All audio equipment distorts sound to some degree and, eventually through mechanical and electrical failure, fucks it up. Since indeterminacy as a compositional parameter has been a constant in our work, this often produces what we regard as interesting new developments.
A collective of ethnomusicologists, sound explorers and pranksters/art terrorists, Newcastle UK based *ZF* were exploring sound phenomena for the past 3 decades. Although affiliated other UK bands/contemporaries, such as Throbbing Gristle, This Heat and Cabaret Voltaire, they sound little like any of them.
Just like Residents before them, the band intentionally refused to reveal their collective identities and while they were available for interviews, they decided not to focus on a specific image. The resulting obscurity and cryptic messages might not reveal anything – especially the sense of humor that the band possess – and it even led to some accusing the band of spreading the right-wing propaganda (which the band itself denied).
Originally mutating out of punk/post-punk/new wave / industrial background, the band took an original punk ethos of endless possibilities and run with it, as it became a creation of its own. They combined sampling, treated live instrumentation and tape loops and much of the music was born out of improvisation & subsequent painstaking editing. What resulted was not songs in any traditional sense, but sonic mazes and labyrinths, some of which were amazing complex, to the point where the band simply couldn’t reproduce them on stage. Their live shows always featured improvised material due to those same reasons.
Originally, the band (initially a trio of Ben Ponton, Robin Storey and Peter Jensen) started out in the early 80s by releasing an untitled/self-titled tape and further on, the band embarked on an incredibly prolific recording schedule – they started produced one or more records per year.
1982 saw the release of two albums at once – self-titled tape (often referred to as “Hessian album”) and Garista. Hessian was described by Trouser Press as ” a 12-inch 45 in a screen-printed cloth bag” which is “enthusiastically primitive and abrasive, with percussion and feedback as well as silly chanting, hyperactive bongo playing and the shrill piping of flutes.”, while Garista, according to TP, was described as poor sounding, silly and lacking percussion.”
83, 84 and 85 saw the releases of “Norsch”, “Mohonomishe”, “Eostre” and “Gris” albums all of which explored different moods and textures – Middle Eastern drones on Norsch, ambient electronics on Mononomishe and Eostre and ambient/industrial madness on 4-track EP Gris.
Mid 80s / 1985 also saw the release of ZF’s epic – 3 cd box set called “Popular Soviet Songs And Youth Music”. Trouser Press pointed out that “the set contains some of the band’s best material and some of its worst, sometimes jarringly juxtaposed.”
By the late 80s the band produced tetralogoy/4 album cycle titled “Charm, Cermeony, Chance, Prophecy” – “Misfits, Loony Tunes, and Squalid Criminals” / “Gesture, Signal, Threat” (both from 1986), “A Flock Of Rotations” and “Assault And Mirage” (both from 1987).According to Trouser Press, with CCCP cycle the band finally achieved something close to commercial quality, even if some of the tracks on albums were uneven.
The rest of ZF’s 80s output also includes Loh Land cassette (which, according to TP, despite of featuring production, is spectacular, with “40 minutes of voices singing and howling through flangers, delays and chorus boxes.”) and “Shouting At The Ground”, which also according to TP, contained some of the band’s finest material in the form of the track “Shamany Enfluence”.
By the early 90s the band produced three more new albums – “Look Into Me”, “Just An Illusion” (both from 1990) and “Shadow Thief Of The Sun” (from 1991). Each of the albums featured better production than their 80s output and much of the music also become more diverse/sophisicated, but unfortunately the band was also going through internal problems. As a result, original band members Robin Storey and Mark Spybey left the band (Storey started solo project Rapoon, while Spybey started Dead Voices On Air) and until the mid 90s the band released no new material, only live albums and a compilation called “Collusion”.
1995 finally saw the band producing a new studio material in the form of the album “Digilogue” -originally, avaialble only as a 5-track vinyl EP, it was reissued/expanded as a CD that contained 8 tracks, all in all. The band apparently lost none of its charm, as TP pronounced the record to be ” a stunning assemblage of densely layered textures, lysergic pulses, fragmented sounds and angelic maelstroms, none of which seem to originate from any recognisably musical source”. Mid 90s also saw the reissue of CCCP tetralogy and the release of “Unentitled” – an album contained three long tracks by ZF, Jim O’Rourke and Hafler Trio.
New millennium, saw the release of 2000 “Decriminalization Of Country Music: Themes For Tramway”, which the band recorded at a derelict Glasgow tram depot which was transformed into an art. Trouser Press caled the album “an elegant statement”, but also pointed out that it “pales next to some of the Zoviets’ greater achievements.”
Throughout next years, the band recorded sporadically, with their most recent release (as of 2009) being Shteirlel 8″ on Altvinyl label. Another important event was a creation of Reformed Faction (a.k.a. Reformed Faction of Zoviet-France) – new band that includes former ZF members Robin Storey and Mark Spybey (as well Andy Eardley, who, however, is no longer in the band). So far RFoZF produced two CDs and they also tour and record new material, independently of original Zoviet-France, which is centered around Ben Ponton.
Paolo Di Paolo
Mark Warren (Penumbra)
Untitled CD / LP / 12″ (Red Rhino, 1982 / Charrm, 1990)
Mohonomishe CD /2xLP (Red Rhino, 1983 / Charrm, 1990)
Norsch CD / 12″ (Red Rhino, 1983 / Charrm, 1990)
Eostre CD / 2xLP / Cass (Red Rhino, 1984 / Charrm, 1990)
Garista CD / LP / Cass (Singing Ringing, 1985 / Charrm, 1990)
Gris 10″ (No Man’s Land, 1985)
Popular Soviet Songs And Youth Music 3xCD / 2xCass (Singing Ringing + Red Rhino, 1985 / Staalplaat, 1994 / 2004)
Gesture Signal Threat Cass (Red Rhino, 1986 / Charrm, 1995)
Misfits, Loony Tunes And Squalid Criminals LP (Red Rhino, 1986 / Charrm, 1995)
A Flock Of Rotations CD / LP (Red Rhino, 1987 / Charrm, 1995)
Assault And Mirage Cass (Red Rhino, 1987 / Charrm, 1995 )
Loh Land CD / Cass (Staaplaat, 1987)
Shouting At The Ground CD / 2xLP (Red Rhino, 1988 / Staalplaat, 1992)
Just An Illusion CD (Staalplaat, 1990 / 2005)
Look Into Me CD / 2xLP (Charrm, 1990)
Live In My Livingroom Cass / CDr (ZH27, 1991 / 2008)
Shadow, Thief Of The Sun CD (DOVe, 1991)
Vienna 1990 CD (Charrm, 1991)
Collusion CD (The Grey Area, 1992)
What Is Not True CD (Charrm, 1993)
Unentitled (with Jim O’Rourke and Hafler Trio) CD (These, 1995)
Digilogue CD / LP (Soleilmoon, 1996 / 1998)
In.version CD (Charrm, 1996)
Mort Aux Vaches: Feedback CD (Mort Aux Vaches, 1998)
The Decriminalisation Of Country Music CD (Tramway, 2000)
Music For A Spaghetti Western CD (Klanggalerie, 2005)
Shteirlel 8″ (Altvinyl, 2008)
“Ram” on Touch – Lands End (Touch, 1985)
“Sprey” on Bad Alchemy #4 (Bad Alchemy Magazine, 1986)
“Le Mur Mur Nu” on Fight! (Cathexis, 1987)
“First Vigil” on A Classic Guide To No Man’s Land (No Man’s Land, 1988)
“White Dusk” on A Bead To A Small Mouth (Barooni, 1989)
“Le Mur Mur Nu” on Absolute (Soleilmoon, 1989 / Parade Amoureuse, 1989)
“Something This Beautiful” on Mouvements (La Legende De Voix, 1990)
“Voice Print Identification” on Objekt No. 4 (Ladd-Frith, 1990)
“Fugitive” on Death Of Vinyl (DOVe, 1991)
“Spike” on Bad Alchemy #20 (Bad Alchemy Magazine, 1992)
“Soft And Close By Me” on Melt / Dissolve (Work In Progress, 1992 / Fused Coil, 1996)
“I Felt The Breath Of My Assassin” on Sky Flowers & Horse Eggs (Hypnagogia, 1992)
“Synaesthetica” on Out There – A Thread Through Time (Pi, 1993)
“False Witness” on Total Vol.2 – The Body (Total Magazine, 1993)
“Daisy Gun” on Ambient 4: Isolationism (Virgin, 1994)
“Mir” on Mind The Gap Vol. 2 (Staalplaat + Gonzo Circus Magazine, 1994)
“L’Saram” on The Sound Works Exchange (The Sound Works Exchange, 1995)
“With Us Today” + “Sucking The Instrument” on Earth (D.O.R., 1996)
“On The Edge Of A Grain Of Salt” on In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze (Mille Plateaux, 1996)
“As Falls Snoqualmie, So Falls Snoqualmie Falls” on Slumbermusic (Universal Egg, 1996)
“Untitled” on Concept: A Compilation (Double Space, 1997)
“Improvisation” on Resonance Vol. 5 Number 2: Returning Radio (London Musicians’ Collective, 1997)
“Tuuschende Escalone” on Minimalism, More Or Less (Law & Auder, 1998)
“Untitled” on RRR500 (RRRecords, 1998)
“Temple Attic” on Marconi Point (Iris Light, 1999)
“Sifr” on Absolute Zero (Charrm, 2000)
“Untitled” on Deadly Actions Live Retrospective 1994-1996 (Nuit Et Brouillard, 2001)
“Bomber” on Recovery (Fractured, 2008)
Media Files / MP3: Ram