saint-Germain des Pres drinking Sancerre from hip-flasks and chain smoking Gauloises Brunes looking for whoever it was who stole Serge Gainsbourg's ashtray whilst driving their beat-up low-rider off-white Citroen SM in cream leather slip-ons then this is the opening sequence theme. Sounds a bit like what would happen if the drummer from Curtis Mayfield's 'Superfly' and the brass section of Out Of Focus with an unshaven Jannick Top on bass and Stevie Wonder on keys and a select, invitation only swarm of mosquitoes loaded on Valium with Bernard Herrmann orchestrating had an impromptu jam session on Concorde flying at low altitude over Big Ben. With brie.

Side two is one long, treacherous journey to escape Styx (unfortunately we also have to endure 'Paradise Theatre'). Originally commissioned for the aborted Alexandro Jodorowsky filming of 'Dune' this is one hell of a dark epic. Would have fitted the original King Kong perfectly.The music picks up after fifteen minutes but still manages to stay as depressing as finding a pubic hair embedded in your Big Mac and it comes as no surprise to learn that Art Zoyd used to join Vortex on stage to perform this at many of their shows.

Only 3000 copies were printed and mainly sold at their gigs. Track her down if you can.

Anyone familiar with The John Gregory Orchestra? Johnny did a lot of exotica and television and soundtrack work in the 60s and 70s and used to go by the nom-de-plume 'Chaquito'. In 1976 he released 'The Detectives' to a shocked world. His takes on 'McCloud' and 'Policeman' and 'The Rockford Files' raised the bar to such a height it was thought for the longest time that nothing could ever come as close to this for orgasmic aural pleasure again. They were wrong.

Theme from Shoestring excepted.[/i]

Thanks to avestin for the artist addition.

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