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Magma - 1001░ Centigrades CD (album) cover

1001░ CENTIGRADES

Magma

 

Zeuhl

4.09 | 284 ratings

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song_of_copper
4 stars 1001˚ Centigrades is Magma's second album. Whilst their first was a somewhat aimless double LP, with an air of rootlessness which saw the band wandering from one type of music to the next, not just over the double album as a whole, but even within the confines of each separate piece, this second effort begins to show a deal more backbone, a heap more discipline, a lot more coherence, and tantalisingly offers us a kind of "proto-Zeuhl", with a more confident, masterful tone. The first track ('R´ah Sah´ltaahk', penned by Christian Vander) is really excellent - the pounding repetition, layers of dark texture, interlocking units of complex rhythm and passionately sincere Koba´an vocals are a taste of Magma-to-be. No vaguely jazzy doodling here! It's got a marvellous sense of urgency and structure, instead of being all over the shop like some of the music on their dÚbut.

Track 2 ('"Iss" Lanse´ Do´a', by Teddy Lasry) starts off with some eerie mumbling, percussion and gentle wind instruments which give off a slightly tribal aroma, but it soon takes on a more conventional, jazz-inflected mood, somewhat reminiscent of an outtake from Zappa's 'Hot Rats'. It's a good catchy piece with occasional bursts of atonal tootling to liven things up. Then some choral vocals chime in, reminding us that this is Magma after all! Some deep, squelchy-sounding spoken Koba´an adds to the tense air. (Sounds a bit like as if Zappa had given Captain Beefheart the afternoon off and hauled in an Inuit shaman to add some vocals to 'Hot Rats'.) This is a piece in which the combination of straightforward jazz rock and extra-terrestrial otherness sits rather well together, integrating nicely, rather than grating or constantly flipping from one style to the next. The driving piano figures (soon matched by the wind/brass) and effervescent drumming again offer hints at Zeuhl-to-come. It ends with a 'tick-tock' rhythm as if some infernal countdown to doomsday has begun.

The third and final track ('Ki ¤ahl Í ¤lahk', by Franšois Cahen) continues the theme of brisk, urgent, disciplined jazz with added Koba´an flourishes - notably some impassioned screeches from Vander (doing his enraged Zeuhl prophet voice!) and Klaus Blasquiz's sonorous invocations of the phrase 'Wurdah Itah'. Then after a few surprising swirly, phasey, psych-style effects (do you get the feeling the producer was a little nonplussed by Magma?! "Uh, they're weird, right? Okey-dokey, standard 'weird' sound effects coming right up."), it degenerates into what I can only describe as 'If Magma was a lounge band' - with some out-of-place cheery keyboard tinkling and jolly tunefulness all round! That's probably the weirdest thing on the whole album! Eventually, it just fades away as if 'lounge band Magma' have boarded the nearest spacecraft and are drifting off into the night, earning their passage by entertaining the first class passengers.

Overall, I think this album is perfect proof of why the early formations of Magma had to be superseded. Here and there are fleeting glimpses of the magisterial might of fully-fledged Zeuhl (which would get its triumphant coming-out party courtesy of 'MDK'), but ultimately, such idiosyncratic music was bound to want to struggle free of the rather more polite (although very well executed) jazz excursions on the album. Yes, it works much better and is far tighter and more ordered than the endearing muddle of Magma's first album, but set it in its timeline alongside later gems. well, I think this is a four star deal we have here! Great stuff, but even better yet to come!

song_of_copper | 4/5 |

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