Boomkat Product Review:
V-O-D kick off a keenly anticipated :Zoviet-France: reissue scheme with ‘Garista’, the sui generis Geordie unit’s 1982 debut slab of cranky, atavistic expression.
Industrial-not-industrial, ambient-not-ambient, and so on, ‘Garista’ gave the first glimpse of :Zoviet-France:’s sprawling, organically freeform soundworld on a self-released tape in 1982. Like cracking open Hellraiser’s puzzlebox, all the variegated, phantasmagoric hallmarks of their sound began to emerge from their debut side; from warped tape loops to bestial vocals, pebble-dashed percussion and genuinely unidentifiable, what-the-f*ck?! acousmatic sound and primitivist dubbing. Perhaps best framed as a sort of pseudo-ethnomusicology or a recce of the early ‘80s post-industrial wastelands - both sonic and quite literally the wrecked industry of England’s long-neglected North East region - their music spoke to everything and nothing simultaneously, and did so in an alien, made-up musical language, accent and syntax that’s never quite been fully deciphered or broken down, despite many journalistic attempts.
Then a trio revolving co-founders Robin Storey, Peter Jensen and Ben Ponton (the sole constant member since the band’s conception), :Zoviet-France: married art school sensibilities with a strong knowledge of the psychedelic music that came before them - krautrock/kosmiche, punk, noise, industrial - as well as a natural outsider and DIY attitude identifiable to North East folk and culture. But even still, :Zoviet-France: were out on their own, listening to the wind, scavenging sea coal and having a very unique form of craic that may seem like an inexplicable in-joke to those looking from outside in. However, their uncompromising resolve, inimitable fidelity and persistence would prove their efforts to be utterly singular and a crucial part of the musical-artistic landscape of the early ‘80s, both at home and abroad among a rhizome of tape collectors and swappers.
‘Garista’ is essentially the group’s ground zero, and has been out of print on all formats since a 1990 LP + CD reissue. If you’re diving into the :Zoviet-France: catalogue, it’s an important listen in order to grasp the group’s Cilice-like texture and acclimatise to their gravity.