Zolo Synthesis
by Terry Sharkie


Surreal tales of frolic and whimsy script the bright beyond mortal assimilation of the boingy guitars, wobbly keyboards, polka dot percussions, hiccupping falsettos, jerky / staccato beats, and lopsided rhythms.

Zolo music, an aural expression of the abstract, asymmetric, multi-coloured imagery with which it accompanies, has existed in scattered forms for many years prior to it being codified in name.

The artists listed here present puzzle pieces in the formation of Zolo as a musical style.

Zolo is a crystallization of elements from various styles in the theatrical / art rock / cabaret tradition over the last century, so this discography must be thematic and selective, apart from XTC, BILL NELSON, and GODLEY AND CREME, whose special importance warrants thorough re-reviews of all their relevant works. The place to start would be the late sixties, when advancing technology combined with new musical experimentations and the breakdown in genre restrictions. A tributary note, however, is do to vaudeville, Spike Jones, Carl Stalling, Harry Partch, and Dr. Demento.

And without further ado... The Sixties

PERREY and KINGSLEY: Revolutionizing the techniques of avant-garde recording (Muzic Concrete, tape loops, Moogs, etc.) they recorded two albums in the early sixties, The In Sound from Way Out: Electronic Pop Muzic for the Future and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog, both collected on the now out of print CD The Essential. Titles like "Spooks in Space", "Girl from Venus", and "The Unidentified Flying Object" describe it all; wacky, instrumental show toones punctuated by wiggly, electronic bleeps and blips.

Following in their footsteps were:

WHITE NOISE: An Electric Storm (1968) Space age Zolo psychedelia that must have come under suspicion by the back to nature flower children, at least the few that heard it. Standout track, "Her Come the Fleas". (I'm only referring to the first side. The second is screeching music concrete that could bring this up on Industrial charges.)

These units, along with the Silver Apples (Silver Apples, 1968, and Contact, 1969) forged a wave of electronic futurism in pop that was not to catch on for nearly a decade.

Hippies / Underground Bands

While acid rockers are irrelevant here, a few bands from the counterculture do deserve mention. In America, Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band pioneered free form rock, influencing many bands down this list, while Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention forged a silly, quirky twist on a melange of styles. Various songs throughout Zappa's lengthy career have fit the Zolo cannon, including "Wowie Zowie"(1966), "Zolar Czakle"(1968), and especially "St. Alfonzos... / Father Oblivion"(1974).

In Britain there was the Bonzo Dog Band (a rock n roll Monty Pythons Flying Circus) and the Soft Machine, who forged a wholly original hybrid of rock and jazz on their sophomoric Volume Two album (1969), which broke existing rules of song lengths and meters. Early member Daevid Allen went on to form Gong, a communal Anglo / French ensemble that recorded a slew of albums for Virgin, including Camembert Electric (1971), Angels Egg (1973), Flying Teapot (1973), and You (1974), all full of floating psychedelia, prog, Zolo, Punk, rockabilly, and everything else in the cosmoverse.

Before leaving the sixties, it's important to mention The Who Sell Out, a 1968 concept album by The Who full of quirky songs and soundbites that poked fun at advertising. A decade later such media mockery / manipulation would become common place in the New Wave, but in the consumer averse late sixties counterculture, this album was a comic dagger through the spirit of hippy purity.

The Seventies

Progressive Rock

Picking up where the Soft Machine left off, Egg made two albums at the turn of the decade where the possibilities of instrumentals and odd time signatures melded the edges of rock, jazz, and avant-garde into a new style. But a more elaborate, theatrical concoction of musical styles was in the works with the combination of rock and classical.

The Who were the first rock band to write songs in long, suite structures with operatic themes, while the Moody Blues played call and response to a symphony, but the band to mold classical and rock together into a new form of music was King Crimson. Boasting an augmented rock line up, they pioneered a genre that's been vaguely termed art rock, pomp rock, and more specifically symphonic rock or progressive rock. Inspired by it's classical trappings, prog rock lyrics centered around baroque, renaissance, and even medieval themes. Progressive rocks relevance to Zolo lays in it's inauguration of theatricality, grandiosity, odd time signatures, layers, and epic structures into rock, and while straight prog rockers like Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator don't really concern us here (neither do King Crimson until their later period), GENTLE GIANT does.

After a few developmental albums of fairly routine prog rock with quirky sprinklings, GENTLE GIANT congealed their abstract asymmetry into a compact, highly unique approach with a forward looking, Zoloish edge, starting with:

Octopus (1972) picks: "Knots" (stripped to crisp, contour xylophones piercing dada harmonies, laying down a gauntlet not picked up by anyone other than TODD RUNDGREN on "Pulse") "Raconteur Troubadour", and "The Boys in the Band". These guys stuffed more chord changes, meter shifts, and overlapping harmonic counterpoint into four minute songs than most of their peers did in triple that time.

In a Glass House (1973) picks: the whole thing, especially the polka dot xylophone jigsaw puzzle of "An Inmates Lullaby".

The Power and the Glory (1974) a hit and miss affair. Picks: "Proclamation", "So Sincere", and "Cogs in Cogs".

Free Hand (1975) includes their very best song, "Just the Same", the autonomous state of purpose, featuring head spinning vibrato keys unlike anything you've ever heard.

Interview (1976) their quirkiest of all. Every track features some Zolo accent, either within a middle eight, instrumental or the entire song foundation. Picks: "Give it Back" (sparkling xylo and staccato spring trades), "Design" (flexatones, vibraslaps, whirligigs and more!), "Another Show" (staggering syncopated snaps and synth boings — calling XTC!), "Timing" (stumbling vibrato guitar break) and the frantic medley "I Lost My Head".

With the onslaught of Punk in Britain, GENTLE GIANT marginalised their sound to appease both the New Wave and AOR markets. "Spooky Boogie" (1978) was their last brief token of Zolo.

Out on a limb was Curved Air, who started as a hybrid of British Prog and Californian acid rock but had edged to a place far more remote by the time of their third album:

Phantasmagoria (1972) with half a set of Zolo capriccio in the xylo woven "Over and Above", the synth haywire "Ultra-Vivaldi" and the rollicking vibraphonic closer "Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost". Vocalist Sonja Kristina Linwood forges a dazzling balance betwixt Annie Haslam and Yoko Ono.

The so called art rock may have been dominated by more stern types, but underneath it all emerged a clutch of unconnected bands who formed an unheralded vein of art rock that drew inspiration from Vaudeville rather than the renaissance. Less heavy and more whimsical, the genre included Stackridge, SPARKS, SPLIT ENZ, Kayak, Jackson Heights, Sailor, and Deaf School, as well as it's prototypes, the mid-period Kinks.

The first five albums by SPARKS are all amongst the most outstanding records of the first half of the seventies, with their first two (from the original lineup) the most newfangled and experimental.

Sparks (originally released as Halfnelson, 1971) picks (Zolo): the tinkling toy keys of "Fa La Fa Lee", the slip, sliding string boings of "Roger", and the trek to '50's drive-ins on Neptune, "Biology 2".

A Woofer in Tweeters Clothing (1972) picks: "Girl from Germany", the circus dynamics of "Beaver O'Lindy", and the vibrato spring stampede of "Whippings and Apologies".

Falsettoist RUSSELL MAEL simulates a cabaret diva on a rollercoaster whilst RON MAEL (slapstick pantomime) concocts demented sound compartments. An influence on thousands of bands and the sound of Zolo. The first SPARKS album was produced by TODD RUNDGREN, an often brilliant, one man studio wizard who, after four albums of engaging yet awfully dated AM styled pop in the early seventies, made a sizable contribution to Zolo on his two most experimental albums:

Todd (double LP, 1974) picks: "I Think You Know", "The Spark of Life", "An Elpee's Worth of Toons", "Drunken Blue Rooster", "Sidewalk Cafe" and "In and Out the Chakras We Go". His synth excursions are far more expressionistic here than those of the more widely credited electro avatar BRIAN ENO, yet less austere and singular in vision. At this point he seemed to be redressing Psychedelia, which would have originally been better (and truer to it's intentions) had there been this arsenal of techno gadgetry rather than those soon to be archaic fuzz pipes.

Initiation (1975) picks: "Born to Synthesize", "Eastern Intrigue" and the hypnotic, thirty-six minute investigation into metaphysics, "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire", the pinnacle of Todd's electrosploration. This same spirit is transcended with a more Prog / fusion slant on the 1974 debut from his band UTOPIA.

Various later songs in Rundgren's repertoire also pay a nod in the direction of Zolo, including "Onomatopoeia" (a list of Zolo sounds from 1978, the year Zolo "broke") and "Pulse" and "Golden Goose" from 1981's Healing. In 1986, he concocted one of the most widely heard samples of Zolo ever, the theme to CBS's Pee Wee's Playhouse, with vocals by Cyndi Lauper.

Forging a quirky musical link between early SPARKS and Genesis, New Zealand's SPLIT ENZ are as important aesthetically as aurally. Their revolutionary look (courtesy of percussionist NOEL CROMBIE's flair for design) was the start of the fashions to influence the Zolo and Romo images. They effectively and totally jettisoned the post hippie mode and silhouette of fashion with their short, high sculpted hairdooz, make-up, and multi-coloured / boldly patterned suits with small cuffs, large joints, and pointy, V-shaped outlines. Musically they began as an updated Vaudeville unit, similar to Stackridge. Early New Zealand recordings like "Sweet Talking Spoon Song" and "Malmsbury Villa" are compiled on Beginning of the Enz (re 1979). Then they moved to Australia and came on full force with:

Mental Notes (1975). A classic of gloriously underskilled progressive rock, featuring such PHIL JUDD / TIM FINN epics as "Walking Down a Road" (Prog surrealism), "Under the Wheel" (schizophrenia in motion), "Stranger than Fiction", and "Spellbound", as well as the jaunty music hall "Maybe", and the brief, bizarre title track. The sound is dominated (as on all Enz albums) by the masterful keyboard tapestries of EDDIE RAYNER, while here lies the only examples of reclusive Phil's psycho-demented vocal strains.

SPLIT ENZ were then brought to London by Phil Manzanera, who produced:

Second Thoughts (1976). Retitled after their first album for their first Northern hemisphere release (with the Mental Notes title track added) this album consists of four re-recordings from their debut, two from their N.Z. repertoire, plus three new songs. The mind boggling piano spins of the morbid ballet "The Woman Who Loves You", and the warped, lopsided "Late Last Night" (which shifts through patterns unrepeated in it's three minutes) have a distinct Zolo edge, and while less spontaneous, this album has a more polished feel than its predecessor. For a sight of the Zolo image, look no further than the cover. One of the most diverse, distinctive, and IMO incredible albums ever made.

Caveat: SPLIT ENZ never committed to vinyl their fifteen minute epic from this period, "Nightmare Stampede", but a live recording of it was finally released on a 1993 rarities compilation entitled Oddz and Enz, included in their first (1972-1979) boxed set.

Following the January 1977 release of their intriguing yet alarmingly AOR-ish (and chronologically out of place) single "Another Great Divide"(which despite it's Juddsy songwriting hallmark was rendered more suitable execution wise for Manzanera's Listen Now, on which TIM FINN and EDDIE RAYNER would appear) the N.Z rhythm section left the band, followed by the departure of prolific songwriter/guitarist Judd. After his replacement by Tim's younger brother Neil:

Dizrythmia (1977). Tim comes to the fore on the Enz outstanding last in the art rock vein, featuring one of a kind gems like "Bold as Brass", "Crosswords", the bubbling synth squirts of "Sugar and Spice", and the spring drop chorus and slippery shake middle of the epic "Jamboree".

Following financial woes, SPLIT ENZ returned to Australasia and their transitional album Frenzy (1979; remixed and rearranged to much better results for the Northern hemisphere in 1981) is notable Zolowise for "Hermit McDermit" and the wacky title track. With True Colours (1980), they took to a a fine New Wave pop direction, with superstardom greeting them in every nation except the U.S.

SPLIT ENZ's impact on the Australian Prog scene reverberated in the band AIRLORD on their sole album:

Clockworks Revenge (1977) highlighted by the hyper manic title track, with it's myriad twists and shifts resembling the wackiest of Enz on helium.

Of all the bands to emerge in the early seventies, the one with the most credited influence on things to come was ROXY MUSIC. Their influence on future generations of Cold Wave, Romo (New Romantic), and Zolo is all apparent on their debut album:

Roxy Music (1972) picks: "Remake-Remodel", "Ladytron", "The Bob (Medley)", "Chance Meeting", and "Sea Breezes". Bryan Ferry's stylized vocals take falsetto, vibrato and accent capabilities to full tilt, whilst BRIAN ENO's staccato synth breaks and bleeps are alarming, especially on their stunning first single "Virginia Plain", included on U.S. copies of the album.

After For Your Pleasure (1973), Eno left ROXY MUSIC for a solo career highlighted by these albums of post modern art rock:

Here Come the Warm Jets (1973) continues with the sounds that Roxy had abandoned far to early on tracks like "Needles in the Camel's Eye", "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch", and "Driving Me Backwards".

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (1974) picks: "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More", "Back in Judy's Jungle", and "The True Wheel".

Before and After Science (1977) picks: "No One Receiving", "Kurt's Rejoinder", and "Kings Lead Hat".

On his other recordings, Eno forged a more subtle ambient vein while ROXY MUSIC continued under the decadent lounge musings of Bryan Ferry. Very great, but not Zolo.

The latter part of the Prog era saw a belated Stateside reverberation that was polarized between streamlined AOR crossovers in the Midwest, copycats of British big names everywhere, and (much more interestingly) some unique and novel units in the Northeast.

Starting out heavily Progressive and often quirky was Ambrosia, who's second album Somewhere I've Never Travelled (1976) was surprisingly strange in the xylo Zolo lunacy of "The Brunt" and outlandishly energetic, neo-classical epic "Dance With Me George".

Better yet were FIREBALLET, who affected a more genuinely Anglo sensibility whilst sounding totally themselves. There first album, Night On Bald Mountain (1975) was fairly traditional in the Prog scheme of things, but their status as a Zolo legend is guaranteed by

Two, Too... (1976) a buried treasure indeed! The "Chinatown Boulevards" suite twists and turns through a dazzling array of movements punctuated by dotty xylophone loops and meter twitches, as does "It's About Time". "Carrollon" is an apex of mind boggling vibrato key tapestry that just doesn't quit (you'll loose your balance somewhere before the climax!) while "Great Expectation" is sparking jewel of art pop creation that kicks the whole thing off exuberantly. As on their debut, a few traditional themes are utilized, but to more refreshing results, and the band extends brilliantly upon a remarkable array of influences. This album could be the missing link between the Zolo side of GENTLE GIANT and GODLEY AND CREME's L.

Finally, it's worth noting one theatrical unit that pushed the boundaries of decadence into perversion. With sub Eno keyboards, The Tubes were a satirical spoof on all modern music styles:

The Tubes (1975) The first three tracks on side one, "Up From the Deep", "Haloes", and "Space Baby" are not only full of surprising changes, but elevated by an unstoppable hypnotic sheen of pompous grandiosity that sucks you to the ceiling. Side two retains it on the spinning climax of "Mondo Bondage" amidst a set of rock theatre numbers. Glorious trash.

Young and Rich (1976) picks: Fee Way's ode to the audience "Tubes World Tour" and the epic "Poland Whole / Madame, I'm Adam".

Towards the Eighties

New Wave

Starting in 1976 with the Punk revolution and then fragmenting into a myriad of different styles, the term New Wave refers to a generation rather than a particular type of music.

Of all the bands lumped in the original wave of Punk, the only one to possess true Zolo quirks were THE STRANGLERS. While their debut album, Rattus Norvegicus IV (1977), caught them stylistically between the old and New Wave, their follow up:

No More Heroes (1977) strips away all traces of refinement and forges a highly compelling Punk / Zolo hybrid: Zonk. Picks: "I Feel Like a Wog", "Dagenham Dave", "Bring on the Nubiles", "Peasant in the Big Shitty", "Burning Up Time", and "English Towns", all punctuated by wobbly keyboards, deep throated bass, and mutated vocals.

"Five Minutes" / "Rok It to the Moon" (1978). The B-side gets my vote for the greatest pure Zonk tune ever recorded. Keyboardist DAVE GREENFIELD tries on ALLEN RAVENSTINE's jacket and looks better in it.

Black and White (1978). Their heaviest. Picks: "Tank", "Sweden", "Curfew", "Threatened", "In the Shadow", and "Enough Time". This album is full of dynamics, build ups, and epic side closures. The pundits were wrong; their IS a thread betwixt Prog and New Wave. Just go listen to this and Van Der Graaf's Vital (same year) back to back. Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson certainly had a keen ear on these albums when plotting his brilliant assimilation of New Wave on A in 1980.

The Raven (1979) takes a slower, more hypnotic approach. This was the only band to emerge during this period with such vertical harmonic dexterity and arpeggiated counterpoint to match GENTLE GIANT and Yes, not to mention the personified sound timbre — they make their instruments sing! Picks: "The Raven", "Ice", "Nuclear Device", "Genetix", and the cryptic, Residents-like "Meninblack".

The Meninblack (1980). Their weirdest album, based on a concept centering around the character introduced on the previous album. The bright, post modern production sound is a radical departure. Picks: "Waltzinblack", "Just Like Nothing on Earth", "Second Coming", "Two Sunspots", "Four Horsemen", "Thrown Away", "Manna Machine", and "Hallow To Our Men".

THE STRANGLERS put out one more great album, La Folie (1981), before changing labels and embarking on a more commercial, less artful direction.

By late 1977, a second clutch of bands, most commonly labeled as New Wave pop, emerged as a lighter, brighter antidote to the diminishing Punk strain. Staccato / vibrato timbre was emerging as a refreshing new form. Borderline zanyness abounds; what Mod was to Punk, New Wave is to Zolo. Now given that the debuts of several of these semi-converts showed nary a trace of Zolo, to which they threw a hand in on sophomore efforts following the premier of the mighty XTC (who we'll get to in just a moment), it's intuitive to say the these units were in fact inspired by those doyens of Zolo. Examples include:

Elvis Costello. "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" (1978) snaps and clicks to it's rubbery climax, while "This Years Girl", "Pump It Up", "Hand In Hand", and "Living In Paradise", from This Years Model, follow suit. Hiccupping vocals cut through streaking Farfisas. Almost Zolo, as is:

The Boomtown Rats. These Irish transplants were the funnest band on the commercial wing of Britain's New Wave. A Tonic For the Troops (1978) Picks (U.K. version): "Like Clockwork", "Living On an Island", "Can't Stop", and "Watch Out For the Normal People". Goofy preening, squiggly guitar lines, and jerky beats abound. A major advance from the routine rock / Punk / R&B of their debut. Follow-ups The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979) and Mondo Bongo (1980) also have their share of bright moments.

Squeeze. Cool for Cats (1979). Quirky New Wave with nods to disco. Picks: "It's Not Cricket" and "The Knack", the latter with its xylophones (the world needs more of them!) and polychords, quite unusual for what never intended to be more than a whinesome pop band. And don't forget "Touching Me, Touching You", a frank take on onanism.

The Korgis. Remnants of ex-Stackridge alumni joined in on this party with three LPs of brilliant light pop and sublime quirkiness, reconciling their former music hall tendencies with the bounciness of their new alliance. "Chinese Girl", from their eponymous debut (1979), is ample Zolo service.

The Rezillos / Revillos. The Rez's Can't Stand the Rezillos (1978) is mere catchy Punk pop with odd Zolo titles like "Flying Saucer Attack", but Rev-Up (1980) by spin off group The Revillos adds more quirks to the toonz and more height to the dooz, making them a more stylish U.K. counterpart to the B52's.

The Buggles. Filed under synth, but more fitting to studio. Living In the Age of Plastic (1979) is hybrid Wave / AOR notable primarily for Trevor Horn's groundbreaking production. Door bell like keys sit in place of what would be more appropriate doodling, but Zoloism does prevail on "Living In the Plastic Age" and "Cling Cling", among others.

Fischer-Z. One that got away. Imagine a Police dampened XTC with vocals betraying ANDY PARTRIDGE phrasing with a Jon Anderson like range. "Wax Dolls" from their debut Word Salad (1979) is this units candidate for minor Zolo compilationdom.

LENE LOVICH. The most eccentric personality type of the bunch. Stateless (1978). Bubblegum goofiness abounds through the likes of "Lucky Number", "Telepathy", and "One in a Million".

Flex (1979). More modern, abstract, Lene spun a lot deeper than her heretofore mentioned peers. "Birdsong", "What Will I Do Without You", "Angels", "Egghead", and "The Freeze" are the standouts on this terrific disc. She would subsequently rub shoulders with many of the same art rock figures as ANDY PARTRIDGE, proving herself to be a total convert.

Also, New Toy EP (1980), the title track another nifty slice of xylo-Zolo pop.


Emerging amongst this milieu, but with a wholly unique and newfangled sound, XTC defined the aural anatomy of Zolo left, right, and center:

3D EP (1977) unveils the enigmatic sounds of this one of a kind unit comprising TERRY CHAMBERS (drums), COLIN MOULDING (bass), BARRY ANDREWS (keys), and ANDY PARTRIDGE (guitar and vocals). No more scraping at the edges, this is Zolo incarnate with all it's wiggles, wobbles, boings, and doings! Starting out with a manic one note piano a-rhythm and cut up with a scratchy guitar tune up, in drops Chambers head spinning four wallops a beat and the helium hiccups of the the one and only MR. PARTRIDGE on "Science Friction". Squeaks, pops, and jerks abound through this tale concerning the most quintessential of Zolo themes, raging horniness! They proceed to trash the sixties on the galloping "She's So Square", building tension on the split meter (3/4 the 5/4) bridge before bursting. The irresistibly snappy high hat / bass beat that kicks off "Dance Band" impels one to do so as the perfect ambience of a Zolo nightclub is conjured up amongst the abstract doodles of Partridge and Andrews.

Next came the release of "Traffic Light Rock" on Virgin's Guillotine compilation EP, followed by the January '78 release of the single "Statue of Liberty" / "Hang On to the Night" and the debut album that thoroughly and indisputably established XTC as THE most innovative and original band to emerge in the entire New Wave era:

White Music (1978). XTC (named after that feeling you get from great sex, and it shows!) sound like they popped in from another galaxy, taking music to a level of vagarity, abstraction, and brightness never before reached. Starting with the call to action "Radios in Motion" and flipping into the enormous rhythmic sputters of "X Wires", proceeding to the hyper jerky ditty "Do What You Do" and rounding out side one with the kaleidoscopic recomposition of "All Along the Watchtower", the band sounds like they injected neon power volts into their veins, as summed up by the albums grand blow out track, "Neon Shuffle". Through the voyage, Partridge describes the time, place and people of this new dimension in "Atom Age" (his wife has gone gadget crazy!), exclaims "I'm Bugged" (going gaga) and professes he's like a "Spinning Top", as we are all, after this pure shot of Zany Zolo adrenaline.

The album was produced by (as all early XTC albums) John Leckie, but the band rerecorded their slogan song to even greater results with the (pre metal) Robert John Lange:

"This Is Pop?" / "Heatwave" (1978). Yeah, from Saturn or Neptune maybe. The more hypnotic textural feel of this record paved way for what was next.

By August, the highly prolific XTC were back in the studio. The first slice was the irresistible single "Are You Receiving Me?" / "Instant Tunes" (labeled as ? and ! on the cover) and followed by the October release of:

Go 2 (1978) injects more underlying colour to the overall sound, thanks to the pervasive steam piano and clapped out organ sounds of BARRY ANDREWS. From the scratchy guitar squeaks that kick off "Meccanic Dancing" to the stuttering fadeout of "I Am the Audience", the album has an abstract textural density that's impossible to unearth, even after one thousand listenings! The songs seem to have popped out of a Miro painting. The opening track describes the experience at hand, being altered into mutancy by the audio jitters, dancing amongst Scharf's Clunk Pack come to life. The album proceeds with the hypnotic twitch trance of "Battery Brides", the atonal spazms of "Buzzcity Talking" and the the hyper Zonk of "Red", which closes side one in a staggering snap. Side two rolls on with the helium pitch bend of "Beatown" and the third note accent of the spacious "Life is Good in the Greenhouse", with Mickey Mouse on backup vocals! Whilst laying out this alternate reality, they manage to make a laugh out of more stern topics: Andy pokes fun at religion on "Jumping in Gomorrah", Barry shakes up PC stuffiness on the mock sexist "My Weapon", and for an example of flippant marketing, just read the cover. In a prolix, XTC make no secret out of wanting to suck you in. And when they do, you'll be in eXsTaCy!

The "Andy Paints Brian" subtitle on "Batter Brides" is a reference to their near collaboration with BRIAN ENO, who was supposed to produce this album but was to busy working with DEVO, TALKING HEADS, David Bowie, and Cluster. XTC got the MUCH better end of the stick without him, for with Go 2 they made the GREATEST ZOLO ALBUM EVER!

The first 15,000 copies of Go 2 came with:

GO+ EP (1978). As if the zanyness of the album wasn't enough, they take five of the songs and pulverize them on this record of dub re-upholstery, giving them new titles like "Dance With Me, Germany", "Beat the Bible" (another crack of Andy's agnosticism), and "Clap, Clap, Clap". Deserves special credit as a pioneering example of the experimental possibilities of dub.

At the start of the new year, BARRY ANDREWS left XTC. The band considered replacing him on keyboards with a little known session man named Thomas Dolby, but then decided to go with old Swindon pal Dave Gregory as a second guitarist; thus moving their sound away from Zolo and more towards pop. In May came the bands first release:

"Life Begins At the Hop" / "Homo Safari" (1979). The A-side is the start of their sixties fetish while the Zolo flip is the first in a series of six instrumental B-sides that they would release over the next five years.

Drums and Wires (1979). Originally to be titled Boom Dada Boom, this album caught them at a crossroads. "When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty", "Roads Girdle the Globe", "Day In, Day Out", "That is the Way", "Millions", and "Complicated Game" chart the waters of arty songcraft while "Helicopter", "Real by Reel", and "Outside World" establish a delightful pop style that would be their subsequent direction, as on the bonus 7" "Chain of Command" / "Limelight". The most Zolo track on this album is "Scissor Man", rerecorded to even greater results for JOHN PEEL and included on:

"Towers of London" (double 7", 1980) also includes live versions of "Set Myself on Fire" and "Battery Brides".

"Making Plans for Nigel" (1979) includes the intriguing B-side "Pulsing Pulsing".

"Generals and Majors" (double 7", 1980) includes their one pure Cold Wave entry, "The Somnambulist".

XTC proceeded throughout the eighties and into the nineties with a succession of excellent, yet unZolo albums.

Following on GO+, MR. PARTRIDGE released:

Take Away / The Lure of Salvage (1980) a collection of dub reprocessings of XTC tracks circa 1978-1979, most of them altered into obscurity and qualifying as new pieces altogether. From the carnival loop of "The Day They Pulled the North Pole Down" to the cryptic bubbles of "New Broom" to the zany Zolo of "Cairo" and Zonk of "Rotary", the album ranges from ambient to distorted, giddy to dark (though never gloomy). A very unique album, and one that could appeal to both Zolo and Industrial fans alike.

The White Music CD contains the album plus the 3D EP plus "Traffic Light Rock" and the first three single B-sides. The Go 2 CD adds "Are You Receiving Me?" while the GO+ EP is paired with Take Away / The Lure of Salvage on one CD, Explode Together. Meanwhile, the "Homo Safari" series of instrumentals are compiled on a CD single of the band's 1987 cult hit, "Dear God". Nearly two decades on and all these recordings still sound ahead of the time.

(Some unreleased titles from XTC's early live set (barring their pre-existence as the Helium Kids) included "Quicksilver" and "Refrigerator Blues", demoed at Sun Studios (August 1976) before Andrews joined. For their CBS auditions of early 1977 they performed / recorded "Monkey Woman", "Star Park", and "Saturn Boy", while a cover to the sixties TV theme song "Fireball XL5" was recorded during the White Music sessions. All of these should be released, if possible. A live (circa 1977) CD entitled Fireball XL5 is out there, though.)

After leaving XTC, BARRY ANDREWS released two 7"s:

Town and Country EP (1979). Four songs rehearsed but rejected by XTC. Best cut: "Mousetrap".

"Rossmore Road" / "Win a Night Out With a Well Known Paranoiac" (1980). A more loungey, cool jazz affair, highlighted by Andrews trademark silliness.

That last release featured Robert Fripp, with whom Andrews formed The League of Gentlemen. They released one eponymous album (1981) of highly impressive post Punk art rock, mostly instrumental but featuring The Lemon Kittens vocalist Daniel Dax on one track, "Minor Man". BARRY ANDREWS then went on to form Shriekback in 1983.

Cold Wave

Inspired by the austere synth calculations of Kraftwerk, a futuristic minded wing of the New Wave proceed to create a pop for the space age. Ultravox had the motto "I Want to Be a Machine" and recorded such classics as "My Sex" (from their stunning 1977 art rock debut) to 1978's ground breaking Systems of Romance before John Foxx left to make his brilliant Metamatic (1980). The most obscure Ultravox release was "Quirks" / "Modern Love" (a freebie with early copies of 1977's Ha! Ha! Ha!), the a-side a Zonk classic featuring a turgid buzzsaw foundation with an otherwise untapped use of wild synth doodles.

Others obsessed themselves even more with sci-fi. Gary Numan's synth punky debut with the Tubeway Army (1978) was the start in a line of simple yet compelling releases, followed by Replicas and The Pleasure Principle (both 1979) and climaxing on 1980's Telekon.

Fusing Cold Wave and Zonk was Spizz in his many guises. 1980's Do a Runner (as Athletico Spizz '80) and the 1981 follow up Spikey Dream Flowers (as Spizzles) feature post modern ditties and epics such as "New Species" and "Robot Holiday"

The great, unheralded Dalek i made one great album, Compass Kumpes (1980) where they forged a quirky Cold Wave all their own, as did New Romantic satirists Landscape on From the Tea-Rooms of Mars... To the Hell Holes of Uranus (1980).

The one Cold Waver with a firm foot in Zolo, however, is BILL NELSON, who began his career earlier with the glitter rock Be-Bop Deluxe. With that bands great last release, Drastic Plastic (recorded mid 1977 and released a year later upon the band's breakup), Nelson radically shifted gears and laid the ground for a myriad of New Wave trends with "Electrical Language", "Superenigmatix" and "Futurist Manifesto" (included on ..The Rest Of.. compilation) that paved the way for the direction of his next band RED NOISE on their sole album:

Sound-On-Sound (1979). From the Matushita cover on in, an immortal album. Cold Wave titles and Orwellian themes abound through "Don't Touch Me, (I'm Electric)", "Stop / Go / Stop", "Radar In My Heart", "Out of Touch", "A Better Home In the Phantom Zone", "Substitute Flesh", "The Atom Age", "Art / Empire / Industry", and "Revolt Into Style". As one of the only old wave glitter rockers to jump the arenas to become part of the New Wave, he urges others to keep in touch on "Stay Young", while "For Young Moderns" provides a theme to the coming New Romantic scene — "a zero hero Euro lifestyle... a nouveau a-go-go gone wild." Musically, Nelson creates an exuberant Zonk hybrid by taking the New Wave art rock of Drastic Plastic and mixing in a shot of Punk and the jerky spazms of XTC.

The albums one weak track, "Furniture Music", was released on a red vinyl 7" with two unique, otherwise unavailable tracks on the B-side: "Wonder Toys that Last Forever" and "Acquitted by Mirrors", the latter employing a bit of Reggae that Nelson otherwise never explored.

A 12" release of "Revolt Into Style" came backed with early 1979 live versions of "Stay Young" and "Out of Touch" that employ even more fervor than their studio counterparts.

Simultaneous to recording Sound-On-Sound, BILL NELSON was working on his first post Be-Bop solo disc:

Quit Dreaming and Get On the Beam (recorded 1979; released 1981). A mostly self contained disc, with the exception of his brother Ian (who plays sax), exploring more pure Cold Wave territory and forging the eighties on songs like "UHF", "Vertical Games", and the title track. The album shows more stylistic versatility, from the Zoloey "A Kind of Loving" and the Zonkey "False Alarms", to the Punkish "Decline and Fall" as well as the Berlin period Bowie sounding "Banal". The hit "Do You Dream in Colour" and the RED NOISE leftover "Disposable" are also included, and initial copies came with a bonus LP, Sounding the Ritual Echo, his first ambient work, later released independently.

BILL NELSON recorded many more songs during this period, some released as B-sides but most unissued until:

The 2-Fold Aspect of Everything (double LP compilation, released 1984). Featuring a wide array of his Zolo style, from zany ("Instantly Yours", "Flesh", "Be My Dynamo") to poppy ("White Sound") to Zonkey ("Turn to Friction") to hypnotic ("Love In the Abstract"). Nelson also exhibits his comic sense of sci-fi on "Atom Man Loves Radium Girl" and "Mr. Magnetism Himself" as well as his most entrancing Cold Wave on "The Burning Question" and "Her's is a Lush Situation". Elsewhere are examples of his more ethereal synth pop approach of 1981.

BILL NELSON has worked with many of the musicians that he has influenced, including members of Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Gary Numan. He went on to start his own label, Cocteau (named in homage to the French Surrealist; Nelson's lifelong idol) and release many fine New Romantic and ambient works in the eighties and nineties.

The influence of Nelson's electro / sci-fi / Zolo reverberates in:


"Footsteps, "Nervous" / "Kojak" (1979). The second track is the best example of this Dutch band's mutant hyper tension. Also, an album: Drastic Measures, Drastic Movement (1979).


Released several brilliant singles, compiled on an eponymous EP (1981), with titles such as "Computer Datin'", "Police Paranoia", "I Like 'Lectric Motors", and the best, "Mutant".


Some of the most innovative recordings during the New Wave era came from artists who (like BILL NELSON) arrived on the scene long before. But instead of plunging themselves into the New Wave, like Nelson did, these other artists walked along their own paths beside it.


Beginning under the name Ramses, this duo made one album of conceptual progressive rock in the early seventies entitled Space hymns before teaming up with Eric Stuart and veteran hit songwriter for others, Graham Gouldman, in the pop satire band 10cc. After a debut album of silly schlock toones, the band hit it's stride on 1974's Sheet Music, where GODLEY AND CREME prove themselves to be the way more quirky side of the band on compositions such as the jolly "Hotel", the jittery, proto-Zolo "Clockwork Creep", and the complex, varied "Somewhere in Hollywood".

10cc's penchant for capriccio and studio trickery continued on The Original Soundtrack (1975) a patchy affair highlighted by the Pomp / cabaret epic "Un Nuit En Paris". 1976's How Dare You! was again a stronger (as all their even numbered offerings tended to be) song cycle with frantic toones like "I Wanna Rule the World", "Iceberg", and "Don't Hang Up".

Following that latter album, GODLEY AND CREME (first names Kevin and Lol, respectively) left 10cc to make a record displaying the possibilities of an instrument invented by Lol called the Gizmo, which resembles a guitar with a small typewriter keyboard placed over the strings. Originally conceived as a 7" single, the recording soon inflated into Consequences, a triple album consisting of varying compositions, sound effects, and mostly spoken word. Released in 1977, this monster was soon distilled into a more digestible single album. While this established the duo as esoterics (with bloated egos), nothing hinted at the brilliance to come next:

L (1978). Employing all bits of Zolo cacophony amongst lopsided song structures, this stands as one of the most distinctive, undatable albums of the seventies. Only SPLIT ENZ and GENTLE GIANT shared GODLEY AND CREME's knack for mixing and altering song formats; changing around established verse / chorus / bridge patterns on each number, from long epics like "This Sporting Life" and "Hit Factory / Business is Business" to shorter songs like "Sandwiches of You" (one of the two or three greatest Zolo songs ever recorded!) Throughout the album, the duo displays consistency through diversity: the instrumental "Foreign Accents", with all it's doodling clarinets, pianos, xylophones, and sax (played by Andy Mackay of ROXY MUSIC), is pure Zolo muzak. "Punchbag" could be the greatest song not used on Sheet Music, while the bubbly "Group Life" forges another novelty: disco under water. Overall, an extraordinary work of vision and craft that defines the aural aesthetic of Zolo. If you must listen to only two albums in this whole discography, make it XTC's Go 2 and this.

Freeze Frame (1979). This refreshing sophomore effort expands on their debut album in a more diffuse vein. The loungey Zolo of "An Englishman in New York" that kicks off this disc is as alarming for it's tongue in cheek lyrics as it's catchy tune. Mutant sounds and voices abound in "Random Brainwave", which segues brilliantly into the drumless, rolling pitch bends of "I Pity Inanimate Objects". On "Brazilia", hypnotic textures interweave through a warm first section that congeals into a Latin tinged second part, where throughout they're aided (as on "Clues" and "Brainwave") by Phil Manzanera. Slow density carries this album to it's splendid closer, "Get Well Soon", with backing vocals from Paul McCartney!

Having forged a compelling, wholly original musical style on their debut and exploring it's farthest corners on the follow up, where could GODLEY AND CREME venture to next? Apparently nowhere, musically speaking. 1981's Snack Attack was a stylistic parody of the TALKING HEADS Remain In Light album from the previous year; clever in parts, but dragging in others. Glibness, a consequence (mind the pun) of their old satire, soon got the best of them, and their recording career eventually took a back seat to an occupation as video makers for others.


Under the firm leadership of ROBERT FRIPP, this pioneering progressive rock ensemble shifted through numerous lineups and musical explorations. The baroque, majestic styled Prog of their first four albums, best exemplified on the magnificent third (Lizard, 1970), was followed by an avant / hard rock / chamber trilogy featuring Bill Bruford and John Wetton. After their 1974 demise, Fripp's approach to guitar playing, with his asymmetric melodies and atonal flourishes, influenced many in the post Punk, experimental music world. It was ADRIEN BELEW, however, who's rubbery vibrato bends characterised the boingy guitar sound that comprises Zolo. He joined Crimson's early eighties incarnation and the unit proceeded to release this trilogy of brilliant, Zoloey albums.

Discipline (1981) picks: "Elephant Talk", "Frame by Frame", "Thela Hun Ginjeet", and the title track.

Beat (1982). The best of the three. Picks:"Neal and Jack and Me", "Neurotica", "Two Hands", and "The Howler".

Three of a Perfect Pair (1984) picks: "Sleepless", "Man With an Open Heart", the title track and especially the boingy rubber bonanza of "Dig Me".

Layer upon layer of ADRIEN BELEW's guitar wiggles can also be heard on his solo albums such as Lone Rhino (1981) and Twang Bar King (1983). Belew has also appeared on many other peoples albums, including one ubiquitous troubadour who deserves a degree of respect in any hip circle, David Bowie, whose album Lodger (1979) is ripe with Zolo quirks on tracks like "African Night Flight", "Yassassin", and "DJ".

Finally, a submerged vein of the New Wave that drew overt traces from the old school progressive rock. And what are the two main ingredients in Zolo, anyway?


Everything this Manchester group recorded was great, especially their 1978 debut album Real Life, which includes such theatrical Symphonic Prog / New Wave Zolo grandiosity as "Definitive Gaze", "My Tulpa", and "Great Beautician In the Sky". MAGAZINE were the pinnacle of an unrecognized contingent of New Wave Progressive Rock bands (Random Hold and Gloria Mundi were a couple others) which was a much more fascinating and progressive thread than the trite and boring Neo-Prog brigade that would steal the light a few years later, and these guys were all the more special by throwing in that Zolo touch. The world needs more bands like this. Punk fans should take note of something most of them probably haven't heard, MAGAZINE's signature song "Shot By Both Sides", which gets my vote as one of the two or three greatest Punk songs of all time.


ROBERT FRIPP's future bride came on like Ziggy Stardust's daughter, with a musical cross between ROXY MUSIC and LENE LOVICH on Sheep Farming In Barnet (1979), highlighted by "Victims of the Riddle" and "Race Through Space".


Relentlessly arty, quirky, mutant, and unparalleled, yet an unmistakable Prog / Wavo hybrid. Product Perfect (1979) is an unsighted treasure of highly calculated, self styled musical polaroid glamshots with titles like "Techno Fascist", "Citinite", and "Hanoi Annoys Me", the latter from a three part song suite.

And now, an exploration of the Zolo tendency around the world:

New York

One of rock's all time greatest fashion visionaries, Richard Hell, was also the original Bowery scenes only true punk. The astonishing Blank Generation (1977), with his Voidoids, is laced with boingy guitars and skittery rhythms, giving it a strikingly Zonk edge. The No Wave movement of 1978-1979 yielded the outlandish James Chance, who's Contortions laid a flustering brand of Zonk on Buy (1979). The one true exponent of Zolo from the Big Apple, however, was TALKING HEADS, who's first three albums are essential:

Talking Heads '77 (1977) picks:"Uh-Oh Love Comes to Town", "New Feeling", "Who Is It", "Don't Worry About the Government", and "Pulled Up".

More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978). More texturally dense. Picks: "With Our Love", "The Good Thing", "Girls Want to Be With the Girls", "Found a Job", "Artists Only", and "I'm Not in Love".

Fear of Music (1979). Moving into more eerie territory. Picks: "Mind", "Paper", "Cities", "Air", and "Animals."

Their pre Jerry Harrison 45 of "Love Goes to Building On Fire" (1977) is backed with an early version of "New Feeling", and a UK 12" version of "Psycho Killer" is backed with a different version of that song with different lyrics, as well as the B-side "I Wish You Wouldn't Say That".

TALKING HEADS toured twice with XTC in 1978, developing a rapport that echoed in one another's music.

Middle America

The most concentrated area of quirky New Wave / Zolo in the mid-west was Ohio, with Cleveland's


Starting in the mid seventies with a dissonant Punk approach (with Zolo undertones), they released several singles, most collected on Datapanick In the Year Zero (1978), and a series of bright to somber albums: The Modern Dance (1978), Dub Housing (1979), New Picnic Time (1979), and The Art of Walking (1981), that last one including the Zolorama of "Birdies". Ubu then took to a brighter, more tactile approach of Zolo on:

"Not Happy" / "Lonesome Cowboy Dave" (1981).

Song of the Bailing Man (1982) picks: "The Long Walk Home", "Petrified", "West Side Story", "Big Ed's Used Farm", and "The Vulgar Boatman Bird".

DAVID THOMAS then disbanded Ubu to concentrate on his solo career, who's albums include:

The Sound of the Sand (1981) picks: "Yiki Tiki", "Happy To See You", "Crush This Horn, Pt.2", and "Confuse Did".

More Places Forever (1985) includes the lilting "Big Breezy Day" and the characteristic presence of ex-Henry Cow players Lindsay Cooper and Chris Cutler.

There was even more action going on over in Akron:


Similar to XTC in the jerks and bleeps, but more robotic and monotone.

Are We Not Men? We Are Devo (1978) picks: "Too Much Paranoias", "Shrivel Up", the epics "Jocko Homo" and "Gut Feeling / Slap Your Mammy", and of course, their two hundred percent improvement of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".

Duty Now For the Future (1979) picks: "Blockhead", "Strange Pursuit", "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise", and "Red Eye".

Early, more primitive recordings from 1974-1977 are compiled on Hard Core volumes One and Two, which feature such spastic ditties as "Mechanical Man", "Soo Bawls", "U Got Me Bugged", "I Need a Chick".


Akron's finest. Skip past "I'm a Believer" on Contents Dislodged During Shipment (1979) and your left with a treasure trove of Zolo grandiosity with the likes of "The Revelations of Dr. Modesto", "Hump Day", "Squirm You Worm", "Chinese Circus" and "Puppet Wipes".

Sax player RALPH CARNEY went on to form SWOLLEN MONKEYS, who released an album, After the Birth of the Cool (1981), and an EP, On Vacation, full of pure Zazz.

And from Chicago:


The man with two ties released two warm up 7"s, "Tele-Tele-Telephone" / "Gadabout" (1978) and The EP (1979), featuring "Touchy Feely People" and "I Just Want To Have Sex", before the album which stands as perhaps the greatest American example of pure Zolo:

Things Aren't Right (1979) is chock full of zany lunacy like "The Mind Is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak", "Luncheonette Lovers", "Stubbies", "Checking Out the Checkout Girl", and "Al's Radiator". As on the singles, most of the songs are short, but here the band unveils a couple of surprisingly long pieces as well, like "Deeply", featuring some fine instrumental passages.

Also: Tell Me How to Live (1980).


Led by verbose eccentric JIM SKAFISH. Their eponymous album (1980) is full of energetic Zonkey pop, while a single of "Obsessions of You" is backed with their zaniest song "Sink or Swim". Also great is the New Wave / pomp rock of "Sign of the Cross", found on the soundtrack to URGH! The Music Wars (1981).

Aside from Akron, the other most seemingly unlikely city for an avant New Wave scene was Athens, Georgia, which turned out a milieu of scratchy funk pop groups like Pylon and The Method Actors. Now the B52's could be to blame for today's terminal trends towards cheesy kitsch and clashing attire, but the Zoloness of their first two albums, B52's (1979) and Wild Planet (1980), cannot be denied.


With San Francisco and Los Angeles producing the countries earliest (and most real) pure Punk scenes, a lot of bands turned out a sensibility of art and fashion to parallel the British. Great unsung bands like The Screamers and The Deadbeats paved way for a theatrical side to the West Coast New Wave with their Zonkish acts. And as for Zolo:


"Joeboy (the Electronic Ghost)" / "Pinhead On the Move" (1978). The B-side is this most Euro of Frisco entitie's sole Zonk foray before their favored avant Cold Wave footing and eventual submergence in the ethereal abyss.


One great single and EP: "Tour of China" / "Shopping" (1979) and Pink Section (1980), featuring "Wine World" and "Midsummer New York".


"Gidget Goes to Hell" / "My Boyfriend" (1979).

Their great eponymous album (1981) is full of jerks, pops, and squeaks all the way through on ditties like "Flying Saucer Safari", "Computer Date", "Green Eyes", and "Jam the Controls".


With a sound comprising ninety-five percent XTC's White Music and five percent TIN HUEY, OINGO BOINGO's eponymous EP (1980) is their best (only really good) release. Elfman has always done better with soundtracks, where the rest of Boingo often join him as THE MYSTIC NIGHTS, as on the zany soundtrack to Forbidden Zone (1980), the Zolo film by Danny's brother Richard. Also great is the theme song "Don't Go in the Basement" and his muzak to Sally Cruikshank's Zolo cartoon Face Like a Frog (1987).


The sultry, operatic crooning of MAGGIE SONG, lends a sexy air to such standouts as "Second Coming", "Somnambulist", and "Slow Beautiful Sex" from their Two EPs (1982-1983). Fathom if you will a morphing of early SPARKS and CURVED AIR and there you have the sound. One of the only Zolo / Wavo bands to use the mighty Mellotron!

The San Francisco based Ralph Records label had a hefty hand in on the more cryptic side of Zolo with:


"Loser=Weed" (1976). Fantabulous Zolo zapper; the B-side to their haunting remake of "Satisfaction".

Duck Stab / Buster and Glen (1978). The Residential take on pop. Picks: "Constantinople", "Blue Rosebuds", "Lizard Lady", "Birthday Boy", and the mini epic, "The Electrocutioner".

The Commercial Album (1980). Forty one-minute songs featuring uncredited help from ANDY PARTRIDGE and LENE LOVICH.

THE RESIDENTS have a very large repertoire of recordings on the cusp of Zolo. For more information, see Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide to the Residents (1993, The Cryptic Corporation).

Appearing on many of THE RESIDENTS albums (and vice versa):


"The Spot" / "Smelly Tongues" (1978).

Chewing Hides the Sound (1979)

Greener Postures (1980)

Two great albums, the latter featuring "Save Me from Dali" and the epic "The Picture Makers vs. Children of the Sea". Also: Manual of Errors (1982).


Songs for Swinging Larvae (1981)

Arabic Yodelling (1983)

England's answer to THE RESIDENTS, with whom they recorded:

Title in Limbo (1983) picks: "Intro:Version", "Sitting On the Sand", and "The Sailor Song".

Earlier recordings are collected on Struve and Sneff (1984) while the U.K. 12" of "Hambu Hodo" includes their most beautiful song; the otherwise unavailable "Writing Postcards from Italy".



Calling their XTC cum Ska sound "Manic Music", these colourfully clad sprouts eponymous debut album (1979) includes jerky pogo frenzy in the likes of "Plastic Pop" and "Prefab Heart".


Yielding many adapted styles from the New Wave and often punctuating them with a native slant; a hip market indeed. The doyens of New Wave in Japan were the Yellow Magic Orchestra, who's upbeat Cold Wave put them at the forefront of turn of the eighties art rock. Better yet are the solo albums by Riuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi. The formers B-2 Unit (1980) consists of instrumental, avant-garde soundscapes with the help of ANDY PARTRIDGE, while percussionist Takahashi's Murdered By the Music (1980) has a delightful Zolo edge through songs like "School of Thought", "Radioactivist", "Bijin Kyoshi At the Swimming Pool", and "Mirrormanic".


Japan's answer to the B52's. Their Western hemisphere Welcome Plastics (1981) features spirited but inferior re-recordings of songs like "Good", "Diamond Head", and "Robot" from their two Japanese albums.

And as for native tongue:


Their eponymous Recommended Records compilation (1983) is loaded with headspinning Zolo mania like "Akatere", "Keiro No Hibi", "On the Floor", and "Inanaki".

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, for the Zolo tendency is quite prevalent in the Far East. Compilations include:

Welcome To Dreamland (1985). Produced by FRED FRITH, featuring an overview of the Japanese avant-garde scene at the time, with Zolo groups like MIZUTAMA SHOBODAN (THE POLKA DOT FIRE BRIGADE)("The Moon Which Lies") and SABOTEN ("Low Chair") as well as the quirky cabaret of LUNA PARK ENSEMBLE ("Scramble Suite") and KATRA TURANA ("Yatara-chans Annoying Noise".)


Of all the continental countries, the Deutsch Republic has produced the most electronically mutant textured sounds of modern times. Most of this has fallen on the Industrial, rather than Zolo, side of things, but preceding these a bridge was formed by a common relative, Cold Wave. From pioneers like Kraftwerk, Peter Bauman, and Wolfgang Reichman, then on to Gina X Performance, who fused this with a theatrical art / autonomy (see Nice Mover, 1979) this all congealed with a Residential approach from the likes of Der Plan and all who followed them. Plan's output, such as Normalette Surprise (1981) and Die Letze Rache (1983), are seminal to the uniquely German sound of the modern avant-garde and worth investigating. See also: Deutschland (compilation of "new" German music, 1982) featuring many bands in a similar vein including Xao Seffcheque and Ja Ja Ja.

Another important strain is the influence of traditional German cabaret to the new music. Fiery chanteuse Dagmar Krause comes from this background, as do the Weill cum Der Plan sound of Goebbels and Harth, who also incorporate an expressionist jazz element ala Albert Ayer, best heard on Indianer Fur Morgen (1981). Later bands like The Blech also qualify here.

On a more poppy side, two German ex-patriots have skirted the edges of Zolo, albeit more for their image, but odd character does yield odd sound. Wind up toy Klaus Nomi, with his wacky brand of space opera and New Romantic disco, shines on two clever albums: Klaus Nomi (1981) and Simple Man (1982). His female counterpart would have to be Nina Hagen, who's eccentricity is usually undercut by generic rock backing musicians, except on Nunsexmonkrock (1982), where the music exuberantly rises to her challenge.

As for the rest of Europe, a more rhythmic and melodically complex approach prevails:

Rock In Opposition

Founded by seventies British avant proggers Henry Cow and residing on Recommended Records, the label founded by that groups drummer, Chris Cutler, RIO was a network of bands throughout Europe, ranging in style from classical to folk to rock but joined by two common threads: an eclectic, experimental approach to their form and a sense of nationality (singing in their native dialects) that kept them isolated from the usual channels of exposure, in their respective countries, that their more English / American sounding counterparts were given. The result is a wholly European form (or, more accurately, an individual form to each different country) of modern pop / avant-garde music that would have to be heard to be understood.

The following bands represent the Zoloish end of RIO, but before trekking through the continent, this pioneering release must be observed:


Desperate Straights (1974). This composite of two bands: Cow (U.K.) and S.H., featuring Dagmar Krause (Germany) and her English and American band mates, take the art song to newfangled pastures on this brilliant disc. Picks: "Some Questions About Hats", "A Worm is at Work", "Bad Alchemy", "Europa", "Apes in Capes", and "Strayed". Also from this union: In Praise of Learning (1975).



Genius composer / arranger. His first four albums: Albert Marcoeur (1974), Album A Colorier (1976), Armes and Cycles (1979), and Celui Ou Y'A Joseph (1984) are collected on one double CD package. Bright, diverse, multi layered songs like "C'est Rate, C'est Rate", "La D'Dans", "Linge Sale", "Comme Avant" and more are full of slip sliding guitars, dotty xylophones, and wobbly whistles atop ship shaking song structures. Barrels of fun!


France's most fabulous group. Enormously pulsating staccato snaps of drums, bass, sax, keyboards, and vocals, vagariously woven into odd, complex song structures of amazing precision and filigree. Their five outstanding studio albums: Batelages (1976), Les Trois Fou (1977), Les Poumons Gonfles (1982), Les Sillons De La Terre (1984), and Face Aux Elements Dechaines (1986) are all collected onto one triple CD package. Highly recommended!

ETRON FOU are like a genre unto themselves, producing many spin off groups and solo projects linked by that unmistakable Etronish trademark. Standouts include bassist FERDINAND RICHARD ET LES PHILOSOPHES Enclume (1991), keyboardist JO THIRION's ART MOULU (one tremendous eponymous CD), and knockout drummer GUIGO CHENEVIER's 1993 release Le Diapason Du Pere Ubu.

Marcoeur and the Etrons have been the inspiration for an influx of new music groups in the Gallic Nation through the eighties and nineties including: LES I, LOOK DE BOUK, TOUPIDEK LIMONADE, VIDEO AVENTURES, VIRGULE IV, and SZENTENDRE, many of whom have skirted in and around Zolo. Compilations include:

Douze Pour Un Vol.1 (1982) and Vol.2 (1986). On Recommended's French branch, AYAA Disques, who have released many terrific discs by the aforementioned artists as well as others including:


Ignobles Limaces (1984). One of France's more electronic mutations, somewhere between DEVO and RENALDO AND THE LOAF.



Schlagerns Mystik / For Aldre Nybegynnare (double LP, 1978). The first disc is full of skillfully played, avant-garde folk with Zolo tracks like "Profession in the Amateurs Glue", "Buttonless", and "Little Karin", while the second disc has some terrific improvisations.

Other Zamla releases have ranged from old school folky prog (earlier) to rock and more zany styled folk (later). Accordionist Lars Holmer has continued in this vein on many fine solo releases, while younger groups like Zut Un Feu Rouge have mixed the quirks with a darker edge.



Emile au Jardin Patrolgique (1981)

Battre Campagne (1983)

Two extraordinary albums of frantically played songs and improvisations full of odd time changes, colourful flourishes, mutant ambience, and the unmistakable humor of Zolo.

Former members have carried on the Menthol tradition with a stronger RIO folk base in splinter groups: the bright, dancey Nimal and the more ethereal sounding L'Ensemble Raye. Both bands are cornerstones of the Swiss new music scene of the nineties, as are:


Three excellent discs on Rec Rec, the Swiss branch of Recommended. With vocals in English (and American accents), they alternate male and female vocals on jittery epics set to surreal storylines, sounding somewhat like early FIBONACCIS.

In a Certain Light We All Appear Green (1987). Special highlights include the GENTLE GIANT-like harmonies on "The Engineer" and the mini opera "Jonathan's Throat".

Play and Strange Laughter (1989)

Kleinzeit (1992). Their best yet; a theatrical treasure trove concerning a comical romance between nurse and patient.

Progressive yet accessible, N.S.I.T.F. deserve a wider hearing.



This seven piece, five lads and one lassie, plus elder keyboardist Marc Hollander (formerly behind RIO co-founders Aqsak Maboul), sing in their native tongue but have a more Anglo approach to their quirky Zolo. Their one album, Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel (1981), is a gem, full of knockouts like "Rush", "Flat", "Fonce a Mort", "J4", "Route Nationale 7", "Laisse Tomber Les Filles", and more.


After the Soviet invasion of 1968, defiant rock groups popped up in the Czech Republic, making it the richest Eastern block nation for progressive music. The leaders of this movement were The Plastic People of the Universe, who secretly recorded at least eight albums during their sixteen year existence, only half of which they managed to smuggle out to be released. THE PLASTIC PEOPLE (as they eventually dropped the suffix) developed a snappy Zolo edge on later albums like Hovezi Porazka (1983) and Midnight Mouse (1984), while they and younger groups like MCH Band (with their self described "New Wave with art rock arrangements") played covert concerts where not only they, but also their audience risked persecution. With the liberation in 1989 came a whole influx of new Czech bands riding the quest of the avant-garde, including Dunaj, Ser Un Peyjalero, and the Zoloest of them all:


Uprostred Slov (1990)

Nemilovany Svet (1991)

Two snappy discs of ETRON FOU meets PLASTIC PEOPLE sounding tunes carried off with vibrant youthful energy (the second includes an eleven minute track!) Subsequent releases include Hollywood (1993) and Pohadky ze Zapotrebi (1995).



Perestroika's finest export.

Rhinoceroses and Other Forms of Life (1989). Ten tracks switching between "Rhino", and "Bossa", including one dedicated to CONNIE PLANK. Swell. Also:

Hey Driver Cool Down the Horses!!! (1994).

Recommended Records (ReR) ran a label called Points East that they devoted to recordings from the other side of the Iron Curtain, including records by East Berlin's DER EXPANDER DES FORTSCHRITTS and Leningrad's STRANGE GAMES.

The European RIO sound has influenced a small network of musicians around the world. In French Canada, the output has been rather over the top, while in the U.S. most attempts have been clumsy and drab, with a few notable exceptions being:


Infra Dig (1984). Great HENRY COW meets GENTLE GIANT styled prog.

"Submission"? "Ballad of a Thin Man" (1984). Zany covers of The Sex Pistols and Bob Dylan.


Instrumental avant prog with influences ranging from GENTLE GIANT, GODLEY AND CREME, ZAMLA MAMMAZ MANNA, Universe Zero, and (you guessed) Carl Stalling. Two albums, Cartoon (1981) and Music From Left Field (1983) are compiled on the CD Sortie.


A U.S. Zolo response to the English Canterbury Prog of groups like Hatfield and the North and National Health. Happy Accidents (1988) has all the vast diversity and complexity of those bands with a delightful sense of humor and rubbery, boingy, vibrato timbre.

The greatest RIO outside of continental Europe, however, hails from the mother country.

Now despite a line of great albums, RIO founders HENRY COW were a band with too many charismatic talents for their own good; their 1978 breakup should be seen as no surprise. Since disbanding, it's members have remained aligned to the ReR network, forming bands with each other as well as others and doing solo projects. Bassist John Greaves ventured into jazz and then pop and later ambient. Dagmar Krause and Lindsay Cooper have proceeded in a cabaret vein, the former as an interpreter and the latter a composer. Chris Cutler has drummed and written lyrics in a number of bands, as well as writing a book, File Under Popular (November Books, 1991.) And as for contributions in the Zolo vein, none has been more productive than guitarist FRED FRITH, His Ralph trilogy is full of vision and spark:

Gravity (1980). Amazingly dense and melodic RIO folk / avant rock with the help of ZAMLA MAMMAZ MANNA and AQSAK MABOUL alumni. Picks: the lot, all through the Ralphish rendition of "Dancing in the Street".

Speechless (1981). More rock ended improvisation, noise, and cacophony than before. ETRON FOU and MASSACRE appear.

Cheap at Half the Price (1983). Oddball pop songs recorded at home on 4-track. His most Zolo album, highlighted by "Some Clouds Don't" and "Cap the Knife".

Frith's ubiquity on both sides of the Atlantic has produced many group endeavors, including:

Art Bears. "Rats and Monkeys" / "Collapse" (1979). Brazenly abrasive single from this mostly dark tinged Cow offshoot featuring Frith, Cutler, and Krause. The a side is a one of a kind.


Killing Time (1981). Intoxicating Zonk jazz from Frith's New York trio including locals Bill Laswell and Fred Maher. Frith also appears on Memory Serves, the 1982 release from Laswell's art funk operative, Material.


Learn to Talk (1983)

The Country of Blinds (1984)

Fake folk, improv, and politics abound on this New York duo with the equally ubiquitous Tom Cora (Zeena Parkins joins on the second.) Here Frith cuts in to more boingy Zolo guitar playing than ever

Frith's solo career has continued on as well, with such standouts as The Technology of Tears (double LP, 1986) where he applied his trademark compositional style to modern technology. In 1990, he teamed up with FERDINAND RICHARD on one fine disc, Dropera. For a closer look, see his movie documentary Step Across the Border (1990).

Of all the ex members of HENRY COW, none was more altered by Punk than saxophonist TIM HODGKINSON, who went on to form:


"I Hate America" / "Fingers and Toes", "Duty" (1981)

Slow Crimes (1982). Harsh Punk crossed with the complexity of Cow gives this a certain Zonk edge, though it's very one of a kind.

These fantastic recordings, along with "Houdini" (from The Recommended Records Sampler, 1982) are compiled onto one CD. Also from THE WORK: Rubber Cages (1989) and See (1992). Great art Punk like you just don't get anymore.

THE WORK's decidedly post Punk direction forged a crossover of RIO into the more prominent arty New Wave underground of the slightly more traditionally Anglo styled groups. DAVID THOMAS, in turn, became involved in the ReR milieu, as did Ubu pals RED CRAYOLA (see Soldier Talk, 1979, and Kangaroo, 1981). Thomas worked with Greaves, Cooper, and Cutler, the latter of whom joined his late phase of Pedestrian and Wooden Bird lineups leading to the reformation of PERE UBU in 1988.

As for other U.K. Zolo in the ReR realm:


Andy and Chris (EP, 1982)

Sound Every Day (EP, 1983)

Informs (1984). Underproduced, but great. Song titles indicate attempts at different styles, but the approach is through a kaleidoscope, for tracks like "Rockabilly" and "Pop" are pure Zolo. Note also the magnificent silk screened cover, a prime example of the personal craft and detail that ReR puts into their packaging.

These next two Zolo groups were actually released on United Dairies, a label more known for it's Industrial / bruitist roster:


Dance Music (1981). Very bright and snappy Zolo toones, from compact ("Life with Christian")to complex ("Trial of Mr. Grey").


Again! (1981). Released on Experimental ("the commercial division of United Dairies"). Whatever the case, "Secret Monkeys", "Ape Ship", "Back, Back", and the title track are Zolo delights, and "Dream Pussy" features scat-gurgling by Robert Wyatt.


By now Zolo was, however obscure, a phenomenon around the world. Here are a few titles by established groups that caught wind of Zolo.


For this discography, the billing should really be the other way around with these two, for it is Yoko who is Zolo! She provides Double Fantasy (1980) with it's two most obvious Zolo zapperz, "Kiss Kiss Kiss" and "Give Me Something", the effect of which rubs off on John as well. He gets crazy on "Cleanup Time" as well as doing several quirky takes on fifties stroll, while Yoko adds yet more variety with the cabaret-ish "I'm Your Angel". And "Hard Times Are Over" is a beautiful ending to this album and (sadly) a whole lot more.


One of the original symphonic Prog bands who worked the more acoustic side of the genre and featuring the wide, windy voice of Annie Haslam. Once a five piece, they dwindled to three (like Genesis) by the time of Camera Camera (1981), on which they injected a dose of Zolo quirks to the songs and more electronics to the production, not to mention their bright new duds and short / high dooz. Easily one of the freshest and most delightful of left turns that any established group has ever taken. The sound on a lot of this is not far from THE FIBONACCIS. A perfect marriage of Zolo and Prog is made on "Faeries", "Tyrant-Tula", and the title track.


The pop mastermind behind Fleetwood Mac, and that groups resident weirdo. He had his head turned by the thrust of the New Wave, and he saw SPLIT ENZ live in 1977 when PHIL JUDD was still in the group. It took a while, but this newfound tendency within him finally came through on Go Insane (1984). From the spinning, whistling whirlygigs that roll in "I Want You", this album is a masterpiece through and through, highlighted as well by the epic "Play In the Rain", which is split between the two sides. It's a wonder why he even bothered returning one more time to his old band mates.


The guitarist from Genesis further explores the New Wave territory that his main band first delved into on Abacab (1981), this time adding plenty of Zolo sparks and bleeps on his sophomore solo outing Acting Very Strange (1982). The only problem is that he decided to do the singing as well.

And the boing goes on; Zolo in the indie world:

It would be impossible to locate every fish that has swam the indie sea and, likewise, to find all the ones that have worn Zolo clothing. The following is a list of some that have come to my attention.


What is It? (1982)

Ja-Jazz (1983)

Spot the Difference (1984)

Zany Zazz. Imagine PERE UBU (circa Bailing Man) down in the tropics with a few dozen Charles Mingus injections. Many other releases exist; loads of fun (if you can find them.)


Absolutely Zolo. Absolutely essential.

Mud On a Colin (EP, 1986)

Quirk Out (EP, 1986)

A Fierce Pancake (1986)

With their unmistakable boingy guitars, skittery rhythms, and warbly vocals, they are the most original band to emerge in the U.K. this side of '86. Their comic and wordy toones abound through these rollicking discs, the most popular of which, "Buffalo", appears on both Quirk Out and the LP. A 7" of "Buffalo" is flipped with the otherwise unissued "The Song Remains" and the 12" of "Chaos" is flipped with the a cappella "Safe Sex" that you wont find anywhere else. STUMP could be the only English band after the New Wave era that you will ever need.


And what would this discourse over Zolo pieties be without a mention of this oddball duo that took the college charts by storm in the late eighties. Mixing cerebral wordplay with a blend of XTC, Spike Jones, FRANK ZAPPA, and Stackridge, their first two albums are gems:

They Might Be Giants (1986)

Lincoln (1988)

Many 12' single EPs include non album tracks from this period. Also: Flood (1990).


This Seattle unit emerged right on the brink of a musical apocalypse. Punctuated by zany xylophones, they straddle between the PERE UBU / STUMP axis and more mainstream alterna funk influences on Jack (1990) which is highlighted by the mischievous "Hot Buttered Edgar".

Reaching the end for now, I leave one final entry, that of yours truly:


Unreleased demos (circa 1991) of "Fizgig", "Jolt and Swing", "Bugaloo", "1992", and "Eye Popping Psychosis" are primitive recordings of very optimistic songs that paid no heed to the dreary times that were lying ahead.

Zolo's small but magnificent presence through a number of genres, generations, and regions over the last three decades speaks for the significance of fantasy and autonomy to the enlightened individual. The onslaught of grunge in 1992, however, yielded in an era where self pity and ambiguity took control, virtually wiping out the voice of flamboyancy and imagination across the board. But with the nineties now nearing their end, it's intuitive to say that the tides will turn once again. The music listed here remains undatable because it has represented no time. The only time it could represent is the future.

Many of the records in this list are easy to find in used record stores, while some are on CD. RIO titles are much more obscure, but you can find most of them at the Cuneiform Records site (See links page.)

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

Copyright Terry Sharkie 1997