Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weidorje - 1978 - Weidorje


01. Elohim's Voyage (16:31)
02. Vilna (12:19)
03. Booldemug (7:10)
Bonus tracks:
04. Rondeau (live) (8:48)
05. Kolinda (live) (12:27)

- Bernard Paganotti / bass, vocals
- Patrick Gauthier / keyboards
- Michel Ettori / guitar
- Kirt Rust / drums
- Alain Guillard / saxophone
- Yvon Guillard / trumpet, vocals
- Jean-Phillipe Goude / keyboards

WEIDORJE, formed in 1977 by two ex-MAGMA members, Bernard Paganotti and Patrick Gauthier (also keyboardist for HELDON, a group that featured Richard Pinhas) is one of Zheul's children, probably the most faithful and the closest musically and spiritually to MAGMA. One can find a mythology close to MAGMA's one : "the wait of a flying saucer that would come one morning take us with its new values, sane and safe".

WEIDORJE means "celestial wheel". This word appears for the very first time in MAGMA's album "Üdü Wüdü" in the form of a short track (4:30) composed by Paganotti and Blasquiz, the latter being the second master brain in MAGMA, along with Vander (Blasquiz achieved by the way WEIDORJE's cover art).

This tune foreshadows what WEIDORJE's music will be :
- same hypnotical power as MAGMA but more rock-based, more accessible at first listen even if by mistake (as was the case with MAGMA) the music was regarded as dark or even unhealthy despite the melodical beauty of the themes.
- incantatory repeats with a powerful bass and put very forward, brass and MAGMA-esque voices (although lyrics are not in Kobaïan they are a kind of Zheul scat)
- polyrhythmicity in keyboard and guitar playing

For some people, WEIDORJE would be a follower to "Üdü Wüdü", Bernard Paganotti forming his band just after MAGMA released this album. First and only album released in 1978, "Weidorje", even if some new stuff was ready for a second album. But following difficulties to find a producer, WEIDORJE disbanded, although they were popular with the French audience. Initially constituted with three long tracks : "Elohim's Voyage", "Vilna" and "Booldemug" on the Ep released for Cobra, two new tracks "Rondeau" and "Kolinda" appeared on the CD reedition by Musea in 1992 (these two tracks were released live with a bad sound but the bass solo is wonderful, waving between jazz-fusion and Zheul accents).

The spirit of WEIDORJE will remain in the first solo albums of some of its members :
- Patrick Gauthier "Bébé Godzilla" (1981) : Christian Vander appears on one track
- PAGA (B. Paganotti) "Paga" (1985)
- J-P Goude "Drones" (1980)

As with most of productions by ex-MAGMA members, the music will be less Zheul-oriented and leanings rather towards jazz-rock, fusion or electronic music.

Weidorje's self-titled and only EP (now consisting of two live tracks, on the Musea CD reissue), released in 1978, is certainly a treat for Magma fans. Especially those who like Bernard Paganotti's bass playing and the Üdü Wüdü" (Jannick Top & Paganotti on bass) sound. Unlike many listeners and fans of Zeuhl music, I came across Weirdorje before Magma. However, I believe this album is much easier on the ears than some Magma albums, so it was indeed a good choice for me to begin my Zeuhl journey. The music is mostly instrumental and the voices that are present (supplied by Bernard Paganotti and Yvon Guillard) is mainly scat, so it leaves my ears free to listen to the wonderful music being played. The really exciting factor about Zeuhl is the fuzz-bass. Bernard Paganotti is a master of the style (along with Jannick Top and non-Zeuhl musician Hugh Hopper), so naturally when I first heard this album, I was immediately struck by the thumping bass. Of course, there is more to Weidorje than just the fuzz-bass, because another former Magma personality is present on this album in the name of Patrick Gauthier. He and Jean-Philippe Goude (both on keyboards) add some very dark and gloomy polyrhythmic sounds which add superb atmosphere and rhythm, as does Michel Ettori on guitar who plays along with Paganotti's bass lines in many places.

The opening track, Elohim's Voyage starts off, as one would suspect, with a crunching bass sound but soon Gauthier's keyboard adds a chilling touch. The main rhythmic charge then begins, with the aforementioned scat vocals, the slowly increasing heavier drumming and then the guitar. This assault continues on throughout the 16 minutes but with added surprises, such as Alain Guillard's avant-garde saxophone. Approaching the halfway mark, the band are in full flow and then everything slows down once more yet the track keeps together solidly. With four minutes to go, the tune reprises with trumpet and saxophone accompaniment. This reflects classic Magma but feels darker and more disturbing, and is a strong track to start precedings. Vilna is the strongest track of the album, beginning with a catchy keyboard riff that leads on until Paganotti's bass. Vilna is not as heavy as Elohim's Voyage, yet is just as catchy (if not more so), continuing on in true Zeuhl-style with a relentlessness of rhythmic sound. This is another difficult track to describe, so I shall leave it for the listener. Originally, the album would have finished with Booldemug, a softer track that reminds sometimes of Third era Soft Machine (though Hugh Hopper's bass never got this fuzzy!). This is jazzier than the previous tracks - bordering on jazz rock/fusion - featuring much more saxophone and guitar and is a welcome break from what has gone before, making the band sound more diverse than one would initially expect. It is also here that you realise how much the keyboards dominate Weidorje's sound without overwhelming the rest. Ettori also unleashes his guitar skills here, so listen out, as his playing is exceptional. As previously stated, French label Musea released Weidorje in 1992 with bonus tracks. Unfortunately the cuts here are aurally inferior to the studio ones heard previously. Thankfully, the music is just as great and proves they could perform live as well. Rondeau sounds ethnic and medieval in places, dominated by the keyboards. Due to the sound quality, the bass is not so strong in the mix but doesn't lessen the charm of this cut. Expect the same kind of catchiness as previous tracks just more sedated and laid-back, and listen out halfway through as there is some rather nice jazzy moments thanks to the trumpet and guitar. A studio version of this selection would have sounded marvelous, so it is a shame they never released another album. Kolinda mostly consists of an astounding bass solo by Bernard Paganotti. The track starts off with yet more memorable rhythms and when the solo begins, it often reminds quite a bit of the late Berry Oakley, Jr.'s (Allman Brothers' Band) playing style which when I first heard it, came as a very pleasant surprise.

Despite their use of catchy rhythms, Weidorje never get dull or boring, continuously and subtly changing things. The changes are often so subtle, you do not notice them. I have listened to the album many times and I always forget there is a trumpet and saxophone used as they are used scarcely, yet without them, the tracks would sound completely different. I have given this album a 5/5 (4.8) rating, even with the poorly recorded bonus tracks, because an album of this quality does not come about very often. This is a gem of a record and is still an essential release for those who have discovered Magma, or who want to discover Magma in the future and a great introductory level album if not always the easiest of listens.



  2. It is great to see the Weidorje album getting such a comprehensive and loving review - one of my favourite 'prog' albums of all time - it really doesn't sound dated and like you said, the only 'negative' thing about the reissue is the quality of the bonus tracks, but the brilliance of the music more than makes up for it. Definitely an essential album for any serious music fan.

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