Everything about Zoviet France is shrouded in mystery.
From the evolving stylization of the groups moniker (it has at times been :$OVIET:FRANCE:, Soviet France, :zoviet-france:, and most commonly :zoviet*france:), to the unconventional packaging of their releases employing materials such as hessian, tar paper, ceramic, felt, wood veneer and aluminium foil, to the largely anonymous rotating cycle of members throughout the years (co-founder Ben Ponton and Mark Warren would be appear to be the only two recent constants), Zoviet France has put out a large number of industrial and dark ambient recordings since their inception in 1980. In the groups own words -
":zoviet*france: is an idiosyncratic collective of anonymous postindustrialists, dronologists, and pseudo-ethnomusicologists. Their investigations have taken them into semi-fictional cultures where reality is not easily located - although oft-forgotten historical markers, such as beachhead bunkers, occasionally punctuate their cover artwork - and often slips into the realm of the waking dream.
To say their output and discography is overwhelming would be an understatement. Zoviet France has released many, many recordings, and most of their output sounds virtually the same. If one looks to noise and dark ambient groups for variety though, they are bound to be sorely disappointed. The way I see it, to paraphrase the words of the immortal Boyd Rice, immersing yourself in music like this "is like cleansing your mental palate". I can't get enough of seeking new albums of this nature, regardless of quality and/or distinguish features. Sure, I would consider some recordings to be better than others, but when it comes down to it this is experimental music and the sounds I am hearing will rarely be duplicated again. Which brings us to Just an Illusion
. Why did I choose this release over all the other Zoviet France albums I could have selected to review? Quite simply, it is a suitable representation of the group and what they do.
Basically, this is lo-fi dark ambient with a strong ethnic influence. There is plenty of tribal percussion, chanting and eastern flavour to be had, blended with drones, tape loops and samples typical of the industrial groups of the 80's. The group dwells in melodic and rhythmic territories, lulling you in with some curious instrumentation work, atonal noise and repetition providing the atmospheric backbone. Clearly, some cuts are better than others. Just an Illusion
works better as background music, rather than something to focus your undivided attention on.
In context of all the other Zoviet France releases, there is probably not a lot to distinguish this one particular release. The majority, if not all of their music is industrial/dark ambient with an ethnic tinge, I do however hold a soft spot for Just an Illusion
. There are more well defined melodic parts, and rhythmic instances to latch onto compared to some of the other stuff I have heard. Which is not necessary the end all, be all of why I like Zoviet France, but something that furthers my appreciation of the group.