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Magma - Félicité Thösz CD (album) cover

FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ

Magma

Zeuhl


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5 stars In my definition of what makes for moving music, Magma has always been the perfect mix of power and grace, combining gut-rumbling bass and a knockout flurry of drum rhythms with soaring, otherworldly vocals and spiraling melodic lines. So it was curious for me to see in reactions to the new pieces played on the 2009-2011 tour how neatly fans were divided into the 'power' and 'grace' types. Those rocked by the DeFutura sound gravitated immediately to the power chords of Slag Tanz (Fire Dance), the show opener, while those carried off to the clouds by Magma's vocal layering were taken away by Felicite Thosz. For the sake of full disclosure, I suppose I must classify myself as a Type 2, though Slag Tanz strongly grew on me as it developed, and virtually every month's performance of it was full of wondrous new surprises. Type 1's, however, did not tend to cross over, and some of the vitriol against Felicite Thosz on blogs and video comments was downright surprising, coming from self-defined fans (a jingle for a toothpaste ad?? Are you kidding me?)

Now, I'd be the first to join the haters if this album were a sell-out or venture into the bland. But it's anything but. It's quintessential Magma, if a magnification of one side--brighter, more joyful--of their sound that has been there all along, to the detriment, perhaps, of those subterranean, throbbing mysteries with which it's been typically allied. Felicite Thosz can best be characterized as a rococo development in Magma's typically baroque output: flowery, elegant, layered, full of colors and energy, and the superbly layered studio recording amplifies these aspects even more than the live performances. Let us not confuse real expressions of love and joy for their cheaper equivalents in toothpaste ads or pop music, however: it must be underlined that Felicite is a complex, rich treatment of these brighter (and thus in many ways more difficult) themes, not flatly idealized or smarmy. Thus, I can say with confidence that this album represents a development of the Magma sound, a positive growth, not a digression or regression to Christian Vander's Offering or solo albums as some would have it.

Admitting that I knew this lyrical, lilting piece note by note before the release, I was still surprised by many aspects of the studio recording. First and foremost, unlike all of the concert recordings I had enjoyed, no vibraphone! In fact, this meant that the piece's opening was substantially different from the live performances, and I was not immediately taken by the new, less interesting, single-note chant opening (although it works in its own way, as the intrusion of power cords on a background line that takes us by force from the mundane to another, more powerful plane of reality.) Second surprise: in place of the vibraphone, the best piano playing on any Magma album to date. It's hard to overstate the brilliance of the piano throughout this album, and it acts as the perfect complement to the vocal lines. The live versions with electric piano simply do not have the depth and subtlety of the real thing. Third surprise: layering. You could hear a bit of it in the live performances, but to have every voice and instrument clear in the studio mix amplifies some of the amazing harmonies in this composition. Although I've always liked the piece, the studio album gave me reasons to like it to the nth degree more. The only surprise not really to my liking is the new, cacophonous ending of the piece, which feels like a short, tacked-on bit to satisfy those who might think it otherwise too bright and mainstream'although it may be an attempt to fit this brighter sequence within a context of Magma's vision of the spiritual decline and destruction of the planet. At any rate, I've never minded Magma's ventures into dissonance (in fact, I really enjoy them), but this last bit seems so out of context it's almost like a surprise ending, as if we're drawing back from a screen on which delightful images are playing to realize that they're playing in a post-apocalyptic nightmare world of superstition and crumbling civilization.

(Review intermission: Speaking of short and tacked-on, the Felicite Thosz 'album' also includes the four minute piece 'Les Hommes sont Venus,' which to my knowledge has never been played by Magma before, and sounded to me at first listen like one of those quickly crafted, rationally constructed compositions on Vander's solo albums. That said, the short little rondo has grown on me, and there are moments of musical brilliance in it. It definitely shows Magma in a softer, more 'classical' mode in this "album"--ironic quote marks as it's only about 30 min. long!)

Against the rich fabric of vocal and instrumental lines in this remarkable composition, two sections clearly stand out as highlights. The first is, of course, Stella Vander's soaring vocals that close out the first section of the piece (before the piano solo), which led some to say that the composition was just a vehicle for her vocal prowess. I disagree with this assessment, as Stella's vocal flight grows naturally out of the sections preceding it, right back to the beginning of the piece in fact. Nevertheless, it does stand out from all that precedes it, taking the piece into another dimension. The second standout section is Christian's vocal part, accompanied by some well-timed piano swells. Magma fans always go nuts when Christian emerges from behind the kit to sing, and in this case, the excitement is well justified. In a remarkable mix of jazz scat and operatic tenor, Christian delivers a performance that makes this album (quite literally) a gift from god. He seems to be channeling a spirit of life so full of joy that you cannot help having your heart flutter by the time he gets to the final ecstatic line, and the alternation of holding back and release along the way is simply masterful. Even if you're not a fan of the full Felicite, for its mellowness and lyricism, if you simply play track 9, you will be treated to something truly special.

It never ceases to amaze me that a band as talented as Magma and a composer as gifted as Christian Vander do not get more attention in the United States'if not for a true appreciation of their profundity, then at least for a superficial appreciation of the strangeness of a group that has prophesized musically in a constructed language for the last 40+ years! Given the lyrical, gentle nature of Felicite Thosz, I am almost tempted to think this could be the album that breaks through to popular consciousness. But then I look around me, hear what people are actually listening to, and I think, no, the world is not ready for Kobaia yet. But some of us are fortunate to have learned Magma's unique idiom, and to us, Felicite is nothing less than an outline of the human soul.

Report this review (#778562)
Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Magma ' Felicite Thosz (2012)

On this (hopely till know) not too much anticipated 2012 release of one of the most original and progressive bands of progressive rock history we get to hear a different side of Christian Vander's composition skills. In stead of creating a dark operatic en technical album, Magma returns with an angelic celebration of life. For some this might sound risky, but we've also seen Magma showing it's feel-good adventerious moods on K.A. and it worked out fine. The 'Felicite Thosz' suite should be regarded as being a single 28 minute lasting composition, but is devided in small pieces on the cd. With a total of 32 minutes of running time this 'album' could almost be regarded as being an EP, but whilst listening to the album it really impresses as a full-grown album. 'Les hommes sont venu' is an extra four minute minimalistic piece with an emphasis on female vocals choir arrangements with a very mystical atmosphere.

The instrumentation on 'Felicite Thosz' reminds me a bit of the Wurdah Itah period; with piano, vocals and drums beging the main instruments. Of course the bass guitar also plays a significant role and some electric guitar lines were well integrated into the compositions. At first spin I'm delighted when it comes to the production, it has more depth and sounds less dense then E-R' and K.A. The vocals sound more authentic and therefor are a great contribution to the liveliness of the record. The drums of Vander, whom I think of as my favorite drummer (next to Jaki Leibezeit), impresses with subtle new findings and great accents during up-tempo parts. His way of writing compostions from a base of very effective and complicated rhythms is also effective in this relatively optimistic album. The strong forwarded pulses and swing (though not recognisable as such) really get's the whole thing running like a well oiled machine. And yes, every Magma fan knows that Magma is gerantied to give away some moments of maximum intesive playing and grotesque larger- then-life sounding musical landscapes.

Conclusion. Yet another must-have Magma release for fans an perhaps the easiest entry into the band's discography to this date. The production is great, the compostion briljant and the album has a really postive, mysterious & adventerious mood that really cheers me up. Perhaps fans of the dark type Zeuhl will be a bit dissapointed, but they should try this album anyway. I'm giving four stars right now, but perhaps the album will grow on me some more.

* Edited. This is a masterpiece and therefore fully deserves the five star rating in my opinion.

Report this review (#790358)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The new Magma album is a short one. It consists mainly of the epic title track which is divided into different tracks but flow as one piece. An unrelated track ends the album. I'm familiar with K.A. but have not yet heard the last album in its entirety. Like the last two albums, the sound and production here is a step up from their work in the 1970s but the bass does not stand out as much as on pre-2000s albums. There is very little guitar here and good ole regular acoustic piano is the main keyboard. There is some vibraphone here which is barely noticeable but seems to take the place of the Fender Rhodes electric piano in places. "Dzoi" sounds like it has some Rhodes in it, but again this just may be the vibes. Parts of this track reminds me of East Asian music. Vocals, piano and drums are the main ingredients on this album. This is very vocal oriented music with at least four of the band members doing vocals.

The epic goes through many moods, sometimes subdued and other times bombastic. The vocal melody of "Teha" is one of the highlights of the album with emotive singing on it. I almost hear a very 1960s R&B vibe in this track. This is followed by "Waahrz" which is basically a piano solo and probably the least interesting part of the album. I like the guitar and drums playing in unison during "Tsai," which also has one of the most memorable vocal parts. I think you notice the vibraphone here the most. "Ohst" has some of the best singing on the album, very classic Magma. Some jazzy guitar playing as well. "Zaahr" is the last piece of the epic and is the most avant thing on here. Magma at their darkest, sounding like Art Zoyd (who were of course themselves heavily influenced by Magma).

The last track is called "Les hommes sont venus" and is very repetative and hypnotic. Very different from the main epic, the main instrument here is a glockenspiel. This sounds similar to minimalist composer Terry Riley's piece "In C" although I think this song is actually in E. Well, there you go folks...the new Magma album. Too short? Yes. Sounds like classic Magma? Yes. Essential? Hmmm. Overall Felicite Thosz compares favourably to earlier epics but this is no Kohntarkosz or Theusz Hamtaahk. Pure Magma, not their best but far from their worst. This will get a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

Report this review (#796103)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The first comments I was hearing about MAGMA's latest record were that it was lighter than usual and joyful. Joyful ? Are you kidding me ? The previous record they put out "Emehntehtt-Re" I would describe as dark and intense, yet this is described as light and joyful ? Well i decided then and there I wasn't going to bother with it, especially since "Emehntehtt-Re" simply blew me away and might be my all-time favourite MAGMA record. Well as time went on I kept seeing all this praise for "Felicite Thosz" and then someone mentioned the band OFFERING (the solo project of Christian Vander) as being a good comparison. I like OFFERING a lot and it was then I thought i'd give "Felicite Thosz" a chance.

Well it comes as advertised no doubt about it. It's unmistakably MAGMA though and to be truthful despite being scepticle I started to like it pretty quickly. We get the long title track worth over 28 minutes that is broken into ten tracks that blend into one another. Then the closing 4 minute plus song that has a much smaller lineup with Christian on keyboards and glockenspeil and the other six on vocals. The long track has James Mac Gaw on guitar, Philippe Bussonette on bass, Christian Vander on drums and keyboards, Bruno Ruder on piano, Benoit Alziary on vibes then four vocalists including Christian and Stella.

Keep in mind that these first ten tracks blend into one another. "Ekmah" kicks in quickly with vocals as outbursts of sound come and go. Piano, reserved vocals and a laid back sound take over after a minute. It's building. "Elss" picks up as female vocals lead. it settles late. "Dzo" is female vocal led while male vocals join in on "Nums" and take the lead although female vocals do continue in this mellow soundscape of guitar, piano and cymbals. "Teha" features prominant bass joining in as the female vocals lead. There's more passion after a minute. Yes this is uplifting and joyful music.

"Waahrz" begins with a calm with piano only and continues until the song "Duhl" where it kicks into a full sound with the vocals leading. Some nice drum work here. "Tsai !" is more powerful and the bass sounds great. Male vocals join in. It settles after 1 1/2 minutes with reserved female vocals. Deep male vocals start to trade off with the female then it kicks in at 3 minutes. Nice. "Ohst" has some female chanting then it settles as Christian sings with piano and a beat. A fuller sound 3 1/2 minutes in with guitar too. "Zahrr" ends it in a dark manner. Oh sure now it's dark.

"Les Hommes Sont Venus" is the closing number with the smaller lineup. It's mostly these repetitive vocals and keyboards throughout. I like it !

Yeah this is really good and getting a new MAGMA album in 2012 is something I should not have taken for granted.

Report this review (#803961)
Posted Monday, August 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars This gem is the evidence that quality is more important than quantity

After thirty something years of listening Prog heard my first MAGMA album and it was K.A. The effect was devastating for my pocket, because I became an immediate fan of the band and bought all their albums in a matter of two weeks, but even though I liked all of them, no one reached the level of Kohntarkosz Anteria, and this impression was reinforced when I bought Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré, which I found fascinating but less impressive than their previous release. By that moment I started to believe that Christian Vander and company had reached their peak in 2004 and that even when they would still release fantastic albums, would never reach the peak again. But Félicité Thosz demonstrates that you must always expect the surprise factor with MAGMA, being that this short album is simply mind blowing and comparable to their best release, mainly because of the amazing vocal work that as usual reminds me of Karl Orff with a hint of Wagner and the brilliant insanity of Chrtistian Vander.

The album only 32:24 minutes long is divided in two tracks, and is opened by the hallucinating 28:06 minutes long Félicité Thösz, an epic that has absolutely everything we can expect from MAGMA. The ten parts in which the suite is divided are full of pomp and brilliance with the intense vocals by Stella Vander and Isabelle Feuillebois (two singers that manage to be better with the years) contrasted by the soft melodic voice of Herve Aknin all of who create a magnificent sort of opera that should be recognized as the real Wagnerian Rock.

Instrumentally the band is impeccable, with the unique style of Bruno Ruder in the piano, who really shines in Waahrz a fantastic piano movement that momentarily breaks the supremacy of the human voice over the instruments.

In my opinion the most impressive section is the portentous "Tsai" where the whole band explodes in a blend of sounds and voices that kept me at the edge of the seat and prepares the listener for the breathtaking performance of Christian Vander in Öhst who apart from his outstanding drumming, offers one of the most bizarre and ingenious vocal works I ever heard.

The music is so out of this world that I'm beginning to think that "Kobaďa" is more than an invention, and that Christian has managed to make us believe its just mythology.

The album is closed by Les Hommes Sont Venus, an unusual song for MAGMA, being that the habitual pomp of the band is replaced by a sweet intricate vocal work by the female singers, some sort of minimalistic work that could be expected of Phillip Glass and relaxes the listener after the previous epic.

Strangely I have no problems with the rating, because Félicité Thösz should be placed in the dictionary as the definition for "Essential masterpiece of Progressive Rock" along with K.A.

żWhat, I forgot the rating?......... Well, 5 shining stars without hesitation.

Report this review (#804513)
Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here i finish reviewing Magma's albums.

This is the last record they released, and it's beautiful. At the time, i think is the most easy album to get into the Magma's music.

The main musical idea is the tranquility. There are only two songs: Felicite Thosz (that is divided in 10 tracks -or movements-) and Les Hommes Sont Venus.

The first song is quietly beautiful, with many changes of rhythms and different textures that make it a "lighter" song. Great

The second song is an hypnotic piece with Stella at the lead vocals. Good track

I didn't wait this, but it's a good album though! Hope they will make another one like Emehntehtt Re!

8.50/10

Report this review (#807051)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This band has a capacity to explore emotions in a very clear way. It is very interesting how they can go from sadness to happiness when you expect the least. This album is the perfect example of how they can express a different way of epicness, and a very unorthodox way to show sadness or beauty by the art. Waahrz is an example of how Magma can make a hybrid of something completely new to the prog and bring a erudite feeling by its piano playing. Tsaď is also another example of how deep that epicness can be shown in the Zeuhl. It is astonishing how the voices are the true main instrument in their musics. That orchestrated sentiment, mixing with the happiness and hate shown in Öhst and Zahrr are the highlights in the album. The mystical aftermath sounds in Les Hommes Sont Venus closes the album with an air of continuity, and you wait for something as impressive as this album was after the first listen. All these feelings mixed together show how deep their music is even after so many years, and even though they maintain loyal to their first albums, all that originality echoes again in the shadow of their Kobaian language. This album is essential to show how powerful Zeuhl can be, giving an example to those who like to explore deeper in the progressive that Magma is still alive.
Report this review (#865204)
Posted Friday, November 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Relaxing, mesmirising, dreamy... but where are the dark shockwaves of irregularity?

New Magma! That is irresistible. Not since that other previous album beginning and ending in E have we been blessed with the madcap genius of Christian Vander and his merry band of Kobaian misfits. As all Magmanites who approach this album, I guess we would all be expecting more delirious insanity in the form of Ancient alien monk chants, high pitched screeches, operatic choral vocals, majestic cinematic musicianship, and non-sensical alien Kobaian languages. If that is what you are expecting, then you might assume this album would be enveloped with the same sound that Magma have generated since their debut and the infamous MDK, that has developed an elite cult following for decades. However 'Felicite Thosz' does have variations that may or may not appeal. Firstly, it is a very short album clocking only 32:24, but that is no problem as far as I am concerned as it is easy to take Magma in small bursts, in order to retain their power and not overstay their welcome. Still, it would have been nice to have some more Magma even if they were live or bonus tracks, to give more bang for the buck.

I guess it is unfriendly music at times so not something to revel in for hours, unless you are addicted to Zeuhl. This is a prog genre that is best served chilled on a plate after listening to normal music. Only by being familiar with the normal can we be entranced by the sub-normal. Nothing shocks when one is desensitised, and it is easy to become desensitised to the macabre or hyper strange. This music is on the fringe certainly, though I don't believe it is taken to the Nth degree, as it is framed in a specific style that never diverts from the genre it is cocooned within. There is something rather comforting in the fact that the music is housed within its own conventions, thus the power in the music is retained. Had the band moved into a mainstream style, with normal song structures, English lyrics, or even more conventional vocal performances, this in itself would be the most shocking diversion of all. It would alienate listeners and create its own form of chaos. The main drawcard to Magma is to spend some precious moments captured under their spell. It can be a dark journey, and indeed has been over the years, but on this latest album Magma opt to return to some of their more angelic compositions, albeit the atmosphere is still oppressive in places but overall there is an uplifting air of optimism in the atmosphere. Again, this may or may not appeal to Magma addicts. Only in a few places do they return to those darkened wails and sporadic musical shapes creating a powerful wall of sound.

I would suggest that Magma are a musical art form rather than a band. Not all modern art appeals to everyone, in fact it confronts and repels at times, and that stops it from becoming dull, causing us to question its existence. Likewise, if Magma appealed to everyone it would be boring. It is the fact that the music causes us to question and fascinates that it becomes so captivating. For it to be Magma, the constants must always be there, but there are nice variations to look forward to. For example, every album features different artists and there are always choirs, a plethora of musicians and singers that vary from album to album. The one constant is the frenetic drumming and cringe-worthy intonations of Christian Vander, also on keyboards. His wife, Stella, is a constant presence too, who smacks the casing off a tambourine, and it is always a treat to hear her high pitched warblings. The rest of the crew consist of Isabelle Feuillebois who dongs bells, Beno't Alziary, chiming on the vibraphone, James Mac gaw twanging guitar, Bruno Ruder plinking the piano, Philippe Bussonnet slapping the bass, and the other Kobaian vocals are courteousy of Isabelle, Herve, Sandrine, Sylvie, and Marcus. Most of these artists appeared on 2009's ''Emmehntehtt-Re', though again not all. The Magma logo is the final constant that must be there and it is pleasing to see that iconic broken claw like moniker glaring at us on the darkened cover, that boasts the Kobaian title in white hot lettering. The logo is a warning that this album is not designed for the normal music listener. All listeners of top 40 commercial radio hit singles may do well to steer clear, for Magma is an off- ramp detour from the mainstream highway.

The album opens with that captivating sound that immediately transfixes. The epic choirs chant in the estranged language, and the symphonic textures flood over the listener. The voices will jolt listeners out of their comfort zone unless they have heard Magma before. My first reaction to hearing my first Magma album, "Live", is what the heck am I listening to? Then it dawned on me that it was challenging me and it would take many more excursions into Magma before I was even close to appreciating it. Now it simply feels like returning to an old friend. Vander's drumming is off the scale and the choirs are as enchanting as always.

As the album progresses, each track segues into the next and it is difficult to make out where each ends and begins. The music on ''Ekmah' instantly manages somehow to seize the conscious with an arrogant air of glory. The emotional resonance of Stella's beautiful operatics are heard like angels descending on 'Teha'. Then a gorgeous piano dominates 'Waahrz', and it almost feels improvisational but there is a haunting beauty as the ivories are caressed. This is Magma at it's most stripped back and subdued, like a calm before the storm. The piano still manages to threaten a foreboding downpour, but retains trickles of tranquility.

'Tsai!' is classic Magma with raucous choirs chanting and odd angular rhythms on keys and drums. The way the male sections are echoed by female opera is the convention utilised on all Magma albums at some point, and this is what I came here for. Eventually the heaviness breaks to a solo section, Stella and Isabelle trade off and are answered by a deep male voice. The dialogue is a necessary component as we hear the aliens take on the spoils of war.

The war is fought and then won in ''Ohst', driven by Christian Vander's manic vocals. The way he moves from deep resonances to the high pitched falsetto is always impressive. The lyrics sound somewhat like English in places that at times lends a humorous quality to the soundscape; at one point it sounds like "Say song song song now listen now now now do a good deal, it's our deal". The jaunty piano motif is frenetic and builds to a full on choir section. This song takes a long time to leave the conscious; at least the melody jams into the brain, and now it feels like the old Magma sound.

It segues into 'Zahrr', a 49 second conclusion to the mammoth epic. Then the second track ends the album, 'Les hommes sont venus', which only runs to 4:18, and then it is over. Stella leads as Isabelle, Herve, Sandrine, Sylvie and Marcus chant a hypnotic rhythm. The music is left up to Christian who indulges in relentless tinkling glockenspiel, and some keyboards. This is a very odd song for Magma, minimalist without guitar or drums, but it feels as alienating and compelling as the other tracks. The lyrics are basically 'Tu Zahrr Zahrr, Tu Zahrr Zahrr, Tu Zahrr Zahrr.' The flute keys are haunting and it really shows the diversity of the band in terms of the sounds they can generate.

The sudden cut off of the sound is quite unnerving, as it all seemed to fly by so quickly. The positive side of this is that it is easy to sit down and take it all in on one sitting. The negative side is that it feels like only half an album, as though there was supposed to be more. It is nowhere as dark as previous Magma and this is perhaps a delightful surprise as it is a different side to Magma, capturing more beauty than usual. Although I don't think that the album loses any of its power, it still did not have the soundscape that is cognizant of previous explorations. In place of an experimental approach the band seem focussed on stirring the emotions to feel empathy or security in some form of musical comfort.

Familiarity can breed contempt, but I was hoping for the familiar darkened interstellar intense experience of "Emehntehtt Re", "Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh", "1001 Centigrades" or "KA". At times "Felicite Thosz" measures up to the hyper music on those albums but it is not consistent in its execution. It feels safer without manic screeching and really off kilter rhythms and structures that tantalise and jar the senses. As "Kohntarkosz" begins now, it feels like a new beast rampaging through the speakers. In contrast, the music on this newer album is rather relaxing, mesmirisingly dreamy, and very rarely launches into shockwaves of irregularity. It is a new approach but now my ears have to be readjusted if Magma are going to take this tact in their music. This proves you cannot put Magma in a box (unless you count that incredible box set "Studio Zund") but it is still wondrous music and deserves at least 4 stars.

Report this review (#866458)
Posted Sunday, November 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Beginning like an ANDREW LLOYD-WEBER musical doesn't hurt this piece by Zeuhlmeisters, MAGMA. As 'dark' or heavy at it tries to be, the whole thing comes across more as a Dickensian Christmas play written by STEPHEN SCHWARTZ and/or BURT BACHARACH. Awesome bass play, as usual, very melodic piano and perfect drumming from founder CHRISTIAN VANDER help carry this operetta, but it is the wonderful, delicately woven vocal performances that the listener has a chance to really tune into. The lack of hard driving, mega-pulsing music and power vocals is, as a matter of fact, quite unexpected. Yes, the album is brief (by modern standards), but 37 minutes is right in line with a typical vinyl album (unless you are Todd Rundgren). Though the album is really meant to be played straight through?and I love all of the songs here?I must admit to really enjoying putting "Teha" (5:15) (10/10) on repeat ad infinitum. As a matter of fact, the first five songs all flow together seamlessly, flawlessly, beautifully. The most Broadway of all, however, is "Ohst" (4:53) (10/10) with the bouncy piano and the voice of the Maestro, himself; CHRISTIAN VANDER is brilliant, astounding! I mean, how old is this guy? Playing off of HERVÉ AKNIN, it is quite a song. Even the end is very Broadway-like?like the ending to a song from Fiddler on the Roof or something.

I have to admit that hearing an upbeat, positive sounding album from such masters of melodrama is quite an unexpected experience, but it is an entirely enjoyable one.

Another masterpiece? I can't see this little beauty as anything less. 5 stars.

Report this review (#874860)
Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Vocally bombastic and instrumentally mysterious, Félicité Thösz transmits the listener through a wintry, dreamlike world of sound. It is dramatic, punchy, and strangely uplifting. The medium is quite homogenous, but the moods are gloriously diverse.

"Félicité Thösz" The ubiquitous piano is stellar, a phenomenal adhesive binding the album together. The operatic vocals sound almost like Christmastime, and yet convey a darker sense of urgency coupled with a triumphant joy. "Nüms" is the melodic highlight, with an effervescent counterpoint, showcasing an inviting male vocal. "Tëha" that follows offers the climatic feminine vocal, and it's difficult to not feel elevated. And "Waahrz" is a piano interlude that rivals Rick Wakeman's performance in the middle of Yes's "Turn of the Century."

"Les hommes sont venus" Delightfully repetitive, this carol serves as something of a postlude to the excellent collection of segments that makes up the main substance of the album.

Report this review (#876478)
Posted Sunday, December 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It's rare for a band who has been performing for 40 years to be able to put an album which at once remains true to their preceding work and at the same time manages to sound fresh and new. This is what Magma have accomplished on Félicité Thösz; whilst the distinctive rhythms characteristic of zeuhl remain bubbling away under the surface here and there, the main focus of this album is on the vocal performances, which offer up one of the happiest atmospheres ever to grace a Magma album.

This is not a frivolous, giggly happiness so much as a sense of deep personal and spiritual accomplishment; this, and the mixture of male and female vocals and French and Kobaian lyrics, tend to make me think that this is not a Magma saga about peril or conflict between Earth and Kobaia (as in Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh), but is instead a celebration of some important achievement, perhaps a particular enlightenment attained by the human colonists on Kobaia or the attainment of peace between the two worlds or a romance between a man and a woman each from a different planet which eventually comes to a triumphant fruition or something like that. Either way, it's an intriguing piece, thoroughly road-tested and elegantly recorded, with a fairly restrained running time to boot. It's still distinctly zeuhl, but it might also be one of the most pleasant and approachable albums the band have ever recorded.

Report this review (#894383)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Félicité Thösz, Magma's first album since their reunion to be comprised entirely of new material (dating back to 2001-2002 in composition date), is the warmest, most inviting recording they have ever made. Thankfully, this doesn't mean that the band have sold out (the album is still mostly in their constructed language Kobaďan, and the band's signature vocal choirs and odd time signatures are all over the recording), nor does it mean that there aren't the expected moments of darkness in the recording, but these moments are mostly fleeting, and they're almost always followed up by moments in the music that feel almost triumphant. This album is effectively Magma's celebration of life itself, and the joy of the music is nothing less than infectious. Who knew they had it in them?

With an album comprised mostly of a continuous suite (the Philip Glass-like coda "Les Hommes Sont Venus" is a separate composition), it's difficult to pick out highlights, but "Ẁaahrz", a piano workout worthy of Rick Wakeman, certainly stands out, as does the triumphant "Tsaď!". There isn't a single moment here that is less than compelling, though.

In short, this is one of the finest recordings Magma have made to date, and it manages to be as fresh and inventive after thirty listens as it is on the first. The only possible complaint to be drawn here is the short length (barely over thirty-two minutes), but the album certainly obeys one of the most famous dicta of show business: Leave them wanting more. If you're new to Magma or zeuhl, this may be the single best place to start, and if you're already a fan and haven't heard this yet, what are you waiting for? I can't recommend this singular recording highly enough.

Note that the ten-movement title track is performed on the band's live DVD Mythes et Legendes Epok V, and it's every bit as compelling there (although the acoustic piano is replaced with an electric on the DVD). "Ẁaahrz" even gets extended with a few minutes of improvisation.

Report this review (#1312749)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Originally composed in the years 2001-02, like many MAGMA releases FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ saw a delayed release but in this case didn't have to wait decades to grace our ears with Kobaian love music. This one only took one ten year period to ferment into the musical fluffiness that we hear! This is perhaps one of the softest and gracefully uplifting MAGMA albums ever to hit planet Earth. While it seems every previous album was some kind of piece to some ridiculously convoluted story about the Kobaians coming and going from planet Earth, FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ simply sounds like their version of a Sunday service where all chants, vocals, guitars, vibraphones, bass and drums are conspiring to celebrate their decades long achievement and to give thanks to the universe for allowing their muddled history to unfold and bring them to a place of eternal peace.

On this release we hear Stella Vander lead the group with a nice diva driven vocal range only much less aggressive and bombastic as on previous offerings. This musical journey contains ten tracks but in reality you cannot really distinguish them separately because they all flow together just perfectly making a very long epic track. This is one of the shorter MAGMA albums clocking in just past the 32 minute mark, but what graceful beautiful music this is. I would almost call this whole album one long Kobaian ballad as the piano and female vocals are what dominates the soundscape. Christian Vander has never sounded so subdued with his percussion skills and as a huge fan of vibraphones, glockenspiels and bells, this really hits me where it counts!

Soft and sensual and occasionally bombastic, this Kobaian journey takes us through the familiar zeuhl melodies and rhythms but once again MAGMA surprises us with yet another take on their sound. This album is very much focused on female vocals but male vocals are essential as well. In general the vocal harmonies are very much the focal point of the whole thing. Hypnotic and exercising control in minimalism, FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ continues the MAGMA legacy keeping the Kobaians relevant in yet another decade in the 21st century. While this band has more masterpieces than should be possible, i find FÉLICITÉ THÖSZ to be yet one more MAGMA- nanimous edition to their outstanding discography.

Report this review (#1463662)
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2015 | Review Permalink

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