Exposé Online banner

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.

by Mike McLatchey, Published 1995-11-01

EskatonWhile 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 80s 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 (of the Stella Vander / Lisa Deluxe type) 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, keyboard 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 - 4 Visions cassette coverEskaton'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 will certainly be the most important for progressive rock in 1995.

Eskaton - Musique Post Atomique coverIn 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 onto 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 vocalists' eerie Kobaïan-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 in 1983 after a few more years of gigging. 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.

Eskaton - Fiction coverUnfortunately, 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 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 80s. 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, the APM reissue of 4 Visions couldn't arrive any sooner.


Postscript: Of course, in the years since this profile was published, reissues have come and gone. Most recently, Soleil Zeuhl has turned their attention to 4 Visions, with bonus tracks and even a prestige LP edition.


Filed under: Profiles, Issue 8

Related artist(s): Eskaton

Latest news

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Steve Howe - Homebrew – This new CD is a collection of guitar pieces and song writing ventures by the noted Yes guitarist which covers a span of over twenty years work from several solo and band projects. Almost completely...  (1996) » Read more

Present - C.O.D. Performance – This is the latest release from guitarist Roger Trigaux's post-Univers Zero project. Trigaux and son Reginald are the only musicians listed, both are credited with playing guitar, vocals, and...  (1995) » Read more

Tod Dockstader / David Lee Myers - Bijou – Tod Dockstader is one of the grand old men of electro-acoustic music, and on Bijou he is teamed with David Lee Myers, who performs on “feedback machines.” From the cover to the booklet to...  (2006) » Read more

Volaré - Volaré – Volare are a five piece from Athens, Georgia, featuring multi-keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, bass+sax, cello+ocarina, and drums. Prior to their performance at Louisville's Eclectic...  (1997) » Read more

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing – After two years of playing astounding shows in the Bay Area and with a national tour under their belt, this band finally has an album out! Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is a Bay Area supergroup of sorts....  (2001) » Read more