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Magma - Merci CD (album) cover





2.67 | 219 ratings

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4 stars This album has a terrible reputation, reflected in its average rating, and the complaint that it takes Magma in a wholly terrible, Linn-drum-dominated disco direction (!).

Well, it's true that it does do 80s disco. But like others, I like those tracks. And what Vander is doing here is something that becomes increasingly obvious as the album plays out, especially on 'Otis' and its last two tracks, 'Eliphas Levi' and 'The Night We Died'. This is to fully embrace and express the soul influence that was always present in Magma. While Merci is arguably 'straighter' than much Magma, it is no less esoteric, and in some ways it is perhaps the most intense. longing and lonely of all Vander's records, absolutely saturated with what Herzog calls 'ecstatic truth'. Like Herzog's movies, this record has a dark, isolated weirdness to it - which is also frequently comical.

It's a heavy listen and as it plays out Vander seems almost unable to vocalise what he's after, and it can be painful to listen to his strangled, inward singing on 'Otis', as naked, vulnerable and straining after an unfettered joy as it is. The disco tracks are like no disco ever heard, and I am sure Vander tried to do something like Miles here in rejecting his own tradition, and going for something totally unobvious, in a search of a new-minted, spiritual soul.

Make no mistake, this is a strange record. It even feels emotionally damaged. But its last 15 minutes achieve a drifting, radiant bliss. Beneath this is not Chic - but darkness. Merci has its own brilliance and visionary commitment and it's high time people - many of whom would call themselves Magma fans - saw beyond their horror upon hearing the opening track (which is way better than most think anyway, quickly moving beyond the 80s tropes into a complex choral suite).

It's one of my most-played Magmas. I love weirdness and I also love honesty and those are both here in spades. It's not a masterpiece, but it certainly has the ambition and the originality that any masterpiece needs. 4.5 stars.

animal_laminate_2 | 4/5 |


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