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Magma - Attahk CD (album) cover

ATTAHK

Magma

 

Zeuhl

3.68 | 238 ratings

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song_of_copper
3 stars 'Attahk' is a weird anomaly in the Magma repertoire. I've had to rewrite my review, because I rather missed the point of it originally. A reappraisal was required! And with that in mind, I'll start out this revised review with a few words of caution!

Before you listen to this record, I need to ask you the following questions:

One: Are you in a happy, fun and silly mood?

If "Yes", proceed to Q2. This could be fun for you. If "No", you are probably feeling too sombre to enjoy this. I recommend you go away and listen to Pink Floyd instead. ;-)

Two: Do you like Christian Vander's singing voice?

If the answer is "Yes, bring on the full range of gurgling, cooing, tootling, howling and (occasional) screeching!", then you are in for a real treat here! Proceed to Q3. (I have to say, it's an emphatic "Yes" from me, but there's no accounting for taste, right?!) If the answer is "Oh god, no, make him stop before the blood starts pouring out of my ears!" then. you would probably be better off saving yourself the pain.

Three: What do you want/expect from this album?

If the answer is "Some intellectually-stimulating, grandiose and heavy Zeuhl", then head right on over to 'Köhntarkösz'. Your needs will be much better accommodated there. If the answer is "Lighthearted, wacky Zeuhl-Pop", then go for it! Press 'Play' now! I can only say that if the Kobaïan Saga was a computer game. then the music of 'Attahk' would be blithering merrily away in accompaniment to every Ork-squashing manoeuvre.

A final note of caution before we get on to the songs.

The big disappointment here is the way Klaus Blasquiz, the absolutely amazing Magma vocalist, becomes little more than a jobbing session backing singer on this record. Occasionally you can distinguish his voice from amongst the syrupy harmonies, but most of the time he is obscured by layers of over-enthusiastic production. What a shame!

Having said that, 'Attahk' is worth listening to; but let's just say that this is a completely different experience from Magma's classic repertoire.

We start out, paradoxically enough, with 'The Last Seven Minutes' - which, whenever I hear it, makes me think of Todd Rundgren. This song has just that emotional TR feel, almost like a tantrum waiting to happen, and I'd absolutely love to hear Todd's take on Kobaïan vocals! This is a rather enjoyable song. If there's such a thing as 'Zeuhl-inflected prog pop' then this might be it!

'Spiritual' is quite an oddity. When I first heard it, I found it depressingly naff. But revisiting it, if in the right mood (see above), maybe there is a bit more joy and genuineness in it than I first thought. well, maybe.

'Rind/ë' - focusing on piano and voice - has a sad, luminous quality. There's a Köhntarkösz-esque figure near the end which can only add to the maudlin air, as I become nostalgic for more successful Magma experiments!

'Liriik Nekronomikus Kahnt' might be my favourite song on the album! It's ridiculous, silly and fun! Kobaïan disco, anyone?! Can I use the word 'groovy'? It really is - much more so than 'Spiritual'. I love the bass on this. It has that driving feel of proper Zeuhl. And there's a little hint of chanting in the end part to remind you of classic Magma.

'Maahnt' starts off with an annoying disco sound. For a moment there I thought there may have been an error during downloading! But the drums and bass get going and they sound great, there's a nice urgency there. This sounds to me like 'Magma remixed'. I'd love to see what would happen if this got played in some achingly hip nightclub! The wacky voices could be a bit annoying, but the playing is good throughout.

On to 'Dondai', with its silky flutish introduction. Melancholy piano and Vanderian vocals ensue. Why do Magma often sound more melancholy in the major key?! (I've noticed that - a lot of their music is in the minor key, but the brisk, assured feel evokes righteous anger more than melancholy. In the major key they often slow things down and seem more reflective. Ok, GCSE Music lesson over.) This song is repetitive, and not in a good way. It just doesn't 'go anywhere' - normally Magma's music is propulsive, it develops, it has a destination; but this just goes round and round in circles. For me, the absolute low point of the album. (D'you know what. it reminds me of being 'on hold' when ringing a call centre.!)

'Nono', meanwhile, is a distinct improvement. It opens with mellow bass and fidgety drums; it's immediately more Zeuhlish. There's crisp tension, it feels much more assured. Most of the music on this album dispenses with the unconventional rhythmic behaviour that is normally a Magma hallmark - but here it returns, with those vocal lines that are sort of 'misaligned' against the underlying structure of the music. It just all sounds a bit more 'Magmatic'. As a bonus, we can even hear Klaus momentarily, although his vocals are 'treated' to make him sound fuzzily electronic. The goofy keyboards and guitar remind me of Todd again. Perhaps the most successful 'Zeuhl-Pop' outing on the album. Spot of the old "Dats Ï!" - that's more like it - and, indeed, a spot of the Köhntarkösz-esque 'revolve around a few chords, whilst the vocal does something rhythmically-unrelated over the top of that'.

My verdict. the overall sound of this record is a bit too 'shiny-plastic' to evoke the same raw response as 'proper Magma'. Although I adore Christian Vander's 'extra-terrestrial balladeur' singing voice, we get a bit too much of a good thing here - consigning Klaus to 'background texture' only is criminal, but then again this music isn't the sort of thing that requires his grandiloquently semi-operatic gifts.

Dating from 1978, this album is approximately the same age as me. But I think I've probably aged better! This is a fun and happy experiment that doesn't really seem connected to the rest of Magma's output. For that reason, I wouldn't pick this as your first Magma, however 'easy' it is to listen to. (And why would you want it 'easy' anyway?!) I think 'Attahk' is worth a spin now and again, for the sheer lovable silliness of it, but it's best enjoyed in isolation, whilst studiously avoiding any comparisons with other Magma gems.

Daft, cute and entrirely non-essential - three stars!

song_of_copper | 3/5 |

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