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Magma - Live/Hhaï (Köhntark) CD (album) cover





4.44 | 219 ratings

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5 stars Magma and, more generally, the entire Zeuhl genre is very often lobbed in with the avant-garde music scene. Dün, one of the later initial Zeuhl bands to record, were almost invited into the ranks of the RIO juggernauts. Koenjihyakkei's hyper-active Japanese themes make them seem a jittery, super-fast insane noise generator. Meaning no disrespect to RIO or the avant-garde scene, I find that there's a vital element in Zeuhl music that distinguishes it from other styles of non-conventional, experimental, or avant-garde music. It is celestial, grand, holy music. It is celestial without utilizing psychedelic effects, droning, or the obvious methods of a standard flower-power band. It is grand without employing outwardly epic melodies and superbly dramatic, theatrical dynamics. It is holy without belonging to any given religion or creed. It is pure, instinctive, naturally arising music. It is music of the universal might, and it is magnificent.

(I must admit however, that the lyrics are of a science-fiction disposition, and the compositions and arrangements are not unlike twentieth-century classical music, and the theme of the music is often very spiritual, so therefore my previous statements may be misleading.)

What Magma accomplish is a nearly impossible thing: making ambitiously-conceptual and outwardly avant-garde music sound beautiful and lush. Just like Köhntarkösz, and Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, Magma continue to do so. Record in 1975, in the capital of their origin, Paris, this flawless live record introduces us to some new material, extracted from hitherto unrecorded movements. Some of these movements continue stories we've already been subjected to. For example, Ëmëhntëht-Rê is a piece from the movement of the same name, which is a direct sequel to Köhntarkösz. This means nothing to the average listener, since the Kobaïan lyrics are near impossible to translate anyway. Musically, the band are at top game, with some stellar drumming from Vander, and mind-blowing bass work from Paganotti. Think Top is the true Magma bassist? Listen to this album, then Weidorje's sole release, and you may just change your mind.

The real fear of all live albums is their knack to spit out what they had just released on the studio record. Magma is phenomenal at opposing this impulse, and instead changing tempos, arrangements, or adding or removing layers and instruments. One advantage to the oft changing line-up of Magma was the diversity of every performance. This is why Magma's large catalog of live material is extremely worth the buck: the performances are very different, and the setlists often include new material. Live, or Köhntark, or Hhaï, is their first live output, and one of their more notable ones. I would go so far as to say it is the finest live record I've ever heard.

The addition of violin to the music adds another level of atmosphere, beauty, variety, and texture. Guitar is in some cases more prominent than the studio version, and in other cases completely removed. However, if the thirty minute version of Köhntark(ösz) isn't brilliant enough for you with it's brilliant reshaping, then you still have another disc and more worth of other music. Ëmëhntëht-Rê's dark minimalism will plunge you into a stormy trance, and the gorgeous Hhaï will smoothly lift you from your meditation. The absolutely beautiful melodies will haunt you. Then the jazzy Kobah (huge re-invention of the track Kobaïa) will have you grooving in your seat. Lïhns, another new piece, will testify to Magma's songwriting brilliance, and have you even attempting to sing along in your best Kobaïan voice. And finally, a twenty-five minute elaboration, including insane violin doodling, of the second side of Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh will leave you totally satisfied.

Don't think that the intensity of the original recording is lost, don't think that the sound quality is inferior, don't think that the tracks are merely sloppy imitations of the studio performance. No, every moment on here is unique and distinct, and essential. I pity the ears that die afore digesting these sounds.

Shakespeare | 5/5 |


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