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Hector Zazou - Geographies: Made to Measure Vol. 5 [Crammed Discs - 2021]

Hector Zazou is a once prolific French composer and record producer who worked with, produced, and collaborated with an array of international recording artists including Robert Fripp, Peter Buck, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Gérard Depardieu, Asia Argento, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard Dead Can Dance as well as Tim Simenon of The Clash, to name just a few of the more famous figures from a distinguished career that has spanned five different decades and a host of albums both as an artist in his own right and within the confines of those various different groups/projects he has worked on. 

Recorded in Paris between 1982 and 1984, Geographies (released here as Vol 5 in Crammed’s Made to Measure series) features a large group of 25 musicians, giving the whole album the feel of an orchestral movie score. The album has an almost romantic feel to the majority of the songs featured, starting with the album opener, "Cinecittà", a track named after the Italian Film studio of the same name and hinting at his love of the soundtrack music produced by the likes of Bruno Nicolai, Riz Ortolani and Alessandro Alessandroni. This is followed by "Denise à Venise", a beautiful piano and vocal piece that can’t fail to enchant the listener, with its soaring female vocal harmonies. "Sidi Bel Abbès", is a string-led piece that features both male and female vocals, whereas "Pali Kao" is a far more Avant Garde selection. "Au Bout Du Monde", "Motel Du Sud" and "Sous Les Bougainvilliers" all draw from the same cinematic wellspring as much of what has gone before. The album has a distinctly cinematic flavour, which is most prevalent in the final song of the original album, "Des Cocotiers". This track reminds me heavily of Goblin and Georgio Gaslini’s score for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (1975) a personal favourite of mine and one that deserves to be heard by anyone who loves great 1970s movie scores. 

The rest of the album consists of 13 Proverbes Africains (pour quatuor vocal), 13 short classical vocal pieces that are based on African proverbs, which are potentially inspired by the Raymond Roussel story, Impressions d’Afrique, which it is believed that Zazou was particularly fond. In fact, Zazou staged a version of  Impressoins d’Afrique at the Pompidou Centre in Paris at some point in the late 1970s.  These thirteen tracks were originally included with the Made To Measure CD release of the album in the 1980s and feature on both the current CD release as well as the digital version. 

Geographies is a very pleasant listen, featuring lush strings, elegant piano and some quite stunning vocal harmonies. The inspirations are less Avant Garde than I first anticipated with Italian movie scores coming out on top among the myriad of influences on show here. Chamber music has never really been a popular listen in my house; however, this may lead me to re-evaluate my opinion of this style of music. It’s immersive and beautiful and one finds that it simply flows perfectly. 

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Darren Charles
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