- Influence Homage
By Adam Moore and Travis Moore
A new zeuhl album is a welcome sight for fans of the genre. French group Rhun’s Ïh certainly doesn’t disappoint, even if it doesn’t always appear to know what it’s trying to be. Comparisons to Magma are requisite, and to be sure, Rhun pays significant homage to Magma in numerous ways. The Kobaïan influence is obvious, with some vocal phrases appearing to be ripped almost exactly from a Magma album. Truly, there are parts of Ïh that could easily have been b-sides for the Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy, which is not necessarily a bad thing. For Magma fans, parts of this album will be instantly familiar and quite enjoyable.
That stated, Rhun does manage to avoid being only a Magma clone. Most notably, the instrumentation is often different than you hear in a typical zeuhl album. The inevitable fuzz bass is of course present, but the use of woodwinds is an interesting variation that sets the album apart from others like it. There’s also a rock in opposition feel that reminds of Univers Zero, which is mostly due to the woodwinds. The distorted guitars are reminiscent of Present. The use of saxophone will draw comparisons again to Koenjihyakkei and, to a lesser extent, Zao. The addition of the flute reminds of Dun’s Eros album, although Ïh feels more refined, at least in terms of production values. Production is a fair term here because at times the album plays like the soundtrack to an avant garde theatrical work. You can easily envision that many of the album’s musical segments could score whimsical dancing on a stage. With respect to the vocals, despite the Kobaïan feel to many parts, others are closer to the vocals of Koenjihyakkei or Ruins. There are actually various vocals styles throughout the album, including female voices that have an Eskaton flavor.
Despite all of their musical influences, Rhun has created something fairly unique and entertaining. With their choice of instruments, they manage to create many different moods and atmospheres, ranging from frenetic outbursts in the vein of Koenjihyakkei to soft, pastoral moments with delicate flute. There are ominous, plodding bass and guitar riffs, jazzy interplays, and looser, spacey atmospheres that even bring a Kraut Rock feel to segments of the album. This album certainly is not afraid of showing its influences.
It is worth noting that all of the musical mood and variation is accomplished without keyboards, another thing that sets Ïh apart from a standard zeuhl offering. Many zeuhl bands tend to be quite repetitive, often slowly developing and building on themes over extended lengths of time (sometimes ad nauseum). Rhun’s approach is to abruptly jump from idea to idea, and they do so often. This prevents the music from becoming boring, but some of the themes really could have used further development.
Overall the album is a fine example of zeuhl and a worthy addition to any collection, not only for zeuhl fans, but for those who appreciate avant garde music in general. Rhun certainly isn’t breaking new ground in any way, but they have combined the styles of their various influences such that the music sounds fresh and unique. It’s worth at least a few spins.
About the authors: Adam and Travis are brothers that have been listening to progressive and related genres of music since ages 11 and 9, respectively. Adam has a PhD in marriage and family therapy and Travis is completing a PhD in mechanical engineering. Both are avid music connoisseurs, and both write and record their own music. They have been recording together, mostly for themselves, as Ucleus, a zeuhl band, since 2005.