Exposé Online banner

Of all the musicians and groups most influenced by Magma and zeuhl music, Eskaton may have been the most impressive of all. While beginning their careers with strong influences by Magma in both name (Eskaton Kommandkestra) and music, the Parisian group slowly and carefully forged their own view of celestial music over three albums and a single.

by Mike McLatchey, Published 1995-11-01

EskatonWhile the group's members were as few as four and as large as eight, the music consistently remained at a high level throughout its career before vaguely disbanding in the mid 80s after recording their unreleased fourth album. The music throughout their career held a discernible Magma influence but it must be said that while Magma may have been some sort of stylistic prototype to the group, Magma's penchant for striving for originality also has a mark on Eskaton as the group would move farther and farther away from their roots as time went on. However it can't be ignored that a strong Magma feeling is to be found in the bass playing (the schools of Moze, Top and Paganotti), the vocals (of the Stella Vander / Lisa Deluxe type) and rhythms.

Xavier De Raymond (Fender piano), Gerard Konig (drums), Marc Rozenberg (bass), and Alain Blesing (guitar) shortened the name to Eskaton around the time they lengthened the line up to include vocalists Paule Kleynnaert and Amara Tahir, keyboard player Eric Guillaume, and guitarist Andre Bernardi. It was this line-up that gigged from 1974 to 1977, often selling out venues. After a short break-up while several members left for their tour of national service, the band returned and opened for Magma, their musical father figure.

Eskaton - 4 Visions cassette coverEskaton's 4 Visions was recorded around 1978-9 and was not resurrected until Archie Patterson released it on his Eurock cassette label in 1981 (EC81002). While Marc Rozenberg had switched from bass to keys and Gilles Rozenberg had since replaced De Raymond on keys, Bernardi moved from guitar to bass, and it’s his incredible impetus that makes 4 Visions one of the greatest of French progressive music's successes. The rhythm section is certainly in the Magma style circa 1975, yet the melodies and dissonances of Eskaton's music are entirely their own. Vocalists Kleynnaert and Tahir often express themselves in unusual sounding chromatic scales that come closer in sound to new music groups like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd. The keyboards also have a distinct Magma influenced style, a conglomerate of influences such as Jean-Philippe Goude or Benoit Widemann certainly are at work here. The four long tracks are very dynamic and filled with an incredible spiritual intensity that range from ethereal to a harsh angst. An almost forgotten masterpiece, the CD reissue by Ad Perpetuam Memoriam will certainly be the most important for progressive rock in 1995.

Eskaton - Musique Post Atomique coverIn April 1979, the band recorded their first vinyl release, the single "Musique Post Atomique" (E01) which included "Le Chant de la Terre" and "If." Well received amongst the progressive underground, it gave a foretaste for their first full length vinyl release to come.

Around this time, guitarist Alain Blesing would leave, as would Eric Guillaume. Alain Blesing would go onto record Faeria with his group Foehn, a music some ways away from the hard driving Eskaton. Along with the fantastic violinist from Malicorne, Patrick Lemercier, the shortened down band recorded the album Ardeur (E 38001) which was released in 1980. Ardeur was an absolutely mind-numbing blast of music. The two vocalists' eerie Kobaïan-like phrasing of the French language spins circles around the music, creating very unusual harmonic structures. The shorter songs (including new versions of "Attente" and "Eskaton" from 4 Visions) make the music that much more direct and intense, and it seems that the band was a lot tighter as a six piece. In summary Ardeur is no less a classic than its predecessors.

The same line-up recorded Eskaton's last album, released in 1983 after a few more years of gigging. Fiction (E 38301) shows Eskaton dropping many of their overt Magma references, and showing more experimentation with keyboards and especially synthesizer. The music is very cathartic and anthemic, with the vocalists taking each other to new heights. By this point it seemed that the band were moving more and more away from their roots into a distinct and original direction.

Eskaton - Fiction coverUnfortunately, Fiction would be their last.

After Gilles Rozenberg departed in 1984 (Paule Kleynnaert would double on keys from then on) the band would go on to record their fourth effort I Care in 1985. Unfortunately (besides the track "La Lutte," which was included on Musea's Enneade compilation in 1986) the band would no longer see its music released, and eventually somewhat disbanded in the late 80s. Although the musicians still keep in contact, there are no immediate plans for the future.

Eskaton were one of the greatest of all of the French rock groups, the Magma references seem incidental in the light of the very powerful music they created for themselves and their audience. All of their music comes highly recommended, the APM reissue of 4 Visions couldn't arrive any sooner.


Postscript: Of course, in the years since this profile was published, reissues have come and gone. Most recently, Soleil Zeuhl has turned their attention to 4 Visions, with bonus tracks and even a prestige LP edition.


Filed under: Profiles, Issue 8

Related artist(s): Eskaton

Latest news

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more

2018-05-14
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more

2018-04-05
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more

2018-04-04
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more

2018-03-01
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Ash Ra Tempel - The Best of the Private Tapes – Ash Ra Tempel is one of the core founder bands of the German space rock movement along with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. But the group has suffered from less stateside notoriety than those previous...  (1999) » Read more

Laren d'Or - War of Angels – The same veiled (an under-promoted!) Hungarian label that is teasing us with Talizman, and After Crying, now goes to the other side for a symphonic keyboard recording by Laren d'Or. A solo project?...  (1999) » Read more

My Sleeping Karma - My Sleeping Karma – My Sleeping Karma are four guys living in the middle of Germany hard at work crafting and playing minimal retro-psychedelic music that can easily stand up to Harmonia’s Krautrock masterpieces...  (2008) » Read more

Flower Kings - Instant Delivery – Instant Delivery is a concert video shot in Holland during The Flower Kings’ 2006 Paradox Hotel tour. The intent with this 2-DVD set was to present the group’s show in as straightforward a...  (2008) » Read more

Joe Jackson - Summer in the City: Live in New York – Leave it to musical chameleon Joe Jackson to twist the standard pop jazz arrangement of a few well known pop tunes and provide further proof of his oft-ignored creative genius. Dipping into his 60s...  (2001) » Read more