Thursday, February 15, 2007


Art Zoyd is a French band formed in 1968, mixing free jazz, progressive rock and avant-garde electronica.
Like other members of the Rock in Opposition movement, Art Zoyd fuses progressive rock and jazz with contemporary classical music. Like fellow RIO member Univers Zéro, they are also influenced by French Zeuhl bands such as Magma. Today, Art Zoyd is best described as an electronic music group, and works primarily for film and ballet.
(Review by Joren Van Ree)
From the late sixties on, a French collective named Art Zoyd developed an original musical mix of avant-garde progressive rock, jazz and modern classical music. The first attempt of violinist Hourbette and bassist Zaboitzeff (the two constant elements in the band) to bring the world in touch with their music was through a single in 1969, but a second single and their first full-length record, entitled Symphonie Pour Le Jour Où Brûleront Les Cités, didn’t appear until 1976; the definitive mix was released in 1980, because the first issue had such poor sound quality. Art Zoyd were part of the RIO (Rock In Opposition) movement - which also included Henry Cow and Univers Zero - but since RIO was in fact only a temporary movement, most people now call their music Chamber Rock or, more generally, Avant-Progressive Rock.
Although on their debut album Art Zoyd already incorporated a lot of original elements in their sound that pointed at future developments, it is clear that they were heavily influenced by fellow Frenchmen Magma. Sometimes the group sounds so much like Magma here that it led some people to refer to Symphonie as a Zeuhl record. I agree that the vocals clearly pay debts to Magma and although Hourbette didn’t invent his own language (like Magma band-leader Christian Vander did), the vocalists don’t sing in any existing language either. It is true that some instrumental sections show Magma influences as well, but the instrumentation is where the comparison will eventually go wrong, for Art Zoyd don’t have a drummer. And that’s one of the things that clearly puts them aside from Zeuhl bands. It is probably the lack of a drummer, and the inclusion of wind and string instruments what landed them the tag ‘Chamber Rock’. But, don’t be fooled; despite the absence of a drumkit, Art Zoyd’s music can be very rhythmical, thanks to Zaboitzeff’s energetic bass playing and the often sharp and staccato string and wind arrangements.
Directly from the start of the album, it’s clear that the band is not trying to ‘ease the listener in’: this is some mindblowing stuff! Wild, pointy passages are alternated by quiet ones and the interplay between the strings and wind instruments is outstanding. The lively piano and bass playing is of exceptional quality as well, and the latter will certainly please Magma fans. Both the rhythms and melodies are compelling and the dissonance sounds very natural overall. At the end of Simulacres (the last part of the title track) the music climaxes, and the album continues in a more light-hearted, even humouristic way with Deux Images De La Cité Imbécile. The vocal gibberish on Les Fourmis reminds me of Can’s Tago Mago, and a few riffs bring Mike Oldfield to mind. Scènes De Carnaval is very quirky as well, and it contains some nice jazzrock/fusion.
In conclusion, Symphonie is an interesting part of Art Zoyd history, but above all it’s a beautiful album that can (and should) be greatly appreciated by both Avant-Prog and Zeuhl fans, while the latter might find later Art Zoyd works - which have no relation to the Zeuhl genre - a bit too “cold”. If you are new to the world of Avant-Prog, you might be better off trying Mariage Du Ciel Et L’Enfer or another eighties album from Art Zoyd’s discography, for those are more typical and represent both the band and the subgenre better. But if you’re already into this kind of music, make sure to get this gem! It is now only available on a double CD set, released in 1987 and accompanied by Art Zoyd’s second and third album and four bonus tracks (including the a-sides of the two singles I mentioned before). All this makes it a worthwhile purchase for all people who like challenging music!



Anonymous said...

i'm excited, its the first time i see this lp cover (AZ3).
please if its possible lps like this should have the best sound
Good sound quality and a good stereo can carry anybody away
thanks and take care

Anonymous said...

Do you know a Univers Zero lp called Heresie.Really interesting ....

chaamba said...

Thanks for this wonder

V said...

thanks for all the Art Zoyds posted

Anonymous said...

Hi,I always appreciate your blog and already am enjoying the other two Art Zoyd post.But I couldn't extract this file.If you have some hint,please help me.

Iván Villavicencio said...

Cult band and cult album...!!!

Anonymous said...

Please Help Art Zoyd