Le Mariage du Ciel et de l'Enfer (1985) announced a transformation in Art Zoyd's sound, a move away from acoustic instruments, replaced by multi-layered keyboards. Two years later Berlin confirmed the new direction, establishing a sonic framework that would remain unaltered for more than a decade. Exit trumpeter Jean-Pierre Soarez and saxophonist Didier Pietton. André Mergenthaler fills the gap with his cello, alto sax, and percussion, thus bringing the group to the size of a quartet with Patricia Dallio, Gérard Hourbette, and Thierry Zaboïtzeff. Cello, violin, and saxophone still have a place in the picture, but they are constantly dominated by the keyboards, which serve as both the rhythmical and harmonic purveyors -- except for a few passages of snare drum and tom-toms, the role of percussion has been reduced considerably. Berlin is not Art Zoyd's best effort -- the film trilogy (Nosferatu, Faust, Häxan) would achieve better results with the same ingredients. Yet, even though the music has slightly ossified, it remains genuine Art Zoyd music: doom-laden, disquietingly martial, the chamber music of hell if Satan were a Nazi. The album takes the form of two 20-minute suites and five shorter pieces. "Epithalame," the first suite, moves about slowly but has a few nice shifts that keep it interesting. "A Drum, a Drum" includes lyrics (taken from Shakespeare) sung by Mergenthaler, and presents in 20 minutes what the horror film trilogy would rework in three hours. Hourbette's "Petite Messe à l'Usage des Pharmaciens" (Short Mass for Pharmacists, in three parts) introduces a lighter side, but it hardly manages to be more than filler material. A decent album nevertheless, Berlin does not deserve to be overlooked.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture