Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Art Zöyd—
Sangria/Something In Love


Released 1971 on Opaline
The Seth Man, March 2006ce
The first Art Zoyd recording couldn’t be further removed from the sounds of the later, self-named ensemble for as it’s a weird anomaly far snottier, far shorter in length and leagues more Rock than their better known variety of intensely foreboding rhythmic merging and converging instrumental chamber music accompanied in live performances by a variety of doomsday scenarios flickering in back projection behind the extended group and their technological monolith of keyboards and electronic processing units entirely silhouetted but for their display of tiny galaxies of green and red LED lights as ominous portents of imminent doom... In other words, this single was Art Zoyd in name alone and bore even less of a resemblance to the rest of AZ’s output than the Relf-led Renaissance did to the completely different grouping of musicians who inherited their name to continue with new vocalist Annie Haslam.

Formed in Valenciennes, France in 1969 by poly-instrumentalist Rocco Fernandez, Art Zoyd at this stage did not consist of people with the demeanour of stern, totalitarian regime-oppressed Eastern European doormen poured severely into matching, Kronos Quartet-styled black turtlenecks. Instead, Art Zöyd at the onset of their extended run were more drool than Zeuhl for they not only had an umlaut over the ‘o’ but were five ingrown longhairs who unleashed a furious and highly regimented sound that was a fever-pitched equestrian charge of the High Brigade directly into the maw of obscurity worlds away from every other Art Zoyd recording extant. So it was little surprise that the lineup of Fernandez on vocals and triple-neck guitar (two guitar necks and the third connected to, unbelievably, a stylophone) leading the four-man Zöyd comprised of Patrick Zoltek on rhythm guitar, Serge Armelin on saxophone, Jean-Paul Dulion on bass and Claude Asencio on drums had split long before AZ’s first album “Symphony For the Day When The Cities Will Burn” finally touched down in 1976.

“Sangria” opens with a welter of cross-stitched fuzz rhythm guitar and into a protracted introductory vocal harmonising “aaaahhhhhhh” that draws out long enough to modulate in pitch to a near-orgasmic female choir on a rollercoaster steeping down at a lunch-losing angle. A series of tightly arranged sequences proceed over the din of prominent crosstalk riffing, prominent bass and a clatter of drums that gallop at a cantor over a heat hazed, sandy horizon with pennants all aflutter. The title is rendered almost as a tribal chant of warrior horsemen calling for victory against their foes until their resolve has somehow slipped, and they’re giddily proclaiming something more along the lines of “I scream, you scream, we all scream for SAN-GRAY-AH!” and charging a mirage of cavalry half naked while exhaling ‘nother balloonful of nitrous oxide. Sax-man Armelin weaves right in to telegraph a flurry of clipped and quickly articulated Middle Eastern bagpipe notes to signal said mirage’s evaporation. The band all halt, one member whispers “Sangria...” and that sets the rollercoaster to bear down once again at ninety degrees and they’re off once more in raggedy formation with their helmets on sideways attacking the nearest oasis in their collective mind (give or take a few thousand less brain cells.) It fades off into the distance all too soon, ushered out with a jumble of clip-clopping rhythms and only languid attempts at vocalisation.

Co-written by Fernandez with bassist Dulion, the other side of “Something In Love” begins with belabored cowbell strikes that automatically bring to mind “Honky Tonk Women” or “Mississippi Queen” until a saxophone signature cuts in to make you think all is about to embark into errant jazz-rock terrain. Luckily, to confound and compound the formulaic teases comes bursting forth a guitar riff to both halt and lose the breath for it holds all the raw drive and blazing fuzz guitar sunbursting sustain of The Amboy Dukes’ “Journey To The Center Of The Mind” and soon enough, is skittering over harmony vocals discharged loud as hell that boom with the reverb severity of the aforementioned track and “Bus Stop”-era Hollies combined. Sounds like Fernandez is unleashing his 6- or 12-string barrage via some customisation to his multi-necked guitar (perhaps rigged to the third stylophone neck) but only channeled through a variety of effect pedals to sound one part fuzz, one part Leslie, one part chorus and all parts fucked. And the three solos he manages to wedge in spark like an overloaded transformer in a soundscape already punished with heated circuitry about to blow as the following decree is bellowed:


“Something in love is grand...!/Something in love is grand...!/And happy...”
“Today my love comes down...!/And now I resort to cry...!”


...and that is the ENTIRE set of lyrics. If you discount the verse-ending proclamation (“OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”) that rises uncontrollably into a shrieking, screaming blue murder hissy fit, that is. The final solo rears and bucks out of range of all of Fernandez’s assembled gizmos as it flies apart with a shuddering abandon of machine-gunned-against-the-wall staccato. Oh, yeah it’s garage punk, all right. And to think it was splattered all over the B-side of an Art Zöyd 45 is just plain unlikely, damn weird, and how I wish they’d recorded a full album of this sort of thing.

But by the following year, it was already too late. Art Zöyd were a completely different lineup assembled around Fernandez and with it, a completely different musical direction as evidenced by a 1972 audience recording made at the Parisian club Golf Drouot which surfaced on the AZ compilation “Files III.” Exhibiting a shift towards Zappa-influenced improvisational hi-jinks, it was probably as much the end result of the group weathering constant changes in personnel and group chemistry as a desperate grasp towards some sort of common ground among highly incongruent parties (Much in the way The Pink Fairies had to contend with newcomer Mick Wayne’s persistence with rehearsing Zappa’s “Big Leg Emma” until this and other sundry incompatibilities caused his imminent dismissal from the band.) The following two years saw AZ continue in a constant state of flux, with Fernandez accompanied by Jean Pierre Soarez on sax/trumpet, Thierry Zaboitzeff on bass and Gerard Hourbette on wah-wah violin and an ever-rotating cast of drummers. By 1975, Fernandez finally parted ways with the group he had formed and nurtured and with it, all future musical endevours.

As fortune would have it, the classically-inclined newcomers Zaboitzeff and Hourbette would be destined to carry on the Art Zoyd banner up to the present day. Dropping the umlaut and with continual reconfigurations in personnel and instrumentation, their albums would more often than not bear more than a passing resemblance to Magma, but only if they’d mutinied against Mister Christian and forced both him and his drum kits to walk the plank and were fronted in its place by a chamber quartet with a penchant for dark instrumental themes performed at a variety of intense, rhythmic tempos of mournful and at times transcendental neo-classical movements to make even the most ardent of Gorecki aficionados weep. But it was a long, long way from the crazed Rock that Art Zöyd first laid down on one single and for one single only... with its sleeve notes translating roughly into a series of cryptic pronouncements that could have been daubed over the doorway of their future in the ink of their dreams:


“Wolf sacrifice with the rat, free spirit with the pack...
Spirit with the rat, race with door zoyd...
Does thorny branch with the rat arrive? Amen...
Zoyd hard mound, dying ground! Amen...”