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Eskaton & Discography (Progarchives 1999+) (1999)

Eskaton biography

Formed in 1970, the ESKATON KOMMANDKESTRA continued the Zeuhl tradition spearheaded by Christian Vander’s MAGMA. In an move towards accessibility they discard the Kobaian lyrics, opting instead for their native French. In 1974 original members Xavier de Raymond (Fender piano), Gerard Konig (drums), Marc Rosenberg (bass guitar), and Alain Blesing (guitar) are joined by Paule Kleynnaert (vocals), Amara Tahir (vocals), Eris Guillaume (keyboards), and Andre Bernardi (guitar) becoming simply ESKATON.

1979 saw the release of their first single "Musique Post Atomique", and the recording of their first album "4 Visions" (which would remain unreleased until 1981). Personnell changes (Alain Blessing, Eric Guillaume and Xavier de Raymond out, Gilles Rozenberg and MALICORNE’s violinist Patrick Lemercier in) resulted in shorter songs, tighter arrangements and their next release, 1980’s "Ardeur". In 1983 after the addition of synthesizers into their arrangements, and a move away from their more traditional Zeuhl sound, ESKATON recorded their last release "Fiction". In 1984 Gilles Rozenberg left the group, and the remaining members recorded their last album "I Care", which was never released.

Now 20 years later, ESKATON remains one of Zeuhl’s brightest moments, and their album "4 Visions" (released on CD in 1995 through Sweeden’s Ad Perpetuam Memoriam label) is a masterpiece of the entire genre.

 : : : Tyler Chovski, USA : : :


Review by toroddfuglesteg / Special Collaborator Interview Editor

Their first recording if I am not wrong. This EP is totally sold out, according to the band. But both tracks are included as bonuses on the widely available Ardeur album so do not panic.
Both tracks here is pretty much like Magma type of Zeuhl. A formula Eskaton partly used on their style setting 4 Visions album before they went their own way and created their own universe.

What does this mean ? The two tracks here are jazz based with disharmonic female vocals and hammond organs. The rhythms are a bit repetetive and stakkato. This is very typical Zeuhl and can be compared to the first Magma album.

The quality is pretty good. I quite like this EP although the quality is merely good. But given that both tracks are available as bonuses on Ardeur, forking out a fortune on Ebay for this EP is a waste of money. It is a collector’s item and only that. Therefore ; two stars would suffice.


Review by Psychedelist

These two songs actually did appear on ’remastered/expanded’ Ardeur as bonus tracks. Still, I have something to say about exactly this, first official Eskaton’s release. Let’s start with the cover...
What. Is. This ? Some kind of French joke that I don’t know about ? An Avant-Garde statement ? An attempt to confuse future generation, say like "look at me, I’m either "industrial" or "acid house"" and further reaction like either "what a crap" or "WOW ! It’s Zeuhl !" ? Seriously, I do not understand and do not appreciate band’s use of the radiation motives in some of the artworks, and particularly, this, ummmm... skull. Maybe the key is the lyrics ("The song of the earth". Who knows ?...) I don’t care though. Eskaton’s music is creative and not destructive one. Now, let’s forget it. I didn’t see anything, and haven’t said anything.

So, two official first Eskaton’s songs. The sound is quite close to their future masterpiece, but this single shows that the band still was growing up at the moment, although already existed since early 70’s. Both songs are quite different to each other, and each one is good, memorable and enjoyable in its own way.

Le chant de la Terre. Somehow, this managed to be something between ’adventurous’ and ’mellow’ musical experience. There’s nothing exactly outstanding in arrangement’s quality and musicianship, it’s just well-played, but the composition is definitely good. In fact, style of the composition’s structure is very close to 4 Visions’ compositions, which is mostly expressed in use of nonrecurring themes. It’s a very pleasant listen, despite the highly unexpected and ambiguous final, directly after the part with the beautiful vocal solo.

If ...Something familiar, right ? No, I’m not about PF’s song (bah, I prefer Eskaton’s ’If’ to PF’s one, FWIW). Actually, if I was reviewing Ardeur now, I’d point out that the If’s melody at the first part is very similar to Couvert de gloire from Ardeur. So yeah, this is stylistically rather Ardeur’s song. Again, a very good and pleasant composition, with wordless chanting this time and some good nonrecurring parts as well.

4 VISIONS - Eskaton

Review by Dobermensch

An exciting, fast paced and complex Zeuhl album which is full of French female vocals that sound very uplifting to my tired and weary ears.
This is however, lightweight compared with the mighty and monstrous creators of Zeuhl - ’Magma’ who are a far more difficult and heavy listen at the best of times. That’s not to say this is a bad thing for Eskaton. Far from it, ’4 Visions’ will sound very accessible to all those who may say to themselves ’What the hell is this Zeuhl thing anyway, where on earth do I start ?’

All 8 members of this idiosyncratic French band give it their all for the duration of this recording. It skips about all over the place like an ice skater who’s about to fall flat on his face. Things are clearly under control however, where every beat and note sounds carefully placed and considered.

Unlike most Zeuhl albums there’s a fair chance you may actually have a tune swimming about your head that won’t go away after listening to this album. Yeah, I know, I find it hard to believe as well.

Eskaton, like many bands of that time were heavily influenced by the entirely unigue sound of Magma, but have produced here a playful and lighter outing that all adventurous and inquisitive souls should find rewarding.

All three of Eskaton’s albums are excellent and well worth checking out if you can get hold of them, however this one is probably the pick of the bunch. I can see no reason why this shouldn’t receive the full whammy of 5 stars, somewhat reluctant though I am. Aaah sod it... It’s a masterpiece...

4 VISIONS - Eskaton

Review by Warthur / Collaborator Crossover Team

A charming and accessible starter album for anyone exploring Zeuhl, Eskaton have the compositional approach of Magma down pat but particularly excel in incorporating synthesisers into the Zeuhl sound - and not just raw Heldon/Richard Pinhas-esque squawks, but rather beautiful and gentle synthesiser lines too. Though they couldn’t match the massed choirs of Magma - having only two vocalists - their compositions and performances on 4 Visions are no less powerful than their inspiration’s. Recorded before Ardeur but published after, 4 Visions is the true debut of Eskaton, and as others have pointed out is not an unreasonable way to begin exploring the Zeuhl sound, though they do drift dangerously close to being Magma clones at points.

4 VISIONS - Eskaton

Review by BrufordFreak

I was only introduced to Zeuhl three years ago (Thanks, ProgArchives !) through the mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, uplifiting, and mesmerizing experience of hearing Magma’s Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh. Such is my reverence and awe of MDK (which I consider one of the three greatest albums ever made) that I was almost afraid to try any other Zeuhl albums, much less try any other groups, listed under the Zeuhl sub-genre. After Köhntarkösz, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré, and K.A. I have finally ’risked it.’ And I am SO glad I did ! ESKATON, XING SA, JANNICK TOP, BONDAGE FRUIT, DÜN, UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA, GUAPO and KOENJI HYAKKEI are all wonderful. While I have yet to hear an album with the energy and impact of MDK, I am so glad to discover that there is diversity within the sub-genre. This album, 4 Visions, from way back in 1981, is probably my second favorite of the Zeuhl albums I’ve heard. (Clue : I keep choosing to play it over everything else in my collection right now.) I love the bass, French vocals, drums, and more extensive use of electronics than I’ve heard elsewhere within the sub-genre (yet). Plus, the album’s finale, "Le cri" is amazing ?among my favorite Zeuhl ’songs ;’ perhaps second only to "Da Zeuhl Wortz Mëkanïk." Great listen start to finish. And I love that I can make out and understand the lyrics. Without a doubt a 5 star masterpiece of progressive music.

4 VISIONS - Eskaton

Review by colorofmoney91

4 Visions by Eskaton is an incredible album. Something that I’ve always liked about most zeuhl is present in full force on this album : some straight-up funky-jazz bass playing with some nasty grooves. Each of the four tracks on this album flows through multiple of these amazing basslines, usually at high speed. The tone of the bass is even incredible and thick, and stands right out in the mix.
Aside from the great bass, the rest of this album is equally enthralling. Probably one of the most accessible zeuhl albums, 4 Visions features mostly catchy and repetitive melodies with straight forward yet powerful drumming with great energy and power. The experimental synthesizer effects also add a unique element to this band that I don’t remember hearing from Magma or Shub-Niggurath. One thing about zeuhl that I’ve never enjoyed much has been the vocals, because they’re usually overbearing with exceptionally headache-inducing vibrato. However, the two female singers on this album sound great, and they actually sound kind of cute. The French language is what I consider to be the most musical of all languages, and French is the language that these vocalists are singing in - think an operatic Edith Piaf. Very beautiful, even if the music backing them is somewhat dark and moody. Actually, it’s very dark and moody, but not so much as Shub-Niggurath. 4 Visions is also light on the avant-gardist touches that sometimes make this already eccentric genre seem like "too much, man", if you know what I mean.

This is one of my favorite zeuhl albums, as it’s completely captivating. Every single element on this album is 100% theatrical funky awesomeness. When George Clinton brought Parliament- Funkadelic to planet Earth, Eskaton was the band that decided to stay on their home planet.

Very super highly recommended.

4 VISIONS - Eskaton

Review by zravkapt / Collaborator Post Rock Team

If you are only going to get one Zeuhl album in your life, make it this one. Eskaton was my second exposure to Zeuhl(Magma being the first, obviously), thanks to PA. This album was recorded in 1979 but not released until 1981(on cassette only !). A lost gem that thankfully has gotten more respect as the years have passed. The music here is light years ahead of anything Yes or Genesis were doing between least as far as ’prog’ goes. If Magma scares you, you might find this more appealing. Listen to the stream of the song "Attente" here on PA ; if you don’t like that, chances are you will never get into Zeuhl. Eskaton are on the more accesible and rockin’ side of Zeuhl, as opposed to the more jazzy and avant end of the genre. This album was recently remastered and re-released. I have yet to hear the new version, but I don’t think the older version needed much sonic improvement.
The music on 4 Visions is a mix of hard rock, jazz rock, symphonic rock and electronics. A lot of the time there is an energy and intensity here which rivals some fusion and metal. All the singing is in French and is done by two women. Although slightly operatic at times, there is nothing here as crazy as some of the vocals you will find in Magma or Koenjihyakkei for example. The songs "Eskaton" and "Attente" were re-recorded in different arrangements for the band’s second album Ardeur ; why I don’t know, the versions here are a perfect example of "if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it". There is a nice blend of keyboards here : electric piano, organ and synthesizers. The bass has a sound that could rip your face off. The drumming and guitar playing never really stands out, but is well played. "Ecoute" and "Pitie" are not quite as good as the first two songs, but they are still great nonetheless. The newest version of the CD has a few bonus songs ; I haven’t heard these but the version I am familiar with has the song "Le Cri" added. It’s a good song but not as good as the four songs on the album.

Unfortunately, Eskaton’s next two albums are not as good as 4 Visions is. But as far as prog music in the early ’80s goes, there isn’t very much that is better ! If you can’t really get into Magma and are thinking about giving up on Zeuhl, I suggest you listen to this album or Weidorje’s only album. Magma may have invented this genre but they are not always the be all, end all of this kind of music. Highly recommended. I just can’t give this anything less than 5’s that good.

4 VISIONS - Eskaton

Review by Bonnek / Special Collaborator Prog Metal & Heavy Prog Teams

4 Visions is one of those albums that hits the floor running. A heavily pulsating distorted bass guitars and commanding pounding jazz-drums wipe out any doubt about this bands message : "We’re here to take Kobaia by storm !"
It took Eskaton 8 years to record their debut and 2 more years to get it released, as a result it sounds very indebted to Magma, but upon closer inspection there are some elements setting it apart from Magma and announcing a tighter and more rocking type of Zeuhl/Avant-Rock, reminding me as much of Magma as of more recent bands such as Guapo, Nebelnest and Nil who gave the heritage of Magma a new breath of life in the 00’s.

The basis of the sound borrows heavily from Magma : prominently pounding drums, a frenzied bass attack, 2 piano’s, organ, synths, female vocals and tasty guitar accents. There are no trumpets, no male vocals, no violin. Nevertheless it’s an impressive orchestra and the best thing is how Eskaton managed to make it sound tight and direct. Eskaton put much more focus on the songwriting and chose to only develop their best ideas instead of throwing in every idea at hand. Of course, words like ’tight’, ’direct’ are relative things in a Zeuhl context.

The dual soprano vocals are decisively Zeuhl but are more accessible then Magma. I wouldn’t say ’catchy’, as classic pop formulas don’t dare to come anywhere near to this album, but due to the use of French and the slightly more melodic approach, they are certainly more digestible. Again, take ’accessible’ and ’digestible’ for what they are with regards to Zeuhl

A last note to point out is the spacey atmosphere of this album. The organs, synths and guitar give the music a more psychedelic feel then Magma and turn this album into prog heaven for me. Just imagine, a hybrid of Zeuhl, dark rock and space-rock. On top, each of the tracks has a very distinct character, making for a varied listening experience. There’s even some synth work in Le Cri that sounds like Marillion’s Mark Kelly joined for a jam. Great work from keyboard player Gilles Rozenberg who shines on all moments that he touches on this album.

Highly recommended, both as an introduction to Zeuhl or as an extension beyond your Magma records.

ARDEUR - Eskaton

Review by Warthur / Collaborator Crossover Team

This one was recorded after 4 Visions but released earlier - 4 Visions having been hampered by its uncommercial structure. So, the band boiled down their Magma worship into smaller, bite-size chunks (though there is one longer song on here in the form of the 10 minutes long Dagon), but the tight song lengths does not mean they don’t capture the style of classic Magma wonderfully. Eskaton set themselves apart from their inspiration by a more prominent inclusion of modern synthesisers into their music, but otherwise create an album which will appeal to most Magma fans - and whilst it doesn’t measure up to Magma’s absolute best works, it gives the likes of Udu Wudu a run for their money and I’d say it’s clearly superior to Attahk.

ARDEUR - Eskaton

Review by toroddfuglesteg / Special Collaborator Interview Editor

The second album from Eskaton continues in the same vein as the debut album.
For those who loves Magma, Eskaton is another band they should engross themselves in. On this album, place themselves as a middle of the road Zeuhl band. The music is driven by female vocals, some very pulsating Hammond organ and other tangents. The bass and the drums is also cementing a jazzy, light sound. Light but also full of interesting details. There is not much darkness on this album. Still, this album is as intimidating as any other Zeuhl album.

The quality of the songs are good throughout the album. Good, but nothing more than that. The lack of stronger originality is a problem. That and the lack of some really killer tracks that gives this album an identity. Besides of these gripes, this is an enjoyable Zeuhl album.

Eskaton & Discography (Progarchives 1999+)

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Mise à jour : dimanche 30 septembre 2018