In 1968, French smalltown Maubeuge was giving birth to this fascinating avant-garde outfit that now boasts 13 albums, 17 videos, many soundtracks and music for shows, worldwide festival appearances plus numerous live and compilation disks. By the early 80's, ART ZOYD had already gone through over 30 musicians but the core always centered around composer and classically-trained violinist Gerard Hourbette and bassist Thierry Zaboitzeff.
Constantly evolving over the years, their music is always highly adventurous, drawing on elements of the modern classics (Bartok, Stravinsky), the chamber rock of Univers Zero, a bit of jazz, a good dose of zeuhl and lately, a penchant for electronics. Despite their lack of a drummer, their material is intensely rhythmic and largely relies on strings, horns and piano. Considered more 'neo-classical chamber' than truly rock, their energy level has the intensity of bands such as Magma and 70's King Crimson, with strong dynamics and atmospheric climaxes.
With each successive album, the rock aspect of their material slowly gave way to a blend of zeuhl and classical music, developing ever tenser and darker climates - surely not for the faint of heart. "Phase IV" (1982) is hailed as their all-time masterpiece and displays a remarkable "ear" for dense and dramatic textures. "Les espaces inquiets" (1983) is in the same vein but a bit more experimental, the music alternating between ominous, plodding parts with minimal instrumentation (usually a solo piano or organ) and faster, more frantic sections led by trumpet and strings. "Le mariage du ciel et de l'enfer" (1985) is perhaps the one that best displays the band's adventurous compositional sophistication while remaining reasonably digestible for new listeners. "Nosferatu" (1989), intended as a soundtrack to the classic silent film (and available as a sound ption on the Kino Video DVD of same), features nightmarish music that could wake the dead - albeit all too willing to oblige, no doubt. Finally, "Haxan" (1997), also a soundtrack for a silent film, shows the band at their most 'electronic'. It features UNIVERS ZERO's drummer Daniel Denis who mostly plays around with sample triggers (sequencers). A good sampler for ART ZOYD neophytes is their 1987 album "Les espaces inquiets / Phase IV / Archives II", made up of 32 tracks covering the two cd's plus a few extras.
If you get off on Univers Zero, Magma or RIO in general, if you have a passion for the likes of Bartok, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, you definitely should check out the music of ART ZOYD : it is risky, unsafe, dark, stirring and immensely stimulating.
The French avant-prog unit (with no member actually named Art Zoyd) formed around the core of bassist Thierry Zaboitzeff, percussionist Jean-Pierre Soarez, and violin player Gerard Hourbette, with guitarist Rocco Fernandez, pianist Patricia Dallio, percussionist Daniel Denis (who later formed Univers Zero) and a changing lineup of half-a-dozen additional instrumentalists. The group's first album, Symphonie Pour le Jour Ou Bruleront les Cites, was self-released in 1976, followed by albums for Recommended and the French Atem label. The year 1982 brought their acknowledged masterpiece, the double-LP Phase IV. Two subsequent albums, Les Espaces Inquiets and Le Mariage Du Cial Et de L'Enfer, were followed by a Zaboitzeff solo album, Promethee, in 1984. Zaboitzeff and Hourbette continued the group into the 1990s, composing the music for the Faust soundtrack album released in 1995 on Atonal. The Ubique live album followed in 2001, performed by a massive ensemble including Hourbette, Dallio, Denis, and Mirielle Bauer, a former member of Pierre Moerlen's Gong.