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Magma - K.A CD (album) cover

K.A

Magma

 

Zeuhl

4.29 | 444 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Take percussionist Christian Vander, throw in some bass by Philippe Bussonnet, mix in Electric Piano by Fr'deric D'Oelsnitz, sprinkle over Guitar by James Mac Gaw, blend in Piano by Emmanuel Borghi and then garnish over with layered choral vocals by Vander, Antoine Paganotti, Himiko Paganotti, Isabelle Feuillebois, and Stella Vander and what do you have? A plateful of Magma. 'K.A.' is typical of their trademark sound, that nobody would dare try to emulate. This is going to test the ears of many listeners but for those initiated into the cultish Magmaverse it is a mesmirising journey that hold immeasurable power.

I have already been officially weaned on Magma through force feeding myself an overdose of 'Kobaia', '1001 Centigrades', 'Me'kani'k De'strukt'ẁ Ko'mmando'h', 'Wurdah Ita', 'Udu Wudu', 'Attahk', 'E'mme'hnte'htt-Re' and 'Live/Hhai', so this album 30 years or so from their last, was definitely no surprise; and in fact exactly what one should expect from Magma, right down to the alien Kobaian vocals. These intonations that are indecipherable and remain hidden for eternity, are without meaning and yet brimming over with vitality and a sense of grandeur that every Magma album must have. After a hiatus the band were back in full force and playing the type of music that has earned them a huge following that has never faltered. The vocals on this first track are beautifully realised, especially the female choirs, they are very moving and so well performed. Especially so when it breaks into that uplifting melody at 6 and a half minutes in. It sounds like the vocals say, 'sit down my slave, this is meaningless', then there are vocal trills and snake hisses which would perhaps send the average music listener running for cover. It is not essential to understand the meaning as one brings their own meaning to this music. It is so absolutely out of the box and unique, it is admirable. Once it locks into your cerebral cortex, it is like a drug where you want more and it hypnotises with its rhythms and insistent vocals. At one point it sounds like the choirs are singing, 'why stab a murder song', why indeed. There are angelic passages of beauty at 10 minutes in, and I love the way it moves into a dreamy atmosphere.

Part II starts with a grand choir of vocal intonations lifting higher and higher and then levelling out as a bass groove locks in with some nice percussion hi hat work. The female voice has a beautiful timbre in her voice, then a choir sounding like 'beep beep my faster car, beep beep my faster car, followed by a male singing proudly, 'I have a fat saveloy.' Despite the hilarious task in creating false translations that Magma often ensues, the music is very infectious. The Koba'an language is quintessential to the distinct approach along with the avant-prog nuances, and switching of time signatures, mixed in with theatrical choir arrangements. The Zeuhl genre is incomplete without Magma of course, the progenitors of the movement, so it is impossible to criticize their uniqueness and bombastic other-worldliness. The part at 9 minutes sounds like 'the music scattered Robin Hood', and I agree, except Robin Hood would be swinging clear of this type of music. I really like the way the music simmers in the frying pan at one point and some sweet female voices sing over a plaintiff keyboard, chanting over and over 'a manic symphony' which may be an apt explanation of the music. One can easily hear 'Allelujah' at one point which is not Kobaian but works. It builds into more forced choirs and the mood gets as dark as Magma can get with staccato piano crashes and a tirade of drum detonations to finish it off as a mercy killing.

Part III is an epic that continues with more fast paced tempos, a cool guitar riff chugs along sounding not unlike Pink Floyd's 'Run Like Hell' from 'The Wall' at one point, and it locks into a pleasant funky groove with some outstanding atmospheric chimes and woodwind. Vander's drums have that wonderful sporadic tempo that has made him one of the drumming geniuses of our age. This builds with wailing choirs that have a haunting ethereal quality along with the jungle sounds, shivering rattlesnake shakers and tribal rhythms. The choral voices build into a loud frenetic chant that could be translated as 'Nobody sold out Rolling Stones', when we all know they did. When Vander sings on his own at the next point it sounds more like German than Kobaian. A lead guitar takes over as the male and female choirs continue to argue with each other. The drums win the argument and then it all breaks into a jazzy exploration with some of the best metronomic tempo changes on the album and the oddest time sigs on the planet. The sheet music would be a mess one would have to think. The Wagnerian opera music finally breaks into bass and drum blitzkrieg. Then more vocals try to explain what is going on and it can be translated as 'who had sat there, we'll do something, don't lick the mustard, do it Monday, do it Sunday, the mighty Sunday, very simple, as it can be, not so sooky, don't preach the candy, bury the sunbeam, berry sun cream, women love me, women sulking, messy sun cream, messy sun cream.' It is a hoot to listen to as it is all nonsense and it makes as much sense as it needs to as it backs up the frenetic music shapes and metronome swinging tempo meters. The choir chant 'Allelujah' again, the only English I can decipher and it is quite stunning as an augmentation to the wild musical expulsions. It builds at the end with threatening power to explode all over the planet, spreading the Magmanificent music worldwide.

At the end of the album as usual with Magma I can only shake my head in awe at the boldness of the group and how music like this can be created. It is incredible with it's primal energy and primitive dynamism and will appeal to their target audience, though I have no idea who that is. Magma are popular enough to pull decent crowds and their return to the studio after so many years of hiding on planet Kobaia was definitely well received. They seem to be more popular than ever judging from the recent colossal box set and DVD packages. Nothing had changed in their music from the germination of the group on 'Kobaiah' to their resurrection with 'K.A.'; if anything, they had become more daring, extreme and adventurous. This album may not measure up to the astonishing genius of 'M.D.K.' but I can still respect 'K.A.' as yet another glorious triumph for the mighty other worldly Magma.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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