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Zao (France) - 1976/2004 - "Live!"
(70 min, Musea)


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TRACK LIST:

1.  Shardaz 9:41 (Y. Seffer)
2.  Isis 8:07 (Cahen)
3.  Tserouf 6:36 (Y. Seffer)
4.  Sadie 5:17 (Cahen)
5.  Zohar 9:46 (Y. Seffer)
6.  Improcol 19:28 (ZAO)
7.  Jumelles 6:39 (Lockwood)
8.  Kabal 4:57 (Cahen)

LINE-UP:

Francois Cahen - piano & synthesizers
Didier Lockwood - violin
Gerard Prevost - bass
Jean-My Truong - drums & percussion

Recorded by J. Barbier in "L'Quest de la Grosne", Paris. 

Prolusion. Zao's "Live!" is the first CD in a series of live albums recorded by one of the most renowned French sound engineers, Jacky Barbier. This series is also Musea Records' dedication to the memory of the artist, who died on July 14, 2002. I am quite well acquainted with the creation of Zao, though I had time to review only one of their albums until now - that being >"Shekina".

Synopsis. This is by all means an essential album (which, though, was clear to me before I listened to it), and by the way, it was never released before. There are thousands of connoisseurs of the creation of this legendary band among Prog lovers, so this review won't be a revelation for them. However, I console myself with positive thoughts that the flow of newcomers to the world of highly complex progressive music is still inexhaustible, and there are those who had time to comprehend and love Zeuhl and RIO, and yet, still haven't heard Zao. Personally, I consider Zeuhl the earliest manifestation of what later became RIO. The genre was invented by the French bands Magma and Moving Gelatine Plates, and was developed by Zao and Henry Cow, and later by Cos, Univers Zero, et al. Though of course, there is a rather huge difference between the French and English schools of RIO. I think it would be foolish today to use the full name of the genre, instead of its abbreviation, which, though, has already itself become a common noun-term. Like Henry Cow (and unlike Univers Zero), Zao performed a jazzy form of RIO, but with less quantity of dissonant solos, atonalities, and the other avant-garde academic music-related features, so typical for RIO as such, and not without symphonic tendencies. Overall, the music on the album represents highly complex and constantly developing interplay between all of the band members, though violin solos are always a bit dominant over the others. The opener Shardaz is highly intensive throughout. Representing an improvisational Zeuhl, this is the only track here that doesn't suit the traditional conception of RIO almost at all. Tserouf and Zohar (3 & 5) consist, for the most part, of fast and intensive arrangements as well, but these are much more diverse and, simultaneously, more structured than Shardaz and contain a complete set of musical colors, specters, and shades typical for the French-school RIO (or classic Zeuhl, if you will). Isis, Sadie, Jumelles, and Kabal (2, 4, 7, 8) are, on the whole, in the same vein, but are mostly moderately slow and contain episodes, the music in which is distinctly symphonic in character. The monstrous 19-minute Improcol (6) holds not only all the genre and style-related features available on the other tracks, but also an atmospheric Space Rock and something experimental, in addition. As for specific particularities of the album, the distorted (OK, processed) solos of violin, sounding much like those of guitar, can be heard on a few tracks, but are especially evident on the last two. Some compositions are notable for the 'duels' between drums and one of the other instruments: bass, violin, etc.

Conclusion. I was and am always eager to hear at least one live album by the most significant outfits in the history of Rock music, and without question, Zao is one of them. This album is a carnival of outstandingly original, innovative and, what's central, very interesting music, performed live by fantastically inventive and virtuosi musicians. Generally, Zao is nothing short of a titanic band.

VM: April 14, 2004


Related Links:

Musea Records


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