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Music / Zoviet France

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Zoviet France (usually written as :zoviet*france: or :$oviet:france:) is an enigmatic collective of post-industrialists and self-proclaimed Droneologists who formed in 1980 near the dreary town of Newcastle upon Tyne. With a career spanning nearly thirty years, they have made a considerable impact on the post-industrial scene, creating haunting and desolate soundscapes with a flare of tribal and ritualistic ambient.

The group is well known for their unconventional album packaging. The first few albums came in everything from Masonite wood and hessian bags, to aluminum foil and roofing shingles. Many of these editions are handmade and commend a premium on online auctions.

Studio album Discography:

  • Garista 1982 (self released cassette with a muslin insert covered in creosote)
  • Untitled 1982 (usually referred to as :$oviet:france:, or The Hessian album, as its outer packaging was a silk-screened burlap bag)
  • Norsch 1983 (packaged in an Aluminum foil sleeve)
  • Mohnomishe 1983 (packaged between two hard Masonite board's secured with a red chord)
  • Eostre 1984 (came with a large fold out cover)
  • Popular Soviet Songs and Youth Music 1985 (Two Cassettes packaged in a clay pot)
  • Gris 1985 (10in EP packaged in a Roofing shingle)
  • Misfits, Loony Tunes and Squalid Criminals 1986 (part one of the four part Charm, Ceremony, Chance and Prophecy series)
  • Gesture Signal Threat 1986 (part two of the Charm, Ceremony, Chance and Prophecy series)
  • A Flock of Rotations 1987 (part three of the Charm, Ceremony, Chance and Prophecy series)
  • Assault and Mirage 1987 (part four of the Charm, Ceremony, Chance and Prophecy series)
  • Loh Land 1987
  • Shouting at the Ground 1988 (arguably their New Sound Album)
  • Just an Illusion 1990 (first edition came in a wood box)
  • Look into Me 1990 (originally recorded back to back with Shouting at the Ground in 88 but was held back from release.)
  • Shadow, Thief of the Sun 1991 (their darkest, and conversely their Dreariest album)
  • Collusion 1993 (a compilation of various tracks that appeared on various compilation albums, effectively making this a "compilation of compilations". Where the infamous "Jim Jones attorney" speech comes from.)
  • Digilogue 1996 (the cd and vinyl editions contain vastly different iterations of various tracks)
  • The Decriminalisation of Country Music: Themes For Tramway 2000 (soundtrack to an abandoned tram station in Glasgow, Scotland turned into an art installation.)
  • Music for a Spaghetti Western 2005 (a collection of various unreleased tracks, some of which go back to the early days of the band.)
  • shteirlel 2008 (unremarkable except for the fact that the vinyl is entirely square in shape)
  • 7.10.12 2012 (contains a 7"inch, a 10"inch and a 12"inch album in a black clam shell package with a vial of dried hawthorn berries and a sheet pressing of a neolithic carving released on October 7th 2012)
  • The Tables are Turning 2013 (a soundtrack for performing bodies, an art ballet where the performers slowly strip naked while revolving on turning tables. Comes in a hand sown bag.)

Le Musicians de Soviet France contain examples of:

  • Alliterative Title: The title of the Charm, Ceremony, Chance, Prophecy series of albums.
  • Corrupted Data: a common motif with the group and part of their sound, they rely heavily on the decomposition of both their instruments and even their recording devises to create an air of intangibility. Digilouge evokes this to a T, from the random clippings and chirpings to the art work dipicting a Matrix Raining Code-like corruption of a computer system.
  • Darker and Edgier: Hard to believe but their 90’s run is usually listed as such, Especially to their move towards dark ambient. Shadow, Theif of The Sun and Digilogue come to mind.
  • Distinct Double Album: Popular Soviet Songs and Youth Music. The album contains two cassettes packaged in a clay pot. Included in said pot is a Muslim-silk American flag with Hammer and sickles in place of stars, an instruction sheet in English, French and Spanish detailing the various uses of the pot (i.e. improvised musical instrument.) Oh yeah… Did I mention the Radioactive seagull feathers glued to the back?
  • Drone of Dread: Their live albums fit prominently but several tracks are worth mention: Dust Deofol, Come Infinite and The Death of Trees all feature some pretty unsettling tones to them.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first few albums were made up of enough noise, ritualistic ambient, harsh earsplitting screams and Musique concrète to make Frank Zappa proud. The latter ones are made up of more Ambient/Drone and are tamer by comparison, but not by much…
  • Everything Is an Instrument: very much a staple of the group, their 80’s years especially. Utilizing walkie-talkies, homemade kalimbas, slide whistles and simple two way tin can phones to create some of their distinct sounds.
  • Gorn: The inlay for Loh Land depicts a broken rib cage and spine lying on black rocks.
  • Harmful to Touch: Their debut album Garista came with a muslin silk inlay that was coated in creosote (in large doses it can be quite carcinogenic). Also of note are the radioactive Seagull feathers that came glued to the packaging of Popular Soviet Songs and Youth Music. It's debatable if both these items still retain their potency 30 years from their conception, so be warned.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: The cover of their most recent album, The Tables are Turning features a naked woman with her discarded robe wrapped around her legs.
  • Industrial: Of the Tribal / Ambient variety.
  • Live Album: Quite a few. Vienna 1990 and What is Not True consist of mainly garbled and murky droning for an hour. One of their bootleg albums is even called Live in My Livingroom. When the club that they were scheduled to perform at mistakenly booked someone else, the members of the group's response was: "Whose apartment can we play at?"
  • Lighter and Softer: Surprisingly they are capable of this, Something This Beautiful from Collusion starts off with some of the most beautiful harmonies put to tape and even when it verges into the more frenetic parts it still doesn't lose its softness.
  • Lucky charms title: :$oviet:france: on their first two albums, they would switch the logo constantly throughout the 80's, going from literal fake symbols that spelt out their name until around the late '80s to early '90s when they Settled with :zoviet*france:. The art work usually depicts a crescent moon under the asterix.
  • The Monolith: A semicircle one fits prominently on Shouting at the Ground surounded by a savannah.
  • New Sound Album: It's debatable since there albums very considerably. Mohnomishe can be considered because it switched direction from batshit insane tribal/musique concrète to a more atmospheric sound.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Carole The Breedbate from Shouting at the Ground. Definitly.
  • Revolving Door Band: Although the musicians who participate in the band prefer to remian annonymous, Zoviet France has been prone to this since its conception. Ben Ponton has been the only consitant member and is currently the other half of the current group, along with Mark Warren.
  • Sampling: A creepy example in Ram. Which was from an old telecast of Jim Jones attorney commenting on the Jonestown Massacre, it gets very unsettling when the actual song comes in.
    • "Voice Print Identification" contains over 10 minutes of some of the most obscure vocal samples drawn out into an industrial song, with startling effect.
    • "They're Eating the Passengers" from Misfits, Loony Tunes and Squalid Criminals features samples from the cockpit radio of Captain John Testrake and the radio control tower of Beirut International Airport during the highjacking of TWA Flight 847 on June 14, 1985.
  • Title-Only Chorus: While not technically the title Mudbast Boys, Ji Boys from The Hessian Album and Rangmabasm from Garista counts (the latter being the album title). The title track from Gris as well.
  • Torture Cellar: Envoked on Mounw from The Hessian Album.
  • Word Salad Title: Practically every song they've ever released is a jumbled Scrabble word, some of their albums count too. (Gesture Signal Threat, Misfits, Loony Tunes and Squalid Criminals, A Flock of Rotations etc.)