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Magma - Concert 1992, Douarnenez:  CD (album) cover




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4 stars Or Magma unplugged. This is an absolute gem of a live album, a crystal clear direct-to- digital recording from a 1992 jazz festival. As the title and line up suggests, the emphasis here is on Christian Vander's brilliant vocal compositions and arrangements, and the instrumental backing is generally minimal.

The album opens with the 8 piece choir singing Emehntet-Re, a fragment from the Kohntarkohsz sequence unreleased on any mainstream studio album, over a simple piano backing. It's a piece of ethereal, celestial beauty that sets the scene for what is to follow in the next 40 minutes. Then we're into C'est Pour Nous, an Offering era piece which features Christian and Stella Vander in a vocal duet over a piano and bass accompaniment, with Philippe Dardelle doing a sterling job of propelling the piece with a bass line worthy of Jannick Top or Bernard Pagannotti.

The main attraction is the two lengthy pieces which follow. Zess (extrait) is a sizeable chunk of another work as yet unreleased in a studio version, although fragments are on Inedits, Mythes et Legendes and sundry live albums. This is Vander's Kobaian vision stripped down to its essence; massed vocals and a McCoy Tyner style piano with the trademark Fender Rhodes present and correct . Some of the themes will be familiar to long term Univeria Zekt heads, but rarely have they been performed with such simplicity and clarity. The proceedings close with a lengthy extract from Wurdah Itah, in which the already stripped down original gets a bigger vocal arrangement but another minimal instrumental backing. The essence of the Theusz Haamtaak trilogy distilled and compressed, it's a glittering jewel which may be a good starting point for those overwhelmed by the original 70s albums like MDK.

As well as being a superb drummer, Vander is a genuinely gifted composer and this album is a brilliant showcase for his ability to write rhythmically complex but melodically accessible vocal music. Although he is credited with drumming on this album, for most of the time any percussion is so low key as to be inaudible. Bass and electric keyboards surface when required, but mostly this album is just what it says; les voix, in all their glory. 5 stars if you're already a Zeuhl fanatic, but at least 4 stars whatever your taste in music.

Report this review (#107489)
Posted Sunday, January 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is indeed a splendid Magma recording. Probably not essential, as it dispenses with certain elements which might attract many people to Magma's music (this is just what the title suggests - the voices of Magma in all their unadorned glory).

If you are already a Magma fan, then this album may well be an essential listen. It certainly proves one thing - there is much more to Christian Vander than bombastic, virtuoso drumming and idiosyncratic vocalizing. The man is quite the composer, and what better way to showcase that than by bringing the group vocals to the fore with nothing more than piano accompaniment (OK, there is more than just piano - I'll get to that next).

Along with the brilliant piano accompaniment, there are Fender Rhodes (thank goodness they brought a real one out for this!), Yamaha DX7 or some variant thereof (there is no mistaking that sound!), Bass, and Vander's (very occasional) drumming. In fact, the only time I remember hearing any drums or percussion is at the end of Wurdah Itah - which closes the show.

This is a beautifully recorded concert, and a rare chance to hear Magma Unplugged as it were...

Bottom Line: If you already like Magma, get this record if you can find it. If you've never really listened to much Magma, while this is certainly a nice record, this is not the place to start. I recommend: KOBAIA (the first album) if you're more of a jazz/rock fan (certainly if you enjoyed Soft Machine's Third). M.D.K. if you're brave and you are ready to hear the full onslaught of what makes Zeuhl music so unique. ATTAHK if you'd like to start somewhere - that is, more song-oriented and more grooves that you can dance to! If that's your kind of thing.

Report this review (#172714)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink

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