"Sortie 134 (Part I)" by Art Zoyd from the Album '44 1/2: Live and Unreleased'(Cuneiform Records).
Trying to make France's Art Zoyd fit into a single neat description is an exercise in futility. Sometimes they're fiendish sonic saboteurs bent on destroying listener's preconceptions about the way music works. Sometimes they're musical sorcerers conjuring strange but bewitching moments of lyrical beauty.
You could call them the original post-rock band, moving on from the dark, stormy sounds of prog legends like Magma and King Crimson to something that makes even those fearless explorers sound conventional by comparison. You'd be equally accurate in dubbing them avant-classical composers, whose experimental visions are influenced by Stravinsky and Schoenberg.
They were charter members of the notorious Rock In Opposition movement alongside the likes of Henry Cow and Univers Zero. They're impressionistic soundtrack composers. They're a band. They're a multimedia collective. Ultimately they're simply Art Zoyd. And it takes a document as massive and monumental as the 12-CD/2-DVD set 44 ½ to even come close to offering a comprehensive picture of what they're all about.
Containing hours of live and unreleased material from the vast Art Zoyd archives, 44 ½ delves into the dense jungle of wildly diverse periods in a story that goes all the way back to the '70s. But it also provides many of the missing links in their long, knotty discography, filling in the gaps between their official releases and weaving together all of Art Zoyd's disparate stylistic strands into a majestic, multicolored, even imposing tapestry.
Whether they were warping centuries-old classical styles with their sonic funhouse mirror in a piece for the 1989 bicentennial of the French revolution, transforming themselves into an alternate-universe jazz trio in their 1983 accompaniment to Didier Fusillier's play L'Etrangleur est Derriere Vous, or indulging in the unabashed beauty of the piano and choral voices on "Debut" three years later for another of Fusillier's works, Terra Terra, Art Zoyd has consisted flouted expectation at every juncture throughout a long, prolific career. And now, with the arrival of 44 ½, we can finally get a long view of all their most compelling twists and turns along the way.
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