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Magma - Attahk CD (album) cover





3.72 | 419 ratings

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4 stars Despite lacking the outright intensity and fully dark alien atmospheres that made `Kohntarkosz' and `Udu Wudu' such hypnotic and unsettling Zeuhl albums, `Attahk' from 1977 is still more or less an essential part of Magma's catalogue. It's not quite as immediate as those above mentioned works, but once you get past the initial disappointment of it lacking the more sinister elements (and don't worry, they're still there in subtle ways), you start to focus on everything it does right. Dark jazz still remains, the choral and vocal elements are given even more exquisite focus, the spiritual qualities are more heightened than ever, a heavy dose of ballistic funk has been implemented, and despite being comprised of seven shorter pieces, they are all tightly composed and some even rank among the greatest pieces from the band.

Magma leader Christian Vander mentions in the CD booklet how much he wanted to push his voice with this record, to especially focus on the best performance possible, and the results paid off superbly. Taking on the full lead role, the man has never sounded so gloriously inspired, passionate or complex, and he fills the pieces with a break-neck insane experimental scat vocalising that sounds like no-one else on the planet. Although he mentions as well that the drumming was not as much of a priority at the time, you wouldn't know it by listening to the album. The opening piece alone is full of so much furious and exhausting percussion fury, but throughout the disc Vander knows when to show restraint and not dominate the overall arrangements.

`The Last Seven Minutes' is one of the most frantic compositions ever from the band, full of quick- change tempo changes, devilish unpredictable drum fills and some supremely dirty grooves, with Vander's confident voice a lusty mix of squealing, yodelling and inhuman crooning. Right from the start the piece grabs your attention and it's the perfect punchy opener. `Spiritual' could not be more appropriately named, it's one of the most glorious and uplifting gospel-inspired works from the band. Hand claps, lovely shimmering Fender Rhodes, Vander and his female choir caught up in the most rapturous joy. The melancholic interlude `Rinde' has Vander's sweetly crying falsetto spiralling around dazzling classical piano. The relentless `Lirik Necronomicus Kant' has a maddening repetitive humming vocal melody over thick murky slab-like bass puttering away in the background with a chaotic finale.

The seriously weird `Maaht' brings back some of the unnerving sci-fi tension, a deranged blast with skittering drumming, sped-up voices, belching, ranting vocals and stomping call-to-arms trumpet/trombone fanfare and bluster. `Dondai' is one of the most romantic and sumptuous pieces ever to appear on a Magma album. Wistful and deeply passionate, filled with great spirit, some lovely call-and-response chorals from Stella and her choir a real highlight. Confident piano and some bass moments that creep to the foreground briefly add just a touch of tension, with nice Chamberlin bursts adding a touch of sophistication and majesty. The album closer `Nono' comes the closest to the apocalyptic menace of the darker previous albums. A sinister and brooding chanting female choirs builds in intensity to weigh down on the listener, with growled spitting vocals that turn proudly victorious in the final minutes. Oddly, the track also has a strangely powerful and triumphant symphonic prog finale that sounds quite unlike Magma, the bouncy and grand briefly even resembling E.L.P or Genesis!

Considering the level of upheaval and uncertainty in the structure of the band at this point (some of the Magma musicians taking off to form Weidourje), it's amazing to discover that the recording sessions still resulted in a cohesive and quality album. Admittedly the loss of Jannick Top's thick and prominent bass is instantly noticeable, but Guy Delacroix is not merely some poor substitute. Sadly, Vander reveals in the lavish CD booklet that the pieces `Dondai' and `Maahnt' were both originally over 25 minutes in length, so in some ways it's disappointing to know what we missed out on here (although parts of these ended up reworked on later Magma albums). However, `Attahk' is still an example of a band refusing to repeat itself, finding new facets to their sound and offering an energetic, fascinating and rewarding work.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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