(Soleil Zeuhl 13 // CD)
Out of print
Of all the musicians and groups most influenced by Magma and “Zeuhl” music, Eskaton may have been the most impressive of all. While beginning their careers with strong influences by Magma in both name (Eskaton Kommandkestra) and music, the Parisian group slowly and carefully forged their own view of celestial music over three albums and a single.
While the group’s members were as few as four and as large as eight, the music consistently remained at a high level throughout its career before vaguely disbanding in the mid 80′s after recording their unreleased fourth album. The music throughout their career held a discernible Magma influence but it must be said that while Magma may have been some sort of stylistic prototype to the group, Magma’s penchant for striving for originality also has a mark on Eskaton, as the group would move farther and farther away from their roots as time went on. However it can’t be ignored that a strong Magma feeling is to be found in the bass playing (the schools of Moze, Top and Paganotti), the vocals (in the Stella Vander/Lisa Deluxe vein) and rhythms.
Xavier De Raymond (Fender piano), Gerard Konig (drums), Marc Rozenberg (bass), and Alain Blesing (guitar) shortened the name to Eskaton around the time they lengthened the line up to include vocalists Paule Kleynnaert and Amara Tahir, keyboards player Eric Guillaume, and guitarist Andre Bernardi. It was this line-up that gigged from 1974 to 1977, often selling out venues. After a short break-up while several members left for their tour of national service, the band returned and opened for Magma, their musical father figure.
Eskaton’s 4 Visions was recorded around 1978-9 and was not resurrected until Archie Patterson released it on his Eurock cassette label in 1981 (EC81002). While Marc Rozenberg had switched from bass to keys and Gilles Rozenberg had since replaced De Raymond on keys, Bernardi moved from guitar to bass, and it’s his incredible impetus that makes 4 Visions one of the greatest of French progressive music’s successes. The rhythm section is certainly in the Magma style circa 1975, yet the melodies and dissonances of Eskaton’s music are entirely their own. Vocalists Kleynnaert and Tahir often express themselves in unusual sounding chromatic scales that come closer in sound to new music groups like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd. The keyboards also have a distinct Magma influenced style, a conglomerate of influences such as Jean-Philippe Goude or Benoit Widemann certainly are at work here. The four long tracks are very dynamic and filled with an incredible spiritual intensity that range from ethereal to a harsh angst. An almost forgotten masterpiece, the CD reissue by Ad Perpetuam Memoriam was the best reissue of 1995.
In April 1979, the band recorded their first vinyl release, the single “Musique Post Atomique” (E01) which included “Le Chant De La Terre” and “If.” Well received amongst the progressive underground, it gave a foretaste for their first full length vinyl release to come.
Around this time, guitarist Alain Blesing would leave as would Eric Guillaume. Alain Blesing would go on to record Faeria with his group Foehn, a music some ways away from the hard driving Eskaton. Along with the fantastic violinist from Malicorne, Patrick Lemercier, the shortened down band recorded the album Ardeur (E 38001) which was released in 1980. Ardeur was an absolutely mind-numbing blast of music. The two vocalist’s eerie Kobaian-like phrasing of the French language spins circles around the music creating very unusual harmonic structures. The shorter songs (including new versions of “Attente” and “Eskaton” from 4 Visions) make the music that much more direct and intense and it seems that the band was a lot tighter as a six-piece. In summary Ardeur is no less a classic than its predecessors.
The same line-up recorded Eskaton’s last album released after a few more years of gigging in 1983. Fiction (E 38301) shows Eskaton dropping many of their overt Magma references and showing more experimentation with keyboards and especially synthesizer. The music is very cathartic and anthemic, with the vocalists taking each other to new heights. By this point it seemed that the band were moving more and more away from their roots into a distinct and original direction. Unfortunately, Fiction would be their last. After Gilles Rozenberg departed in 1984 (Paule Kleynnaert would double on keys from then on) the band would go on to record their fourth effort I Care in 1985. Unfortunately (besides a track on the cassette compilation Preludes and the track “La Lutte” which was included on Musea’s Enneade compilation in 1986), the band would no longer see its music released, and eventually somewhat disbanded in the late 80′s. Although the musicians still keep in contact, there are no immediate plans for the future.
Eskaton were one of the greatest of all of the French rock groups, the Magma references seem incidental in the light of the very powerful music they created for themselves and their audience. All of their music comes highly recommended.
Originally published in Exposé #8, p. 22, written by Bertrand Dusanter and Mike McLatchey
Liner notes from Marc ROZENBERG for the CD reissue (January 2003) :
Twenty years later… The time of a thousand lives, the time of a single dream. The inferno lit up long ago burning still No ashes. Impossible ashes. With the long lasting life of radioactive elements, Emotions and energy remain. Only natural. Facts are stubborn : Despairing, fearing and dreaming remain shared by one and all. This was not an easy tale to tell. This is one still difficult to live through.
« Human, too human » The lowest attack on Eskaton was to call it messianic. Today,looking back, we’d say « International reporter » Nothing has moved. Everything is different. A belief remains, a blinding and incredible belief That we will have to mutate or die That Man is this rope strung between the worst and the best.
So then, dear friend, listen to this cathedral of sounds, This torrent of emotions, these mathematics of the heart, And be assured that they are about your love of life, And that this love is shared…
Ahhh…the last album from this excellent pop Zeuhl band from 1982.
In 2003 we featured the archive reissue Ardeur release…and this contains the same lineup. For those that don’t know, these guys were pretty much up there with the stature of Magma. Hailing from Paris , these guys had a strong influence from Magma in the earlier recordings, but molded out with their own sound into the early 80′s. Emerging in the very late 1970′s, this band was one of the first of the genre. Fiction was their second vinyl album that was recorded in late 1982, and is superbly reissued for the first time.
All remastered from the original master recordings. This reissue features four bonus tracks from their never released final album Icare. You may have heard one of the tracks before, but this includes 3 tracks never released. Alain at Soleilzeuhl has done it again. A must have archive recording for 2005!
From the Gagliarchives
After the awesome sounds of the debut vinyl album, ‘Ardeur’, their second album appeared on the scene with the rawness replaced by an altogether smoother sound, something that made the Magma fans at the time, see this as a lesser album. Well, now it’s been released on CD as a remastered production, the track list has been changed to give a much more dynamic flow to the music and, with the addition of five tracks and twenty-six minutes of previously unreleased tracks, now comes across as every bit as essential listening to any Magma fan.
The opening six and a half minute instrumental, ‘FX’ immediately showcases the instrumental prowesses of the band as a compositional and playing force with which to be reckoned, the pounding electric bass thundering under the lead keys and synths work while crunchy drums power it all forward and the guitar chording completes the picture. Following this, it’s onto the four minutes of ‘Les Deux Trucs’ and here we’re solidly into classic mid-late seventies Magma territory with the trademark growling electric bass, electric piano chords that ring out, drums that are so solid, while a combination of dual female and lead male vocals provide the icing on the cake, as the lead guitar scythes its way through as main instrumental soloist over what is a full, powerful and dynamic sound.
Just short of five minutes long, ‘Automute’, previously sounding a touch weak, now comes alive with a vengeance, as the remaster reveals a sound that is crystal clear and SO powerful, as the high-flying female vocals from Paule Kleynnaert & Amara Tahir propel the song above a backing that is simply sensational as the rhythm section fires up and the synths and keys and guitar provide a triple threat attack that will have the hairs standing on the back of your neck – heaven with a difference for Magma fans. From there on in, the main album reveals track after track that, while heavily Magma influenced, has elements of an almost ‘Canterbury’ nature to the music with plenty of soaring lead work from electric piano, synths and electric guitar, all the while with the rhythm section flying underneath and providing the rock solid foundations the music exudes.
What I had forgotten about this album was just how much instrumental space there was devoted to the band, with the vocalists working a treat in flying Magma fashion but used, to a degree, more sparingly for maximum effect. Of the five previously unreleased tracks, the four minute ‘Le Musicien’ from a year later than the main album, features some fantastic electric bass and guitar work over crisp sounding rhythms and magical harmony vocals, that trademark mid-paced Magma-esque rhythm pushing it forward. The final four tracks, taken from an album recorded in ’85 but never issued, are all excellent and give the female vocalists a lot more presence, which comes as a most welcome addition to the earlier more instrumental main album. With keys, synths and guitars leading the way, a tremendous production throughout and heavenly vocals, this is a must for fans of Magma and similarly styled bands.
Andy Garibaldi (CD Services – UK)