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Eskaton - 4 Visions (Progreviews - 2000/2008) (2000)

Eskaton was a band from France who made some zeuhl albums in the late 70s and early 80s, with only this one having seen CD reissue. The music owes a great debt to Magma, perhaps moreso than any of the other zeuhl bands Magma influenced. Elements of Magma you will find here : throbbing, jarring bass, combined with female vocals employing repetitive chants and vocals to induce alternating frenzy and trance. Occasional restrained sections make the moments of power all the more impressive. Elements of Magma you will not find here : a Blasquiz-like male lead vocal and the Kobaian language (they sing in French).

In most respects, Eskaton’s music is more accessible than Magma. The alien quality of the Kobaian language is not present, and much as a neo-prog band doesn’t stray far from its prog influences, neither does Eskaton venture far outside of Magma’s music, while Magma themselves occasionally did try other things. The energy in this release is definitely a positive thing ; it’s the one word that comes most often to mind when trying to describe it. While not the most original material in the world, it’s still undeniably potent.

This album is recommended as a good entry point into zeuhl for the uninitiated, and essential listening for Magma freaks who are looking for more of what they love.

review by Sean McFee — 10-12-00

Eskaton probably won’t be winning any "Most Original Band" awards in the near future, since they are pretty obviously a clone of MDK-era Magma. All the classical zeuhl elements are here, and in full blossom : operatic, female vocals ; throbbing bass ; blitzkrieg drumming ; and kaleidoscopic Fender Rhodes patterns that swirl around and around. The band also proves that the viability of this style is retained when sung in ordinary French, rather than some alien tongue. Even here, however, the band continues to drip Magma, with general apocalyptic tones and even shrill "ALARM !" cries. Eskaton’s compositions are all well-crafted and more than stand on their own. Particularly, the first four minutes of the title track are superb, opening with haunted, octave-separated drones from Kleynnaert and Tahir, steadily building with tribal drumming, and then the full band exploding into a frenzy. "Attente" and "Ecoute," have exceptional moments as well. If you’re a Magma purist, you will probably be offended. But if you’re a connoisseur of toutes musiques zeuhl, you will be in seventh heaven.

review by Joe McGlinchey — undated

Eskaton are one of many zeuhl bands who never strayed far from the roots of Magma (who, of course, founded the genre), at least not for their debut CD, 4 Visions (later works moved towards more standard jazz-rock). All the key elements of Magma are present : the pounding, ever-insistent rhythm section, the chanted, repetitive vocals, and the Fender Rhodes piano (which was to Magma what the mellotron was to, say, King Crimson). In these respects, Eskaton are very much responsible for giving the world a lost "Magma" CD in the vein of their masterpiece Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh.

However, there is a key difference between the two bands in terms of presentation. Magma wrote (and still writes) long, epic compositions in a made-up language that told a story (a story that, in fact, carried over across CDs). Eskaton, on the other hand, wrote songs that were long, yes (all songs on 4 Visions are roughly ten minutes long), but that are individual pieces, not part of some larger whole. In addition, the songs are in French, which means that, rather than existing apart from the listener (as Magma’s music did/does), 4 Visions is very much at the level of the listener. There is no aura of mystique of the type Magma commanded, but this is replaced with a down to earth, music for the people by the people mentality that is every bit as invigorating.

But enough comparing and contrasting to Magma, as this music would sound just as good regardless of whether Magma ever existed. The clear highlights are "Attente" and "Ecoute," both of which mix tremendous jams with beautiful vocals and, of course, the rhythm tandem of Andre Bernardi (bass) and Gerard Konig (drums). Those two really know how to throw down a groove, and while the vocals and keyboard may be the dominant aspect of the band’s sound, it’s the incessant grooves that hold it together. That allows this CD to actively rock while remaining beautiful (courtesy of the vocals), and it is that contrast of all-out rock and subtle beauty that makes 4 Visions such a powerful listen.

4 Visions is almost the perfect introduction to zeuhl. It’s more accessible than Magma, but still conveys the trademark zeuhl sound, and thus those who might not enjoy (at least not at first) the general weirdness of Magma may still appreciate Eskaton. The only reason it’s not the perfect introduction is that it’s damn near impossible to find. If you do see a copy, though, be sure to snap it up (after making sure it’s not the Tachika Records pirate copy I got duped into buying). Highly recommended to both zeuhl newcomers and Magma fanatics alike.

review by Aaron N. — 1-21-08

It didn’t take too many spins in the player to make this one of my favorite Magma albums ever. I was, of course, aware that they were influenced by Magma, but usually there are more than one influence for an ’original’ band. I was amazed at how untrue that was for Eskaton.

All told, this album captures almost everything I love about Magma, and only rips them off directly for a few seconds here and there. I honestly thought that I’d find this tedious and derivative to the point of mockery, but I was so wrong. Eskaton are a brilliant doppelganger, and if my pyrite necklace looks as good as your gold one, I’m satisfied. The musicianship might be one notch down from top notch, but is excellent and well presented. The vocals are nearly indistinguishable from Stella et al, but instrument for instrument, I’d say everyone is shy of their mentors’ talent. The keyboards are almost there, and the guitar holds up, but what was important for Magma were the bass and drums. Make no mistake about it, Konig and Bernardi are accomplished professional musicians, and this album wouldn’t be nearly as good without their musicianship. Compare them to Vander and Top, though, and they fall short. Without getting too involved in that idea, I must reiterate that this rhythm section blows away most bands I’ve heard recently.

My favorite moment on the entire album comes in "Pitié", where a quiet intro builds into rampant vamping on piano and bass. The bass line is so captivating and hectic, I dare say Bernardi tops Top in the groove department. The piano and drums carry it along, but it was the bass line that made me sit up in bed the second time I listened to this, mouth agape. It was an awed moment of aggression relieving tension rather than aggravating it.

That said, I feel it necessary to state once again that I usually don’t care for copy bands, and had low hopes for this. I was dead wrong, and strongly recommend this album to Magma diehards and zeuhl fans in general.

review by Gary Niederhoff — 1-24-03

Eskaton - 4 Visions (Progreviews - 2000/2008)

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Mise à jour : dimanche 30 septembre 2018