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Magma - Christian Vander: Tristan Et Iseult [Aka: Ẁurdah ¤tah] CD (album) cover





4.19 | 306 ratings

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4 stars After a huge composition like the grandiose Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h, Magma (more specifically Christian Vander) decided to shave off the unnecessities, and all the encumbering layers, and just do the basics. All horns have been stripped, the choir is greatly toned down, and even keyboards and guitars make no appearance. The music is purely made up of Vander's brilliant drumming (much higher in the mix compared to Mekan´k), Top's stellar bass playing, vocals from Blasquiz (most prominently), Stellar and Christian Vander, and lastly, piano from Christian. Despite a small line up, and a small selection of instruments (drums, bass, piano, vocals) Magma still manage to create a truly big sound. Christian has said in an interview that he always perceived Magma as a sort of huge choir, made up of hundreds and hundreds of voices. Even when they are limited to four musicians, four days of recording, and four instruments to work with, Magma still create that massive sound here, on their fifth album.

Though originally labeled as a Christian Vander solo project, it is now generally credited as a Magma album. It was originally made as the soundtrack to a Yvan Lagrange film, Tristan et Yseult, but undoubtedly is fully enjoyable away from the film. The concept of the album is entirely independent from the film's, as well. The jazzy element of their original two albums has not really been reincarnated here (not yet), and the slowly building and massively climaxing style of K÷hntarkosz is not at all developed. Instead, they focus again on the very classical and grand style of Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h, with the only difference being, again, the size.

Conceptually, I must admit, I know much, much less of the concept behind this release. The only clues the booklet offers are the words "Second Movement of Theusz Hamtaahk," which is virtually the only information I could dig up about the album on the internet. Since I know nothing about this specific movement, I will tell you what I know about Theusz Hamtaahk in general. It translates to "Time of Hatred" and is, in addition to being the name of the entire cycle, the name of the first movement in the cycle. The second movement is this, Wurdah ¤tah, and the third is the legendary Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h. Theusz Hamtaahk is the period of time between the leaving of the Koba´ans from Earth (which occurred at the end of 1001║ Centigrades) and concludes with the march to spiritual enlightenment which occurs at the end of Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h. This was a violent and destructive time for Earth, and the only thing that brought about its end was the wisdom of the Koba´ans.

Musically, the downsizing of the line-up has no negative effect on the sound. The compositions are incredibly strong, and more sophisticated and matured than ever. Memorable and plain awesome moments appear throughout. These moments are, most notably, caused by the brilliant piano and Fender Rhodes sequences from Vander. They are touching and powerful, and sometimes call on recognizable themes from Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h: a trick that I personally fall for instantly. The vocal work is not dissonant like it sometimes was on Mekan´k Destrukt´w Kommand÷h and their debut, but is instead, like the rest of the instruments, extremely symphonic and orchestral.

Though it is not quite as large as the previous releases, and the concept and/or story is vaguer than ever, the compositions are equally strong than anything they've previously released. If not, better. The arrangements are interesting, the playing is inspired and tight, and the atmosphere is still entirely capturing. This is a Zeuhl essential.

Shakespeare | 4/5 |


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