Hector Zazou

Geographies/13 Proverbes Africaines

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Geographies was one of Hector Zazou's first ventures into an odd genre he would linger in for much of the next two decades: the soundtrack for an imaginary film. Mixing in influences from all across the stylistic spectrum, Zazou leavens the ingredients with an overriding sense of calm and even languor, his moody scores possessing a warm, humid quality. The pieces here are performed by what is essentially a chamber orchestra augmented by singers. Listeners familiar with his forays into Afro-funk (for example, Noir et Blanc with the Zairean singer Bony Bikaye) may be somewhat befuddled at the classical restraint shown here. There are tinges of a kind of neo-classical minimalism of the sort practiced by Wim Mertens, occasionally laced with a dab of British folk essence, as on "Vera C." There's a tension between this classical mode and the ambient feel Zazou was to go toward later in his career, and it's not always resolved successfully. The writing for strings and voices, especially, tends to be more academic sounding than one would desire, often conflicting with the softer reed textures. Only on "Au Bout du Monde" does Zazou allow himself to relax for an attractive Middle Eastern-flavored song. And the charming, quasi-orientalist "Des Cocotiers," with its innocent, childlike phrasing, gives an idea of his real capabilities. Geographies is not without its small pleasures and is interesting for sketching out an area of groundwork that would be better served in upcoming years.

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