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

LIVE/HHAÏ (KÖHNTARK)

Magma

 

Zeuhl

4.43 | 157 ratings

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Pnoom!
5 stars Rating: A+

Magma are, without any doubt whatsoever, one of the greatest bands ever to walk this earth. Other than the atrocious Merci, I like all of their studio CDs, and they have a fair few excellent live albums as well. From amidst this barrage of excellent Magma music comes forth one CD in particular, a CD that epitomizes the very essence of Magma's existence. It explores their jazz-fusion influences in depth, builds around their classic spiritual zeuhl sound, and tops it all off by capturing their intense power as a live unit. That CD is Live/Hhai, the first live CD Magma released back in the 1970s.

It's not often that a band's best effort is a live one, especially for a band so compositionally based as Magma. What is it that lifts this CD up above anything else they've ever done? Well, for one, it explores every aspect of Magma's sound and then creates some new ones as well. It shows the slow-building immensity of Kohntark (in my mind the greatest piece of music ever composed), then follows that up with the violin-centric, meditative Emehnteht-Re. Side two is where the fusion elements most creep in, with the two more-fusion-than-zeuhl tracks Hhai and Kobah. Lihns, which comes next, is one of the most beautiful things the band has done. Then, to end the album, we have Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik and Mekanik Zain, which together form the latter half of their epic MDK, with the addition of a bass and a violin solo.

What is there beyond the perfect tracklisting that makes this an essential CD? Well, the perfect performance, for one. I can barely listen to Kohntarkosz (the album) anymore because the highlight of that CD, the title track, is performed much better here, thanks largely to Didier Lockwood's violin. Especially during the climax, Lockwood adds a new dimension to the music that truly makes it the greatest music I have ever heard. Couple that with the intensity of Magma performing live, and you have a simply unbeatable piece of music. On the version of MDK, the band again pump up the intensity, making the original look like plain white wallpaper in comparison (it helps, of course, that on this version the drums are audible). Everything else (except Kobah) cannot be found on any Magma studio recording, so I can't compare them to any studio counterparts, but they are performed with the same intensity as Kohntark and Mekanik Zain, rest assured.

What else makes this double-CD live offering an essential album and the quintessential Magma release? Well, the way some tracks are reworked, for one. Mekanik Zain, of course, has the long bass solo introduction followed by the long violin solo, both of which enhance the piece (as opposed to some other Magma live CDs where the bass and violin solos bring it down a bit). The real gem in this regard, however, is Kobah, a reworking of the track Kobaia from their debut. It has transformed from rough jazz-rock to a hybrid of zeuhl, jazz-fusion, and pure rock, combining the spiritual nature of the first, the slickness of the second, and the energy of the third into one unbeatable mix.

If all of that is not enough to convince you that this is a masterpiece, consider this. Despite defining Magma (a difficult band to get into), it is remarkably accessible, even to the extent that I would recommend it as the best starting place for Magma. The excesses of MDK are all but absent, and while those so-called excesses definitely are part of why MDK stands as one of the greatest CDs ever released, it's impossible to deny that they help to turn a lot of users away from Magma. In addition, the crossover with jazz-fusion means that there are more potential reference points for the potential listener, again making it easier to get into. What's the key reason this CD is one of Magma's most accessible, however? It's just so damn catchy. Hhai, Kobah, and Lihns are all absolute infectious, and even Kohntark and Mekanik Zain will induce foot-tapping (to an extent).

Given all that, how could Live/Hhai be anything BUT essential? I give it the highest recommendation it is possible to give.

Pnoom! | 5/5 |

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