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





4.44 | 222 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Jazz Fusion, Zeuhl, Psych Prog and ambient darkness - how else do you describe this?

I was stunned at how chilling this music is - a cross between celtic chanting druids and gregorian monks in a dark cathedral mixed with jazz rhythms. Actually that does not describe it at all. It is simply indescribable music and definitely not for all tastes, including mine. I found it hard to grasp and a little disturbing on first listen. Then it kind of grows on you like fungus. You tend to blend in with the music and surrealistic approach like osmosis but is never pleasant as far as I am concerned. It is just too bizarre to comprehend

Each track is unique and impossible to remember. None of the tracks are designed as real songs. Kohntark is the magnum opus like epic, so large it is in two parts. The ominous menace of the music is immediately apparent and ferociously original. The unfriendly atmosphere is captured in this live document, not unlike attending a funeral at times. It lurches forward and an unsettleing cadence sets in with repetitive chanting and off kilter, out of sync guitar. At times the music is really like having your head drilled with nails and it goes on and on relentlessly.

The drums lock in after about 8 minutes and it breaks in to a kind of African metrical pattern. The female choral vocals are loud and dominant by Stella Vander, as nutty as anything from Gong. There is a violin by Lockwood that is unbearable at times as it screams across the soundscape Magma create, especially 13 minutes in. It has the capacity to chill the marrow of your bones. The vocalisation is entirely fictionalised garb from an alien world, comparable to albums with the same trademark vocal style such as 'MDK'. The minor chords are heavily utilised in order to disturb the ear with admirable effect.

Hhai is another highlight that has an excellent hypnotic effect, almost mesmirising and you hardly notice the 9 minutes have passed before the next track begins.

Kobah is definitely my favourite track on the album as it features beautiful psychedelic chanting and is a reasonable length that does not meander for decades but tells its ambiguous story and gets out.

Lihns is very strange again with a heavy melody but not a highlight by any means.

Mekanik Zain features a rather quirky 7/8 rhythm. The ethereal bass and violin are masterfully executed. In fact the entire album is bass heavy.

In conclusion, my first taste of Magma has been rather an intriguing, if difficult to digest journey, albeit a darker journey than I expected. I feel that the overall approach to the music is akin to listening to bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sunn O))) or Sigur Ros, in the sense that it takes a few listens to really appreciate the music, and even after many listens you are still unsure of how much you like the band or if indeed you like them at all. I feel that Magma are great in small doses but can be rather draining in large doses. I understand the cult following for such a band, but they are certainly not my taste, though I admittedly appreciate the originality and influence and importance of Magma.

EDIT: In conclusion, this live album deserves its cult following, and at first Magma were not my taste but then I began to acquire the taste and could not get enough of them!

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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