Originally published October 12, 2011 and moved forward to highlight their new album Scherzoo 02.
François Thollot - Ceux D'en Face. 2000 Soleil Zeuhl
François Thollot - Contact. 2002 Soleil Zeuhl
Scherzoo – 01. 2011 Soleil Zeuhl
Scherzoo - 02. 2012 Soleil Zeuhl
Scherzoo - 03. 2015 Soleil Zeuhl
I haven't heard Ceux D'en Face to date, though my understanding is the percussion consists of drum machines, which takes away my enthusiasm for it. In addition, I have yet to pick up Scherzoo 03, given my apprehension towards the direction taken on Scherzoo 02. The band is still active through the summer of 2016.
Though a percussionist by trade, Thollot's second solo album Contact features his guitar and keyboard work. Thollot then went about to recruit the rhythm section of One Shot (a band created as an offshoot of the Magma reunion), and released this one incredibly powerful album.
In fact, I'd say Contact is one of the Top 10 albums of the last decade - and that's quite an achievement in a very busy, and very qualified ten years. What Thollot managed to create is an album about as close to Heldon's Stand By as you'll ever find post-1979. Stand By as many of you know, was Richard Pinhas' swansong for the famed Heldon, and he must have left the studio still smoldering from the inferno he had just unleashed. It's also worth noting that Stand By was the one time that Pinhas had incorporated a little bit of the Zeuhl style, and the mix was a stroke of brilliance. In that manner, Contact is basically intense guitar filled electronic rock with a Zeuhl undertone as provided by the One Shot guys. Absolutely stunning album.
Scherzoo is lead by Francois Thollot, whose Contact album was one of the finest albums from the last decade, as noted above. Thollot has been in a couple of bands since then, and I've been wondering what he would come up with on his next album. With Scherzoo he's back behind the drum kit, with a full band in front of him including guitar, bass, piano and alto sax. Make no mistake though, this is Thollot's band, and these are his compositions.
The music definitely has a Zeuhl underpinning in the rhythms, though the lack of vocals (wordless or otherwise) drifts the music further from the source. The heavy guitar reminds one of Eider Stellaire, though again I'd say Scherzoo are more Avant Progressive than Zeuhl. In the end they come across like recent Nebelnest with a dash of the Dutch group Blast. If I was to nitpick, I'd say that on the first two tracks (roughly 15 minutes), the sax is a little unhinged for my liking. Too much squealing, squeaking and honking for me. But fortunately the remaining 40 minutes demonstrates some restraint and he seems more a part of the ensemble, rather than an instrument that stands out and needs to tighten a screw. A very good album, and I'm most curious where Thollot goes from here. Count me in as a fanboy.
Though released on the Soleil Zeuhl label, I think the users of RYM are right in labeling this band (on their debut) Avant Progressive first, and Zeuhl second. Scherzoo 02 dabbles in both styles, though I think the scales are tipped even further towards the dissonant avant prog methodology. It appears Present is a good blueprint here, with the addition of squonking sax - perhaps to its detriment. I'm really torn on Scherzoo. I want more of Thollot's Heldon-like Contact mixed with the Zeuhl styling of his latest outfit. Which isn't fair of course, since that's not what Scherzoo is about. But then again, as a consumer, who says I have to be fair? They're going in the wrong direction as far as I'm concerned and I may need convincing to go further with them. I think I just lost fanboy status.
Last update: July 22, 2016