«Zoïkhem» - biography, albums, songs, video clips

The French avant-garde ensemble Zoïkhem was formed in 1995 by the drummer, pianist and composer Franck Smith (born 09/01/73 in Aix-en-Provence, France). He learned to play drums in regional school and later continued to refine his performance technique on his own. Zoïkhem was created 05/01/95 and the meaning of the name derives from two words: “Zoï” (roughly translated in the artificial language invented by Smith “echo, sound, voice, call, song”) and “Khem” (form ancient Egyptian language, meaning “black land”).

According to F. Smith the band’s name translates as “sounds of the black land” or “cry from the land of darkness”. The composer uses a mixture of Latin texts and language invented by himself and believes that music has to be more important than the language or the content of the texts. The group performed as a trio. The vocal part was sung by the young baritone Pascal Terrier, while a member with the pseudonym “Hélios” took over the clarinet. In addition, the CD inserts list the piano “Sony D-151” as an independent fourth party member. This is due to a very interesting way in which the music was created. Franck Smith himself first recorded the piano track, which becomes the foundation for the recording and mixing of the other instruments. All compositions by Zoïkhem originated in this way, even the drums were played by Smith with his unique sculptural technique of playing later.

The Group made two CD albums, both of which are from 1997: “Requiem” (Tribal Prod. TPZK.VII) and “Vox Clamantis In Deserto” (Tribal Prod. TPZK.IX). This is a new avant-garde electro-acoustic chamber music eliciting a very gloomy atmosphere. It has a clear reference to the music of Magma (especially from the 70’s period of “1001° Centigrades”), such as the invented language, way of vocal interpretation, etc. Nevertheless, this is a very original creation.

Zoïkhem’s music is mystical, dark, and monumental despite their reduced form. The music is rough and raw, which further adds to its unusual severity, and in moments of expression (eg. the 38-minute piece “Vox Clamantis in Deserto”) almost unbridled brutality. It’s dark beauty is derived from the grim mystery, the magic of mystical solemnity and ritual. The calculated sober, disciplined austerity and dramatic arrangements do not exclude flowing emotions and creative spontaneity. The Black and white album covers reflect the atmosphere of the music.

Unfortunately, upon the realization of these two albums Franck Smith ended Zoïkhem to devote himself increasingly to his own solo projects. So far released two solo CDs have been released: “IX. Que Ce Bébé Se Taise Crierons-Nous Dans Nos Tombes” (1998) and “Ici ∉ Ø si 340 m/s < rien” (1999). The music contained on them is even more avant-garde than Zoïkhem. In 1993 before Zoïkhem was created Smith wrote in two pieces: “Ritual” for string quartet and “Les Quatre Éléments” for percussion. He performed it in concert with the band Alchimie Boréale. The following year he joined Ensemble 2746 après Rome, with whom he recorded a CD “Messe” which was inspired by medieval music.