Monday, April 6, 2015

ZAO - 1973 - Z=7L


01. Marochsek (7:13)
02. Ataturc (5:49)
03. Ronach (4:39)
04. Atart (3:31)
05. La Soupe (7:20)
06. Satanyia (6:46)

- François Cahen / electric piano, piano
- Yochk'o Seffer / saxophone, clarinet
- Joël Dugreno / bass
- Jean-Yves Rigaud / electric violin
- Jean-My Truong / drums
- Mauricia Platon / vocals

ZAO was founded at the beginning of the seventies by Yochk'o "Jeff" Seffer (saxophone, clarinet) and François "Faton" Cahen (pianos), both ex-members of MAGMA's first era, that includes "Kobaïa" (1970), "1001 ° centigrades" (1971) and "Uniweria Zekt-the Unnamables" (1972).
If one regard MAGMA as the central trunk of the Zeuhl tree, ZAO would be equivalent to an early side branch very close to the stock. ZAO's music, at least at the beginning of their career, is therefore an extension of MAGMA's first era, with a light music, at times weird, with hints of jazz, contemporaneous music, Hungarian folk (Yochk'o is a native of Hungary) and obviously of Zeuhl. Nothing in common with the absolute incantatory power of "MDK" and "Kohntarkhosz" to which Yochk'o Seffer and François Cahen didn't want to contribute.

In the first album, "Z = 7L" (1973), the very complex melodic instrumental layers are enriched with the wonderful voice of Mauricia Platon (with its kobaïan accents), but unfortunately she was missing on the follow-up "Osiris" released in 1975.

ZAO will break from its Zeuhl roots and the music will lean towards some jazz-rock fusion more and more debatable and debated.

"Shekina" (1975) augmented by the presence of a string quartet and "Kawana" (1976) remain respectable albums of the French jazz-rock fusion scene but "Typhareth" (1976) recorded just after Yochk'o Seffer left the band is of little interest. ZAO will then split but the members will gather anew in 1994 with the release of "Akhenaton" (once more jazz-fusion inflected), the album that saw the band reform but without any follow-up. It seems that the band planned to reform this year (2004) with the return of Yochk'o Seffer. To be continued ? Moreover, we can note that ZAO's bassist, Joël Dugrenot, will join for a short while the French symphonic progressive band CLEARLIGHT.

As others have mentioned Cahen and Seffer left MAGMA because Vander was now in control of the musical direction that MAGMA would take, instead of it being a band effort as on the first two albums. Seffer and Cahen's last recording with MAGMA would be under the name of UNIVERSIA ZEKT. It's interesting that MAGMA's next album ("MDK") after these two left would emphasize female vocals, because ZAO's first recording that would come out the same year (only sooner) would also emphasize a female vocalist.Two very different records mind you. I think the vocals here and on "MDK" are what will make or break the two albums for you, because they are so prominant. The female vocalist Zao hired was a much in demand backing vocalist named Mauricia Platon, who is nothing short of incredible. Seffer being Hungarian badly wanted a violinist for this project,so they hired Jean-Yves Rigaud. Jean-My Truong was added as the drummer, he had played in a band with Seffer before Seffer had joined MAGMA. Joel Dugrenot was added as the guitarist. The album cover was painted by Seffer.

"Marochsek" starts off rather ominously before Mauricia yells "Zao !" and then goes off into some unique vocal melodies. Unfortunately this would be the only studio record she would record with the band. Keys, bass, sax and drums fill out the sound. Some good guitar after 4 minutes. She is amazing 5 1/2 minutes in with liquid sounding keys to follow. "Ataturc" has a nice jazzy soundscape with vocal melodies. The tempos shift and violin comes in. Vocals stop as the song calms down. The drums, bass and piano become prominant before violin comes back. Vocals are back before 5 minutes. "Ronach" is all about her vocals that sound like another instrument. They are very high pitched at times. In "Atart" it's like Mauricia is competing with the sax and she is definitely holding her own. The bass is relentless. Great tune.

"La Soupe" has a nice little intro before i'm blown away by not only her vocals, but the bass and drums. This is killer ! Some beautiful horn / vocal interplay before we get a sax solo. 3 minutes in the violin comes in. Great sound ! Then some ripping guitar as drums pound. The song calms down as only bass can be heard at first. Vocals are next, then a full sound. "Satanyia" features violin, vocal, bass and drum sounds but not much of a melody until after a minute. Her vocals are deeper here with a fantastic melody to follow. The tempo and mood continues to change. Themes are repeated including her deep vocals. Her vocals are so good 6 minutes in as the drums pound.

Well it took a while, but this became everything I had hoped it would be. I wasn't expecting the vocals that were presented or the violin, but it all worked perfectly. I much prefer this over MAGMA's "MDK", and it's a step better than MAGMA's first two albums in my opinion. Brilliant !

1 comment: