When French drummer/composer Christian Vander put together the first incarnation of his since-enduring group Magma, releasing Kobaïa (Seventh Records) in 1970, it's unlikely that he'd have known the musical subculture he was spawning. A unique blend of fusion, neoclassicism, symphonic, and progressive rock, heavily reliant on relentless repetition and chanting in Vander's created Kobaïan language, Zeuhl has evolved into a musical label, not just attached to Magma's science fiction-driven universe, but also to Magma-influenced groups from countries including France (Minimum Vitale, Shub-Niggurath), Sweden (Simon Steensland), Britain (Guapo), and Japan (Pochakaite Malko). As directionally focused as Magma's discography iseven as Vander's vision has grown significantlyZeuhl has been the catalyst for explorations farther afield, as Hur! Hommage à la Musique de Christian Vander makes clear.
Kobaïan chanting has always been considered an acquired tastefor some, compelling, for others as challenging as Keith Jarrett's loud vocalizations. Relatively literal takes, like Ptäh Sextet's version of "Maahnt," from Attahk (Seventh, 1977), will do little to bring in new Zeuhl fans. That said, some of the all-instrumental tracks, like Forgas Band Phenomenanominally a Canterbury-centric fusion group with a small but impressive discography including L'Axe du Fou (Cuneiform, 2009)make Vander's music more approachable. The repetitive nature of FBP's take on the propulsive yet episodic "Africa Anteria"originally an obscure track released under the moniker Uniweria Zekt in 1971, but heard more recently on Magma's Studio Zünd box set bonus disc Archiẃ I (Seventh, 2008)links unmistakably to Magma, even as solos from lyrical violinist Karolina Mlodecka's and unfettered, whammy bar-driven guitarist Benjamin Violet lean further to the fusion side of the complex Zeuhl equation.
Minimum Vitale open the 25-song set with a more buoyantly upbeat reading of the title track to Üdü Wüdü (Seventh, 1976), as nylon-string guitar, electric bass, and hand percussion support Kobaïan singing that possesses less of its inherent gravitas. As fine a drummer as he is a composer/conceptualist, Vander's powerful playing is channeled through drummer Rémi Sanna on Olivier Wursten Olmos' version of "Kobah," first heard on the 1976 Live (Utopia, 1976)much funkier, though, with something indefinable that touches on John McLaughlin's late-'70s Mahavishnu quartet.
Literal though some tracks are, others go to completely unexpected places. Klaus Blasquiz and Steven Shehan's "Mekajak" is a percussion and chant-driven homage to Magma's ëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh (Seventh, 1973), the final part (but first released) of its classic Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogie. Despite the building blocks of Kobaïan chanting and instrumental repetition, it's a more creative extrapolation of Zeuhl, as is Pochakaite Malko's folkloric, all-acoustic version of "Hamtaak," an obscure Magma track that's expanded here to include Akihisha Tsuboy's impressive, virtuosic violin solo.
More than any Magma compilation could, Hur! is the perfect entry point for those looking to explore the universe of Zeuhl, as well as a thoroughly creative exploration for the Zeuhl-converted. By ranging from the literal to the unexpected, it demonstrates just how a kernel of an idea can grow into something not just career-defining, but life-consuming.
Track Listing: CD1: Üdü Wüdü (Minimum Vital); Kobah (Olivier Wursten Olmos); Mekajak (surs des motifs de M.D.K.) (Blasquiz / Shehan); Hamtaak (Pochakaite Malko); Braveheart (vision of Z&3203;SS) (Marcus); Aïna (John Trap); Ronde de Nuit (Alifair); Cosmos / A Fïïh (Ain Soph Aur); Aïna (Post Image); Malawëlëkaahm (Thollophonie); Dondaï (Musique Noise); The Last Seven Minutes (Patrick Gauthier). CD2: Titilbon (Setna); Malaria (Simon Steensland); Otis (Jafis); Afreica Anteria (Forgas Band Phenomena); Guapo (Klaus Kombalad); Stand in the Light (Spiritual) (Mapop & The Rotules); Cosmos (Jannick Top); "La" Dawotsin (Gerard Prevost Trio); Ëk Sün Da Zëss (Bruno Heuze); Waïnsaht!!!/Wlasik Steuhn Kobaïa/Da Zeuhl Wortz Waïnsaht (Neom); Ëmëntëht-Rê (Erik Baron)/d-zAkord); Maahnt (Ptäh Sextet); Köhntarkösz (Maignan).
Personnel: Jean Luc Payssan: classical guitar, percussion and chant (CD1#1); Thierry Payssan: piano, Pro Tone synthesizer, percussion and chant (CD1#1); Eric Rebeyrol: Warwick bass and bow (CD1#1); Christian Coutzac: ghost voices (CD1#1); Rémi Sanna: drums (CD1#2);; Francois Combarieu: piano (CD1#2); Olivier Wursten Olmos: guitar (CD1#2); Sébastien Trognon: saxophone (CD1#2, CD2#4), flute (CD2#4); Steve Shehan: hang and jingle stick (CD1#3); Klaus Blasquiz: vocals and arrangement (CD1#3); Hu Yin: descending opera gong, oceanharp, ocean drum, Indian and Tibetan crotales, Chinese tam-tam, Tibetan temple bells, Japanese temple bells, Indian maracas, Tibetan hand cymbals, Chinese Chau gong and Chinese jingo hand cymbals (CD1#3); Akihisa Tsuboy: violin (CD1#4); Kazuo Ogingo: lute, psaltery, recorder, nai, keyboards and GAKKEN SX-150 (CD1#4); Shigekazu Kuwahara: 5-string bass (CD1#4); Marcus Linon: drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, Taiko drum and chant (CD1#5); TreizZ: trumpet (CD1#5); Fabrice Theuillon: saxophones (CD1#5); Thomas Lucas: drums, guitars, bass and arrangements (CD1#6); Céline Le Fur: voice (CD1#6); Georges Salaun: Fender Rhodes (CD1#6); Jade Lucas: voice (CD1#6); Aurore Reichert: voice (CD1#7); Jean Pascal Boffo: guitars (CD1#7); Arnaud Halet: Fender Rhodes and Mini-Korg 700 (CD1#8); Eric Monnier: guitar (CD1#8); Jean-Marc Monnier: bass (CD1#8); Stephane Pardo: drums (CD1#8); Dany Marcombe: bass (CD1#9); Freddy Buzon: bugle (CD1#9); Jean Christophe Jacques: soprano and baritone saxophones (CD1#9); Patricio Lameira: guitar and chant (CD1#9); Eric Perez: drums (CD1#9); Frédéric Feugas: Fender Rhodes and electronics (CD1#9); François Thollot: guitar (CD1#10); Laurent Carol: drums (CD1#10); Olivier Hamant: clarinet (CD1#10); Jérémy Van Ouagliata: bass (CD1#10); Isabelle Bruston: chant (CD1#11); Xavier Deraymond: Fender Rhodes and synth (CD1#11); Bruno Gagneux: guitar (CD1#11); Jean Philippe Gallet: chant (CD1#11); Frédéric Huynh: bass (CD1#11); Denis Levasseur: guitar synth (CD1#11); Cornelia Schmid: chant (CD1#11); Didier Teillard: bass (CD1#11); Philippe Zarka: drums (CD1#11); Patrick Gauthier: keyboards and programming (CD1#12), piano and synth solo (CD2#13); Nicolas Cande: drums, Fender Rhodes and mellotron (CD2#1); Nicolas Goulay: Minimoog (CD2#1); Benoit Bugeia: Fender Rhodes (CD2#1); Christophe Blondel: bass (CD2#1); Natacha Jouet: chant (CD2#1); Guillame Laurent: soprano saxophone (CD2#1); Philippe Vermont: guitar (CD2#1); Hélène Massuard: chant (CD2#1); Simon Steensland: piano, bass, glockenspiel, guitar, Theremin and synthesizer (CD2#2); Morgan Agren: drums (CD2#2); Aurelia Le Huche: vocals (CD2#2); Frida Spang: vocals (CD2#2); Jean Marc Jafet: bass and choir (CD2#3); Sylvie Fischella: vocals and choir (CD2#3); André Fischella: drums, Fender Rhodes and percussion (CD2#3); Patrick Forgas: drums (CD2#4); Kengo Mochizuki: bass (CD2#4); Benjamin Violet: guitar (CD2#4); Igor Brover: keyboards (CD2#4); Karolina Mlodecka: violin (CD2#4); Dmitri Alexaline: trumpet (CD2#4); Daniel O'Sullivan: Fender Rhodes and electronics (CD2#5); David J. Smith: drums and percussion (CD2#5); James Sedwards: bass (CD2#5); Kavus Torabi: guitar (CD2#5); Luke Garwood: earth clarinet (CD2#5); Dominic Garwood: air clarinet (CD2#5); Maria Popkiewicz: chant, choir and handclaps (CD2#6); Klaus Basquiz: chant, choir, handclaps and tambourine (CD2#6); Laurent Cokelaere: Precision and Stingray basses, handclaps, arrangement and programming (CD2#6); Hervé Gourdikian: Fender Rhodes, saxophone and programming (CD2#6); Jimi Drouillard: Telecaster guitar (CD2#6); Fred Jacquemin: drums (CD2#6); Jannick Top: Fender Jazz bass, Hervé Prudent Saz bass, keyboards, cello, bass and voice (CD2#7); Fabien Colella: keyboards and programming (CD2#7); Gerard Prevost: bass and contrabass (CD2#8); Claude Salmieri: drums (CD2#8); Lôrent Bronner: piano (CD2#8); Bruno Heuze: gongs, bonang, gender, cloches, bols, usu and percussion, keyboards and voice (CD2#9);Yannick Duchêne-Sauvage: guitar, chant and metal (CD2#10); Carole Duchêne-Sauvage: Fender Rhodes and metal (CD2#10); William Pawelzik: bass and metal (CD2#10); Alain Simendic: drums and metal (CD2#10); Dominique Badia: guitar (CD2#11); Philippe Forestier: guitar (CD2#11); Francis Rateau: guitar (CD2#11); Bruno Remazeilles: guitar (CD2#11); Alain Guyon: bass (CD2#11); Michel Pierna: bass (CD2#11); Eric Rebeyrol: bass (CD2#11); Yves Sternicha: bass (CD2#11); Thierry Jardinier: percussion (CD2#11); Jean-Marie Nadaud: percussion (CD2#11); Loïc Lemerre: guitar (CD2#12); Jérôme Martineau: keyboards (CD2#12); Romain Colaiutti: baritone guitar (CD2#12); Dominique Barras: chant and choir (CD2#12); Bruno Camiade: bass and choir (CD2#12); Michaël Hazera: drums and choir (CD2#12); Bruno Maignan: bass and bass synth (CD2#13); Olivier Lavergne: guitars and keyboards (CD2#13); Erick Bigot: drums and percussion (CD2#13).