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ZEUHL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Zeuhl definition

Zeuhl is an adjective in Kobaïan, the language written by Christian Vander, drummer and founder of the French band Magma.

Pronunciation: zEU(h)l, while the EU are like a French E with a slight U, and the (h) is a semi-silent letter which is an integrated part of the EU, totaling in a "syllable and a half".

The word means celestial, although many times it is misunderstood as meaning "celestial music", since the members of Magma describe the genre of their music as Zeuhl. Zeuhl Wortz, though, means Music of the universal might.


The genre is a mixture of musical genres like Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Modernism and Fusion. Common elements: oppressive or discipline-conveying feel, marching themes, throbbing bass, an ethereal piano or Rhodes piano, and brass instruments.

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Zeuhl Top Albums


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

4.31 | 849 ratings
MEKANÏK DESTRUKTÏW KOMMANDÖH
Magma
4.28 | 593 ratings
K.A
Magma
4.25 | 426 ratings
EROS
Dün
4.27 | 192 ratings
4 VISIONS
Eskaton
4.19 | 453 ratings
ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ
Magma
4.19 | 295 ratings
CHRISTIAN VANDER: TRISTAN ET ISEULT [AKA: ẀURDAH ÏTAH]
Magma
4.15 | 409 ratings
KÖHNTARKÖSZ
Magma
4.22 | 169 ratings
WEIDORJE
Weidorje
4.14 | 337 ratings
FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ
Magma
4.13 | 365 ratings
1001° CENTIGRADES [AKA: 2]
Magma
4.43 | 56 ratings
MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS RÊVER TOUT LE TEMPS
Thibault, Laurent
4.29 | 89 ratings
MATHEMATICAL MOTHER
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.05 | 397 ratings
MAGMA [AKA: KOBAÏA]
Magma
4.14 | 114 ratings
THE MAGUS
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.31 | 47 ratings
BONDAGE FRUIT II
Bondage Fruit
4.08 | 121 ratings
INFERNAL MACHINA
Top, Jannick
4.06 | 109 ratings
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
4.09 | 83 ratings
RITUALE ALIENO
Universal Totem Orchestra
4.06 | 94 ratings
EIDER STELLAIRE I
Eider Stellaire
4.07 | 76 ratings
GUÉRISON
Setna

Zeuhl overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

TOSCCO
Happy Family
LES MORTS VONT VITE
Shub-Niggurath
HUNDRED SIGHTS OF KOENJI
Koenjihyakkei
BONDAGE FRUIT I
Bondage Fruit

Latest Zeuhl Music Reviews


 Kakusenjo No Ongaku by KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU (BASE OF FICTION) album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.98 | 4 ratings

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Kakusenjo No Ongaku
Kakusenjo No Ongaku (Base Of Fiction) Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Japanese bands have long been known for their uncanny ability to adopt European musical traditions and then fortify their edifices in order to take them to the next several levels of extremity. While bands like Boredoms, Acid Mothers Temple and Ruins have become fairly well known in the underground extreme music world, others remain relatively obscure even within those tiny recesses of the lumpenproletariat. JYOJI SAWADA ( 沢田穣治 ) bassist of Satoh Michihiro Tsugaru-Shamisen Gakudan released a scant few solo albums in the 90s and amongst them is this bizarre artifact titled BASE OF FICTION ("KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU") which is more like a supergroup project with everyone involved in the Japanese underground world of noise rock, avant-prog, zeuhl and other experimental movements making an appearance. This one includes not only guest performances from Tasu Yoshida from Ruins and Seiichi Yamamoto from Boredoms but includes a whopping total of 17 musicians and vocalists parading through this near hour long experience.

BASE OF FICTION is a very strange album indeed that runs the gamut of chaotic noisy rock attacks and ultra-mondo bizarro avant- prog chamber music with episodes of zeuhl inspired rhythms that showcase the Magma-esque female operatic diva vocals that come and go as a labyrinthine train of weirdness interrupts the regularly scheduled program when a comfort zone even remotely begins to emerge. Overall there is a Bondage Fruit type of brutal prog element to JYOJI's work that is smoothed out by the Univers Zero type of chamber prog and string sections that seems to pacify the more abrasive elements from becoming too dominant. The passing of the baton from the mellow and reflective aspects to the off-the-leash freneticism of the noise rock parts allows this album to slink along at a comfortable pace. In addition to the main prog, chamber rock and zeuhl rhythms that keep some sort of uniformity to this work, there are also a plethora of sound effects, background vocals and electronic wizardry as well as some sort of homegrown folk feels that add a domestic flavor to the mix.

This is one of those dense musical experiences that is quite rich in its scope. While the string section of the violin, viola and cello seem to dominate the soundscape there are appearances by all kinds of strange instrumentation including a ponchi, berimbau, grampot, bandolin, marimba and gong. JYOJI proves to be the ultimate orchestrator of sound as the soundscape never sounds too cluttered with characters and every change in the wind seems to be well calculated with purpose rather coming across as a maelstrom of random sound swirling about like an haphazard tornado. This one is highly recommended to those who seek out the ultimately bizarre of the Japanese underground but unlike many such albums that seek out chaos and brutality for their own sake alone, BASE OF FICTION has a very sensual side as well that offers not only the craziest and noise induced avant-prog to be experienced but also dishes out ample doses of melodic high art beauty of the sort that is found in the Western classical masters' compositions of the past. However in the end, this whole affair comes off some sort of experimental opera gone really, really wrong but yet somehow feels so very, very good ;)

4.5 rounded down

 Infernal Machina by TOP, JANNICK album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.08 | 121 ratings

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Infernal Machina
Jannick Top Zeuhl

Review by raom

2 stars Simply, Jannick Top is not a good composer. He writes a few interesting lines, throws in a few rehashed patterns from the 70's magma albums, then he'll draw out the same theme for much longer than necessary. The introduction was very promising, but the rest of the album does not live up to the expectations. Not even Vander's drumming can save this one from a two-star rating from me.

This is a highly overrated album in this site, though Jannick is not overrated as a performer. The album does have some enjoyable moments, but not enough to offset the tediousness and call the album as a whole "Good".

 Eider Stellaire II by EIDER STELLAIRE album cover Studio Album, 1986
2.54 | 20 ratings

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Eider Stellaire II
Eider Stellaire Zeuhl

Review by Sagichim
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

3 stars I got Eider Stellaire's debut about 15 years ago and for a very long time I thought the band had only released one album, so when I found out they had two more I just had to have them, no matter what's the music like. The album was released in 1986, 5 years after their magnificent debut. About half of the original line up is not there anymore and so is the style of the music. I'm very curious to know where were they trying to go with this release, it sounds like a weird adaptation of zehul for the 80's, and although I do like the album, I think this attempt will not appeal to many people. Most of the material suffers from a lack of development, some of the songs are kind of empty, where not much is going on except for the main theme. Gone are those wild fierce instrumentals containing saxophones and guitars, keys are now very different and sounds much more updated to the 80's, the chanting like vocals have taken a turn and adjusted to the 80's. The songs are less ambitious now, the fusion kind of interplay is now replaced with a more song based tunes or some more atmospheric attempts. It's clear that the band is trying a different approach, a much calmer and easy sound, unlike the wild and sinister playing of before. There are 6 songs here, one of them I wouldn't really consider a song or anything, and the whole thing is only 27 minutes long.

Although my impressions looks negative, as I said I do like this album, the songs are not bad imo, they are just very different from what we already got to know by the band. The songs are lighter and maybe more accessible although still contain some amount of weirdness. I don't think I could classify this as zehul anymore, although it does conatin some zehul elements, first of all that grainy deep kind of bass tone is still present and that kind of continues drilling mantras are also there to some extent. The vocals are different now and are not zehulic but are much more inspired by Frank Zappa, I can't help but feel that the music is a bit more psychedelic too. Yes I know it's hard to imagine how this whole think is even possible, you gotta hear it to believe.

Ring the opener starts and you already feel something is different, there's a different vibe now, much lighter. Bass and vocals drives the rhythm as the keyboards feel out the song, this is maybe the closest as you'll get to improvisation or solos on this album, good stuff. Aretis continues the line of that 80's jazzy/zehulic rhythm again topped with Zappaesque vocals, although comes out as a little flat overall it is surprisingly enjoyable to my ears. The next Kiowa Riviere De Lune is a calm short piece, which contains pretty much nothing inside, not a very effective attempt. Fferyllt is better but could have been much better, I like the main theme here, nice overall but nothing more really. Delebration De L'eau is more sinister with a prominent bass line and some restraint keys on top, again nice but nothing more.

Not a bad album but could have been so much better, I would recommend it only for completionists who's curios to see the band's evolvement, like me. 3 stars barely.

 K.A by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.28 | 593 ratings

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K.A
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars After a twenty year gap in which the musical weirdness of MAGMA fizzled out with the lackluster 'Merci,' it seemed that the Kobaians had packed up ship and headed back to their distant colonized world having found the state of affairs of our Earthly 1980s too much to handle. They had come to guide humanity into a higher state of consciousness but everything about the times was indicating an opposite effect. It goes without saying that the band is the brainchild of Christian Vander who not only developed the new musical genre that would come to be known as zeuhl (Kobaian for 'celestial'), but also the entire mythology and science fiction chronicles for the tales of planet Kobaia which they so inconveniently narrate in their own indecipherable language. Vander himself hadn't evacuated the planet, of course, and has explained the enervating circumstances which led to the band's initial demise however he continued working with various other projects including Fusion, the Christian Vander Trio, Welcome and Offering as well as releasing solo albums under his own moniker. It came as a surprise to everyone that a good thirty years after the peak of their creative output that MAGMA would release one of the best albums of their career.

K.A. which is an abbreviation for Köhntarkösz Anteria' is actually a prequel to the 1974 album 'Köhntarkösz' which together forms a trilogy finally realized with the 2009 closer 'Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré.' While the overall general mythology revolves around the spiritual quest of two men seeking secrets of the occult world in order control the forces of the universe and achieve immortality, K.A. provides the narrative of how these things came to be beginning with the main character (whose name is Köhntarkösz) finding out the roles he will play in the spiritual history of human evolution. This is, of course, intended for those interested in the underlying saga that is so craftily obscured beneath the impenetrable Kobaian language that are even taken to the point of being written out in the liner notes in Kobaian and are in effect complete gibberish lacking the addition of a dictionary at hand. Lyrical and mythological significance aside, MAGMA has never been the kind of band where the hidden sagas of far away worlds ultimately matter anyway. It's the music that draws us mere Earthlings in like moths to a porch light and K.A. delivers a bona fide greatest hits of musical styles honed and perfected throughout Vander's forty some years (at the time of release) on the world's progressive albeit underground experimental rock stage.

The album may consist of a mere three tracks with each outperforming the other, yet flow together as if the entire affair is a seamless intergalactic opera that expresses the narrative in ever changing tempos, bold and playful dynamics all artistically decorated with a wide-ranging palette of instrumental and vocal variations that will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with early 70s MAGMA fans but would surely sound like an extra-terrestrial liturgical drama to anyone yet unfamiliar with these unorthodox musical developments. Like the early MAGMA albums, a lot of musical mingling of influences outside the rock paradigm means that the Carl Orff meets Sun Ra effect easily connects K.A. to the trilogy in which it belongs. The album was for the most part composed in the same period of 1973-74 with fragments appearing on their 1977 live album 'In'dits.' While stylistically similar, K.A. offers a much needed reboot for the MAGMA brand name with only Christian and Stella Vander finding their way into the new 21st century version of the Kobaian universe. No, you will not find Jannick Top, R'ne Garber or other past masters on board here. This is a whole new cast of Kobaians with a guitarist, bassist, two keyboardists and five vocalists including Vander's signature improvisational falsetto scatting techniques that add one more layer of mondo bizzaro to the heady MAGMA experience.

The good news is that all members on board are up to the task of reaching and exceeding the high bar set long ago. The lineup is actually quite similar to the 2001 live 'Theusz Hamtaakh La Trilogie au Trianon' which includes Emmanuel Borghi on piano and keys, Phillippe Bussonnet on bass, James Mac Graw on guitar and Antoine Paganotti and Isabelle Feuillebois on vocals. New to the MAGMA family are keyboardist Frédéric d'Oelsnitz and vocalist Himiko Paganotti. All members past and present exquisitely meld their respective talents into one gorgeously long piece that while segmented remain in sync with the story at hand and effortlessly cascade and segue from one unintelligible musical tale to the next. While the material may have found its creation in the early 70s world of the nascent progressive rock era of extreme experimentalism, Vander was restricted at the time due not only to the limitations in technology but also the tight budgets they were subjected to (it sucks being ahead of the pack) and thus never had the resources to grace the albums with the affluence of a decent production budget. On K.A. all the modern day techniques are utilized to make a crystal clear and powerful album that sounds like the perfect hybrid of the classic 70s musical style with 21st century advantages. While the performances are hardly incumbent on the technological advances, it certainly makes great music sound even better.

No one could have seen this gift beamed down from the Kobaian heavens above. Progressive rock bands from the 70s rarely live up to, much less outperform the performances of their heyday but for anyone who has seen Christian Vander play his drum like a pro well into his senior citizen years will understand that the man simply never loses his magical musical mojo on either his manic percussion prowess or his ability to utter those ear-piercing shrill falsetto scatting sessions that add that extra amount of weirdness to the already out-of-the-box outlandishness. And likewise nor does he seem to botch up the Kobaian mythological legacy in any way which could be helped by the fact that the alien lyrics give an air of total mystery surrounding the nebulous concepts. All in all, K.A. ranks at the very top of MAGMA albums in its sheer audacity not only in incorporating all the tastiest ingredients of their glory years but by also ratcheting up the musical concepts to new levels without sacrificing one little iota of their idiosyncratic zeuhl rhythms, seductive yet bewildering musical transitions or the vim and over-the-top vigor that graces every bombastic or sensual cadence. Not to mention revealing a hitherto unfinished piece of the ever-unfolding Kobaia mythology. This is one of the most brilliant comebacks in the prog universe and also displays the timeless erratic beauty of Vander's vision that emerged in the wild and crazy 60s. Another timeless masterpiece has emerged and well worth the thirty years that it took for its completion.

 Symphonica  by RUINS album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.92 | 40 ratings

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Symphonica
Ruins Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars In the ever changing weird world of Yoshida Tastsuya and Hisashi Sasaki came yet another RUINS release in the busy year of 1998 when they released four albums ("Refusal Fossil," "Vrresto," "Tohjinbo" (as Derek and the Ruins)" as well as their eleventh album SYMPHONICA which found the duo expanding their sound a bit by adding keyboard player Kenichi Oguchi and not one but two female singers, Emi Elonola and Aki Kubota. The tracks included are remakes from earlier RUINS albums with "Thebes","Infect" and "Big Head" coming from "Stonehenge," "Praha In Spring" from "Burning Stone," "Graviyaunosch" from the same titled album and "Brixon Varromiks" and "Bliezzaning Moltz" coming from the "Hyderomastgroningem" album. The results of these additional characters at play creates one of the most fulfilling RUINS experiences to date and offers a greater expansion into the world of prog and a sound even more reminiscent of their primarily zeuhl inspired influence of Magma. With the extra touches of the keyboard there is also a rather avant-prog approach as heard by the Italian band Area as well in some of the unhinged riffing touches and the male vocals remind me of the crazy vocal antics of Demetrio Stratos as well in his more outrageous form.

As usual Yoshida and Sasaki pound out their most frenetic Magama inspired zeuhl rhythms cranked up on overdrive and turned up to "ultra-freaky," however despite the hyperactive freneticism that RUINS so deftly churns out at light-speed, SYMPHONICA as the name implies has a more smoothed-around-the-edges feel due to the suave effects of the keyboards that help craft one of the most "accessible" RUINS albums in their canon if that adjective can truly apply to anything that RUINS pumps out. While clearly closer in sound to traditional 70s Magma on such albums as "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" with the female singers creating a comparable operatic frenetic whizzing up and down the musical scales, RUINS as expected takes it all to the next ten levels and beyond by pumping out more bombastic rhythms laced with angular time signature frenzies gone absolutely wild with keyboard runs jolting around as quickly as Yoshida's percussive limbs pound incessant chops about.

While being crazed and technically demented seems to be the primary goal of the RUINS experience, on SYMPHONICA there are plenty of passages that simply allow notes to sustain while the divas grace the listener with utterly pure vowel sounds approaching glass shattering magnitudes. This is a really impressive album as all the members are extremely playful and a rather tight unit as the vocals, keys, bass and drums can play in complete unison or meander and leap frog around each other creating bizarre musical atmospheres. While the two long time members have always been an impressively tight unit, the magic of this album derives from the stylistic diversity and virtuosic deliveries of Kenichi's mastery of the synthesized effects. Likewise the duo diva effect of Aki and Eleonola not only match the magnitude of their Magma influences but take them places those pioneers never dared venture. This is one of the most adventurous zeuhl releases i've ever heard and despite the usual freneticism of a typical RUINS release seems a little more disciplined here as the crazy parts are mixed stylishly well with more contemplative and "normal" aspects of the music. This is one of my favorite RUINS releases. The extra musicians add the very touch many of their albums lack.

4.5 but rounded down

 Mathematical Mother by UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.29 | 89 ratings

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Mathematical Mother
Universal Totem Orchestra Zeuhl

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

5 stars It's not unusual for modern prog-related bands to attempt to keep up a steady stream of annual albums or constant releases, be they live performances, compilations or limited edition sets, to ensure they retain a momentum, especially when there's so many more options to choose from for your current progressive music listening. Then there's examples where a group has such an esteemed reputation that they're given the luxury of taking their time (read years!) slowly honing their efforts to ensure something very special will eventually be delivered to the fanbase! Case in point is Italian collective Universal Totem Orchestra, an offshoot of renowned Zeuhl group Runaway Totem, releasing only three albums in their near-twenty years active, but each new one being something of a minor event. `Rituale Alieno' was a sumptuous gothic debut, `The Magus' in 2008 added some twisting metallic edge, but 2016's `Mathematical Mother' is their grandest and most lavish artistic statement yet.

What makes the Universal Totem Orchestra so fascinating is the way they cross over into so many styles to make a colourful exotic blend all their own. At any time, they blur aggressive overwhelming Zeuhl intensity with spacey keyboards, angular guitar riffing, tricky jazz-fusion turns, fancy chamber-prog flavours, Rock-In-Opposition experimentation, a mix of near- operatic female voice and even choral elements, all topped off with grand orchestration and pure symphonic pomp - sometimes all in the one track! Brave enough? Then enter...

Opener `Terra Cava' throws in everything that makes UTO so special. Throughout its fourteen minutes, it darts through everything from twitching split-personality jagged spasms, commanding choir arrangements and bombastic theatricality with plenty of jazzy sprints and dramatic orchestration. Ana Torres Fraile's purring near-operatic trills soar, Daniele Valle's guitars move between manic twisting runs and lengthy prog-rock guitar soloing histrionics, and Fabrizio Mattuzzi's sparkling piano brings plenty of classical fancy alongside his hovering deep-space synths. UTO G. Golin's intelligent and dynamic drumming keeps everything on course but still peppered with danger, and just listen to Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta's Magma-worthy mud- thick grumbling n' groovy bass guitar violation that kicks in at about the 8:40 mark!

The five-minute `Codice Y16' might actually make for a good introduction to newcomers to the group, encapsulating many of the delirious direction changes, manic instrumental blasts and searing operatic vocals they offer all inside a shorter compact piece, and there's no shortage of whirring synths, ravishing piano and soulful Magma-like proclamations throughout it. Book- ended with rumbling bass-quaking intensity and whirling-dervish heavy guitar grooves, `Elogio Del Dubbio' drifts into dusty Eastern mystery and spiritual pleading, followed by `Architettura Dell'Acqua'. A multi-part suite that opens as an English-sung melancholic ballad impeccably performed by Ana over Antonio Fedeli's sombre sax and Daniele's dreamy guitars that sounds like they've stepped off the softer moments of the early King Crimson albums, it soon morphs into that classic UTO sound - relentless twisting guitar f*ck-snap twitches over synths that jump between symphonic and punchy spacey blasts, and overwhelming male/female chanting choirs.

`Città Infinite' is a multiple-personality blast of darkly jazzy weirdness where devilishly piano pomp, vocal scatting, violent synth stabs, abrasive electronic violations and maniacal percussion tantrums all bleed together, but it still finds a way to keep a spring in its step and an overall sleek gliding coolness. `Mare Verticale' then closes the disc on some nicely strangled and grooving jagged guitar riffing back-and-forth, a breathless jumble of male and female voices and even danger-laced E.L.P-esque symphonic fanfare bluster in the second half.

Despite being initially quite overwhelming, constant replays will be necessary to grasp the complexity of the material and to grow to appreciate the attention to detail here, but at least it's also thankfully around single vinyl length at 52 minutes! Lovers of the most grandiose of Italian symphonic music, and fans of Zeuhl and R.I.O bands as well as schizophrenic eclectic groups like Area will likely be captivated by the intricacies, intensity and barking madness that permeates `Mathematical Mother, a masterpiece that will likely be most appreciated by musical listeners with a slightly bent mind that view the world in a multitude of skewed ways!

Five stars.

 Burning Stone by RUINS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.75 | 14 ratings

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Burning Stone
Ruins Zeuhl

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The zeuhl-influenced brutal prog of Ruins isn't the sort of thing you expect to sound quite this accessible, and yet the energetic and exuberant Burning Stone somehow manages to offer a clearly enunciated on-ramp to getting to grips with the Ruins sound without at all compromising the intensity or complexity of their music. Beginning with its longest composition, Zasca Coska, the album then runs through a range of bite-size excursions into a unique sonic world, making this a great point of entry for the Ryuichi Masuda era of Ruins. Tatsuya Yoshida as always is the power behind the drum kit here, with some excellent moments to showcase his diverse percussion skills.
 Pourquoi Es-Tu Si Méchant? by SUPER FREEGO album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.23 | 7 ratings

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Pourquoi Es-Tu Si Méchant?
Super Freego Zeuhl

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I'm not too surprised that there's no written reviews for this one as it is quite rare. Released back in 1982 this particular album was advertised as a Zeuhl/ New Wave cross and that's a pretty good description. I took the plunge because I am a fan of both, especially Zeuhl so I was intrigued to say the least. SUPER FREEGO were a French band with male and female vocals which are shared quite evenly and often singing together. The biggest surprise for me was seeing that the Guillard brothers are both on here playing sax and trumpet respectively. They certainly give this some authenticity in Zeuhl circles as these two guys played with MAGMA and were part of WEIDORJE as well.

The music is often hyper which I have never liked. It's why I have had trouble getting into some of the Avant and Zeuhl bands from Japan who like to go a million miles an hour, just not my scene. Anyway it's mostly the vocals that turn me off especially when they turn theatrical and they are often the focus. Now having said that the instrumental work is faultless. Man the bass player kills on here as well as the drummer. Some inventive guitar playing here as well but as I said earlier it's hard to get past the vocals at times. It's catchy and uptempo with vocals in French.

Keep in mind this is rated fairly highly by a lot of music fans who know a lot more about music than I do, but all I know is that it doesn't suit my tastes more often than not despite being impressed many, many times throughout this 35 plus minutes of music. I just get irritated with the frenzied vocals and sound at times. And on a final note the album art is just plain bad in my opinion. Glad I got to finally spin this though.

 Mekanïk Kommandöh by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.68 | 100 ratings

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Mekanïk Kommandöh
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars After a pair of wild and unhinged jazz-rock fusion albums that introduced the world to the strange world of the fictitious world of Kobaia invented by the fertile mind of founder and drumming leader Christian Vander, he and his band MAGMA streamlined their sound significantly. Although their self-invented zeuhl sound had emerged already on the first album, it was a subordinate element surrounded by a smorgasbord of a million others. On their third album "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" the band created their first album that totally fit in with their new found focused sound and in the process created their most acclaimed record even ranking as 33rd greatest French rock album of all time according to Rolling Stone. Despite those impressive creds, the album didn't start out so perfect and the band originally turned in a more stripped down version in early 1973 but was refused by the record company and who sent them back to the drawing board which would end up finally being released in December of the same year.

MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH is that stripped down first version of "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" and was released in 1989 at the tail end of a decade of laying low when the progressive rock world trickled down to a mere pittance of its former 70s heyday. The similarities between the two releases is obvious but the differences are staggering in their impact. While the second rendition contained a whopping 13 members which included brass, flute, bass clarinet and seven vocal parts, the first version MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH included a modest seven members with only three of them uttering vocalizations of any sort. One of the greatest differences in this version is the introduction where Christian Vander offers some sort of Kobaian speech that sounds like some sort of declaration of war in their invented language which was nixed from the more famous "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh."

Despite being a good decision to release it in a more perfect form, MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH gives a clue to the intent of the music somewhat. This album in its stripped down form really sounds like some sort of Teutonic march across the lands on their way to plunder, pillage and lay waste to any village that stands in its way. This is more pronounced as Vander's virtuosic drum antics are more in the forefront minus the inclusion of the smoothing out effect of the horn sections. While more dramatic in nature, this version also has the tendency to become a bit monotonous as well as somewhere around twenty minutes into the thunderous march the vocal tradeoffs tend to seem a little silly as the call-and-response effect carry on and on and on a wee bit too long and with minimal instrumental distractions to be found makes it all the more prominent. While the instruments are scarce by comparison, Zander rocks the house as expected but also of high caliber are the combo effect of bassist Jean Pierre Lambert and Jean Luc Manderlier's phenomenal piano and organ segments.

MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH can only be taken as supplemental MAGMA material for as good as it is, it pales in comparison to the more MAGMA-nanimous "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh." I feel the original record company made the right decision to put these guys back to work as this version in its proto-scaffolding form sounds way too much like the Karl Orff cantina "Carmina Burana" which has always provided a wealth of influence in the overall Magma sound. Without all those jazzy brassy instruments adding extra layers of atmosphere and counter-bombast, the overall feel comes off as a bona fide Orff tribute album albeit more in a rock context. While personally these kinds of releases from the vaults type of albums don't usually do it for me, this one is an interesting way to hear how the ideas were layered over time.

I came across this one in a very strange way. This was my first MAGMA album which i mistook for "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh." My initial reaction was a scratching of the head because i couldn't figure out why it was deemed in such high regard. Once i figured out that this was nothing more than a rough draft / first edition and finally heard the final cut, it all made sense. I avoided this one for a while simply because of that bad taste involved but now that i'm checking it out in a fresh clean slate, i have to admit that it's actually a pretty good album in its own right, it's just not on par with the much improved second rendition. Definitely a must for MAGMA fans but certainly not the place to begin exploration of their discography and eccentric career. Just be careful and don't assume that everything with the two invented words MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH in the title are the same. Even the bonus track of the same name on newer editions of "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" is a different version. Now how's that for confusing? Ugh.

3.5 rounded down

 Mathematical Mother by UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.29 | 89 ratings

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Mathematical Mother
Universal Totem Orchestra Zeuhl

Review by HarmonyDissonan

5 stars KICK-A-- TRANSCENDENT MUSIC!

I highly enjoyed Universal Totem Orchestra's first two albums! And although I never critiqued them and it's been a while since I've listened to them (man's time is so finite) they would both have been in the 4 to 4.5 range. Both great albums themselves! Now their new album Mathematical Mother, has seen UTO take that step up to the 5 star plateau without a millisecond of hesitation on my part! And here I go contradicting myself, the last two songs seem to lose a quarter step on the rest of the album without affecting it's stance in the least bit. And yet when I listened to them first while preparing to write this critique, they both stood very well on their own! One of the elements that I feel I want to mention is the female vocal parts. Although I am not always a great fan of female vocalists, it works very well here and I can't help but feel as though I hear late 60's pop music jazz vocalizing going on to amazingly wonderful effect.What an album!! As I listened to it this morning, the description that kept coming to mind was transcendent music that hearkens to the Grace that transcends absolute nothingness. It is the deepest grove music I feel I've every come across! What an F'in' album! I can't imagine this album not being on many a best of 2016 lists! Wow! I do not hesitate to recommend this album! I can't wait to turn others on to this great piece of art! With that I bid you all farewell. Take care and enjoy God's gift of music!

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Zeuhl bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ALTAÏS France
AMYGDALA Japan
ANAID France
ARCHAIA France
ARKHAM Belgium
BONDAGE FRUIT Japan
SERGE BRINGOLF France
CAILLOU France
CORIMA United States
DAIMONJI Japan
DÜN France
EIDER STELLAIRE France
ELEPHANT TOK France
ESKATON France
FRACTALE France
GA'AN United States
HAPPY FAMILY Japan
HONEYELK France
KAKUSENJO NO ONGAKU (BASE OF FICTION) Japan
KOENJIHYAKKEI Japan
LAGGER BLUES MACHINE Belgium
MAGMA France
MUSIQUE NOISE France
NEOM France
NEW PLEASURE Canada
NOA France
OFFERING France
RYOKO ONO Japan
ORVALIANS France
PAGANOTTI/PAGA GROUP France
PERCEPTION France
POTEMKINE France
PSEU France
RHÙN France
RIALZU France
RUINS Japan
RUNAWAY TOTEM Italy
SCHERZOO France
YOCHK'O SEFFER France
SEKKUTSU JEAN Japan
SETNA France
SHUB-NIGGURATH France
SUPER FREEGO France
LAURENT THIBAULT France
FRANÇOIS THOLLOT France
JANNICK TOP France
UNIT WAIL France
UNIVERIA ZEKT France
UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Italy
UPPSALA France
UTOPIC SPORADIC ORCHESTRA France
VAK France
CHRISTIAN VANDER France
VAULTS OF ZIN United States
VAZYTOUILLE France
WEIDORJE France
XING SA France
ZAO France
ZOIKHEM France
ZWOYLD France

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