Art Zoyd — Faust
(In-Possible AZ 2001, 1996/2002, CD)
by Mike Ezzo, Published 1997-02-01
It's been too long since I've heard anything by Art Zoyd. They have continued down their unique path begun on L'Enfer, taking them in recent years to the macabre soundtracks of German Expressionist film maker, F.W. Murnau. The previous outing saw them tackle Nosferatu. I honestly don't think there exists a group anywhere whose music is more suited to these early silent films. Not just because of the disturbing menace inherent in the Art Zoyd ethos, but because of their ability to concoct the most chilling mood, with such a dearth of raw materials. Restraint is really the name of the game, especially with these soundtracks, and Thierry Zaboitzeff and crew have proven throughout their career a sensibility to this that utterly defies description.
Faust has been performed live recently as a quartet, including Daniel Denis (of Univers Zero) on drums. And of course the music is all composed to sync perfectly with the accompanying film. Hence, it is divided into many different "scenes," twenty in all, most of which are very short. They all segue, and the whole production clocks in at 60 minutes. Sneeze, or go out for popcorn and you miss a sizable chunk. Film music often succeeds in inverse proportion to how well it stands alone as abstract music. So as I listened I tried to imagine myself watching the film. Familiarity with Goethe's version of the legend helped a lot, and while I'd say there are certainly two or three sections that fall into the you-had-to-be-there category (especially the finale, "Accelerando," which is nothing more than... well, an accelerando), the remainder speaks quite convincingly in and of itself. My only gripe is that Daniel's acoustic drumming is scant, to say the least. Apart from a few of his signature snare drum phrases, you would never guess he's anywhere on this. I was really looking forward to hearing a discernible percussion contribution, like that on Génération sans Futur.
Instrumentally Art Zoyd have gone through a big metamorphosis over the years. Gone are the trumpets, violin, sax, tape-manipulation, and most of the cello and piano as well. Samplers and synthesizers are the main event now, supplemented by percussion. And yet, just as much painstaking effort goes into their musical craft, transcending the clichés and obvious temptations inherent in the technology trap. Every scene is treated in a completely unique way so that no one passage resembles any other. Nevertheless it all bears the unmistakable mark of France's most individual ensemble. Neo-gothic avant symphonic music that embraces futuristic methods of composing, but severs no awareness of traditional musical practice. Art Zoyd again prove they are masters of their craft.
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more