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MAGMA

Zeuhl • France


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Magma biography
MAGMA is a progressive group led by drummer/composer/vocalist Christian VANDER that has been active in the 'classic period' and in the 21th century. The music of MAGMA is often categorized as 'Zeuhl' (which means 'celestical' of 'heavenly' in Kobaïan, MAGMA's own language). The band doesn't clearly fit in any other progressive subgenre, though avant-prog would qualify.

Swirling riffs in odd time signatures, theatrical choir arrangements, heavy and distorted pulsing bass guitar, bombastic and minimalistic (sometimes both at the same time), dark and brooming, adventurous and angelic, jazzy or classical, but always with the highly innovative and original drums of founder and main composer Christian VANDER. The music of MAGMA is adopted by the progressive rock movement, though even for progressive standards it is very hard to get into because of its 'other worldly sound' and its extended compositions of often more then thirty minutes. The band has had almost no connection whatsoever with other bands of the progressive genre, though in France it would prove to be a big inspiration for other Fusion and Zeuhl bands. It is often though that the modern classical music of Carl ORFF (for instance Carmina Burana) must have been a big influence to MAGMA. VANDER himself has claimed on several occasions that his main influence was the jazz saxophone player John COLTRANE, and listening to COLTRANE's version of 'My favorite things' we do find a hint to what was to become the Zeuhl genre. Legend goes that MAGMA was formed after a vision that was revealed in a dream of Christian VANDER about a spiritual and ecological future for mankind. This vision would influence the three different multi-part saga's, namely the Kobaïan saga (debut and 1001 Centigrates), the Köhntarkösz triology (Kohntarkosz Anteria or K.A., Köhntarkösz and Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré) and the Theusz Hamtaahk triology (Theusz Hamtaahk, Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh or M.D.K and Wurdah Ïtah). The third studio-album of MAGMA, M.D.K., is often seen as the genre defining Zeuhl album, whereas the first two MAGMA albums have stronger jazzrock/fusion leanings and less Orffian choir arrangements.

Being heavily disturbed by his vision, classically trained drummer and composer Christian VANDER formed the first version of MAGMA in 1969 in Paris as a means to give musical expression to his fears for humanity. With a small list of fusion and rhythm and blues musicians, among them some wind-players and one of MAGMA's mai...
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Trilogy ( 3 CD Set )Trilogy ( 3 CD Set )
Box set · Import
SNAPPER MUSIC LTD. 2017
Audio CD$5.00
$7.58 (used)
Slag TanzSlag Tanz
Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2015
Audio CD$8.05
$11.86 (used)
1001 Centigrades1001 Centigrades
Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2015
Vinyl$15.48
$19.76 (used)
Udu WuduUdu Wudu
Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2015
Vinyl$14.92
$19.76 (used)
Mekanik Destruktiw KommandohMekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh
Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2015
Vinyl$15.91
Riah SahiltaahkRiah Sahiltaahk
Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2014
Audio CD$10.20
$10.19 (used)
AttahkAttahk
Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2015
Vinyl$15.91
$23.02 (used)
Emehntehtt-ReEmehntehtt-Re
Import
Imports 2014
Audio CD$16.69
$16.68 (used)
Mekanik Destruktiw KommandohMekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh
Import
Imports 2003
Audio CD$35.06
$49.96 (used)
Kohnzert ZundKohnzert Zund
Box set · Import
JAZZ VILLAGE 2015
Audio CD$88.00
$99.28 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
GIANTS OF THE BIG BAND ERA BY STAN KENTON (CD, 1994, Magma) USD $7.93 Buy It Now
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59m 37s
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RS#163P02 MAGMA MEKANIK DESTRUKTIW KOMMANDOH UK LP ALBUM ADVERT 13X10 A USD $13.36 Buy It Now 1 day
MAGMA Üdü ?üdü Christian Vander TOMATO RECORDS Sealed Vinyl Record LP USD $16.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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Magma Inedits vinyl LP album French Tapioca Mono Stereo 1977 USD $40.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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1 day
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Magma - Slag Tanz Magma [CD] USD $11.46 Buy It Now 1 day
MAGMA Udu Wudu CD 1989 Tomato Records French Prog Zeuhl Christian Vander USD $16.99 Buy It Now 1 day
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Magma USD $7.44 Buy It Now 1 day
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NEW SEAL Jazz Vinyl LP Magma Riah Sahiltaahk Jazz Village USD $31.70 Buy It Now 2 days
Electric Magma by Electric Magma (CD, 2003) USD $14.99 Buy It Now 2 days
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Giants of the Big Band Era: Woody Herman by Woody Herman (CD, 1994, Magma) USD $6.29 Buy It Now 2 days
Giants of the Big Band: Artie Shaw by Artie Shaw (CD, 1990, Magma) USD $5.39 Buy It Now 2 days
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MAGMA "Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh" A&M Records #SP-4397 (1973) USA Promo Copy USD $62.99 Buy It Now 2 days
Magma-Koba?a - Magma VINYL LP NEW USD $34.60 Buy It Now 2 days
Everest Magma ?- Gnosis (LP, 2016) USD $10.67 Buy It Now 2 days
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MAGMA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MAGMA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 399 ratings
Magma [Aka: Kobaïa]
1970
4.13 | 365 ratings
1001° Centigrades [Aka: 2]
1971
4.30 | 850 ratings
Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh
1973
4.15 | 410 ratings
Köhntarkösz
1974
4.19 | 296 ratings
Christian Vander: Tristan Et Iseult [Aka: Ẁurdah Ïtah]
1974
3.75 | 356 ratings
Üdü Ẁüdü
1976
3.70 | 314 ratings
Attahk
1978
2.53 | 183 ratings
Merci
1984
3.68 | 100 ratings
Mekanïk Kommandöh
1989
4.28 | 594 ratings
K.A
2004
4.19 | 454 ratings
Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré
2009
4.14 | 340 ratings
Félicité Thösz
2012

MAGMA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.44 | 210 ratings
Live/Hhaï (Köhntark)
1975
3.08 | 46 ratings
Inédits
1977
3.98 | 72 ratings
Retrospektïẁ III
1981
4.55 | 104 ratings
Retrospektïẁ I-II
1981
4.00 | 24 ratings
Concert 1992, Douarnenez:
1992
3.34 | 35 ratings
Concert Bobino 1981
1995
2.63 | 22 ratings
Concert 1971, Bruxelles - Théâtre 140
1996
4.32 | 25 ratings
Concert 1975, Toulouse - Théâtre Du Taur
1996
4.14 | 42 ratings
Concert 1976, Opéra De Reims
1996
4.27 | 49 ratings
BBC 1974 - Londres
1999
4.58 | 79 ratings
Theusz Hamtaahk - Trilogie
2001
4.04 | 30 ratings
Bourges 1979
2008
3.22 | 17 ratings
Live In Tokyo
2009
3.98 | 25 ratings
Zühn Wöhl Ünsaï - Live 1974
2014

MAGMA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.19 | 26 ratings
Concert Bobino 1981
1995
4.31 | 45 ratings
Theusz Hamtaahk - Trilogie Au Trianon
2001
4.42 | 55 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume I
2006
4.43 | 55 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume II
2006
4.84 | 65 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume III
2007
4.82 | 58 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume IV
2008
4.57 | 28 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Epok V
2013

MAGMA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.79 | 15 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes
1985
2.65 | 11 ratings
Kompila
1997
3.55 | 19 ratings
Simples
1998
2.04 | 15 ratings
Spiritual
2002
2.59 | 13 ratings
Über Kommandoh
2004
4.36 | 11 ratings
Archiw I & II
2008
5.00 | 1 ratings
Mythes Et Legendes (Box Set)
2008
4.90 | 55 ratings
Studio Zünd
2009
3.21 | 10 ratings
Trilogy
2012
3.00 | 1 ratings
45 Ans De Creation Hors des Sentiers Battus
2014
4.84 | 16 ratings
Köhnzert Zünd
2015

MAGMA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.20 | 5 ratings
Kobaia/Mûh
1970
3.50 | 2 ratings
Hamtaak / Tendeï Kobah
1971
4.29 | 7 ratings
Mekanïk Kommando / Klaus Kömbälad
1972
4.63 | 8 ratings
Mekanïk Machine/Köhntarkosz
1974
2.00 | 1 ratings
Lïhns / Hhaï
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
Spiritual
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Retrovision
1981
2.29 | 7 ratings
Ooh Ooh Baby / Otis
1985
3.89 | 39 ratings
Floë Ëssi / Ëktah
1998
3.00 | 2 ratings
K.A - Extraits - Edition Radio
2004
3.77 | 39 ratings
Rïah Sahïltaahk
2014
4.42 | 55 ratings
Slaǧ Tanƶ
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Retrospektiw
2017

MAGMA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 K.A by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.28 | 594 ratings

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K.A
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars After a twenty year gap in which the musical weirdness of MAGMA fizzled out with the lackluster 'Merci,' it seemed that the Kobaians had packed up ship and headed back to their distant colonized world having found the state of affairs of our Earthly 1980s too much to handle. They had come to guide humanity into a higher state of consciousness but everything about the times was indicating an opposite effect. It goes without saying that the band is the brainchild of Christian Vander who not only developed the new musical genre that would come to be known as zeuhl (Kobaian for 'celestial'), but also the entire mythology and science fiction chronicles for the tales of planet Kobaia which they so inconveniently narrate in their own indecipherable language. Vander himself hadn't evacuated the planet, of course, and has explained the enervating circumstances which led to the band's initial demise however he continued working with various other projects including Fusion, the Christian Vander Trio, Welcome and Offering as well as releasing solo albums under his own moniker. It came as a surprise to everyone that a good thirty years after the peak of their creative output that MAGMA would release one of the best albums of their career.

K.A. which is an abbreviation for Köhntarkösz Anteria' is actually a prequel to the 1974 album 'Köhntarkösz' which together forms a trilogy finally realized with the 2009 closer 'Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré.' While the overall general mythology revolves around the spiritual quest of two men seeking secrets of the occult world in order control the forces of the universe and achieve immortality, K.A. provides the narrative of how these things came to be beginning with the main character (whose name is Köhntarkösz) finding out the roles he will play in the spiritual history of human evolution. This is, of course, intended for those interested in the underlying saga that is so craftily obscured beneath the impenetrable Kobaian language that are even taken to the point of being written out in the liner notes in Kobaian and are in effect complete gibberish lacking the addition of a dictionary at hand. Lyrical and mythological significance aside, MAGMA has never been the kind of band where the hidden sagas of far away worlds ultimately matter anyway. It's the music that draws us mere Earthlings in like moths to a porch light and K.A. delivers a bona fide greatest hits of musical styles honed and perfected throughout Vander's forty some years (at the time of release) on the world's progressive albeit underground experimental rock stage.

The album may consist of a mere three tracks with each outperforming the other, yet flow together as if the entire affair is a seamless intergalactic opera that expresses the narrative in ever changing tempos, bold and playful dynamics all artistically decorated with a wide-ranging palette of instrumental and vocal variations that will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with early 70s MAGMA fans but would surely sound like an extra-terrestrial liturgical drama to anyone yet unfamiliar with these unorthodox musical developments. Like the early MAGMA albums, a lot of musical mingling of influences outside the rock paradigm means that the Carl Orff meets Sun Ra effect easily connects K.A. to the trilogy in which it belongs. The album was for the most part composed in the same period of 1973-74 with fragments appearing on their 1977 live album 'In'dits.' While stylistically similar, K.A. offers a much needed reboot for the MAGMA brand name with only Christian and Stella Vander finding their way into the new 21st century version of the Kobaian universe. No, you will not find Jannick Top, R'ne Garber or other past masters on board here. This is a whole new cast of Kobaians with a guitarist, bassist, two keyboardists and five vocalists including Vander's signature improvisational falsetto scatting techniques that add one more layer of mondo bizzaro to the heady MAGMA experience.

The good news is that all members on board are up to the task of reaching and exceeding the high bar set long ago. The lineup is actually quite similar to the 2001 live 'Theusz Hamtaakh La Trilogie au Trianon' which includes Emmanuel Borghi on piano and keys, Phillippe Bussonnet on bass, James Mac Graw on guitar and Antoine Paganotti and Isabelle Feuillebois on vocals. New to the MAGMA family are keyboardist Frédéric d'Oelsnitz and vocalist Himiko Paganotti. All members past and present exquisitely meld their respective talents into one gorgeously long piece that while segmented remain in sync with the story at hand and effortlessly cascade and segue from one unintelligible musical tale to the next. While the material may have found its creation in the early 70s world of the nascent progressive rock era of extreme experimentalism, Vander was restricted at the time due not only to the limitations in technology but also the tight budgets they were subjected to (it sucks being ahead of the pack) and thus never had the resources to grace the albums with the affluence of a decent production budget. On K.A. all the modern day techniques are utilized to make a crystal clear and powerful album that sounds like the perfect hybrid of the classic 70s musical style with 21st century advantages. While the performances are hardly incumbent on the technological advances, it certainly makes great music sound even better.

No one could have seen this gift beamed down from the Kobaian heavens above. Progressive rock bands from the 70s rarely live up to, much less outperform the performances of their heyday but for anyone who has seen Christian Vander play his drum like a pro well into his senior citizen years will understand that the man simply never loses his magical musical mojo on either his manic percussion prowess or his ability to utter those ear-piercing shrill falsetto scatting sessions that add that extra amount of weirdness to the already out-of-the-box outlandishness. And likewise nor does he seem to botch up the Kobaian mythological legacy in any way which could be helped by the fact that the alien lyrics give an air of total mystery surrounding the nebulous concepts. All in all, K.A. ranks at the very top of MAGMA albums in its sheer audacity not only in incorporating all the tastiest ingredients of their glory years but by also ratcheting up the musical concepts to new levels without sacrificing one little iota of their idiosyncratic zeuhl rhythms, seductive yet bewildering musical transitions or the vim and over-the-top vigor that graces every bombastic or sensual cadence. Not to mention revealing a hitherto unfinished piece of the ever-unfolding Kobaia mythology. This is one of the most brilliant comebacks in the prog universe and also displays the timeless erratic beauty of Vander's vision that emerged in the wild and crazy 60s. Another timeless masterpiece has emerged and well worth the thirty years that it took for its completion.

 Mekanïk Kommandöh by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.68 | 100 ratings

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Mekanïk Kommandöh
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars After a pair of wild and unhinged jazz-rock fusion albums that introduced the world to the strange world of the fictitious world of Kobaia invented by the fertile mind of founder and drumming leader Christian Vander, he and his band MAGMA streamlined their sound significantly. Although their self-invented zeuhl sound had emerged already on the first album, it was a subordinate element surrounded by a smorgasbord of a million others. On their third album "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" the band created their first album that totally fit in with their new found focused sound and in the process created their most acclaimed record even ranking as 33rd greatest French rock album of all time according to Rolling Stone. Despite those impressive creds, the album didn't start out so perfect and the band originally turned in a more stripped down version in early 1973 but was refused by the record company and who sent them back to the drawing board which would end up finally being released in December of the same year.

MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH is that stripped down first version of "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" and was released in 1989 at the tail end of a decade of laying low when the progressive rock world trickled down to a mere pittance of its former 70s heyday. The similarities between the two releases is obvious but the differences are staggering in their impact. While the second rendition contained a whopping 13 members which included brass, flute, bass clarinet and seven vocal parts, the first version MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH included a modest seven members with only three of them uttering vocalizations of any sort. One of the greatest differences in this version is the introduction where Christian Vander offers some sort of Kobaian speech that sounds like some sort of declaration of war in their invented language which was nixed from the more famous "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh."

Despite being a good decision to release it in a more perfect form, MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH gives a clue to the intent of the music somewhat. This album in its stripped down form really sounds like some sort of Teutonic march across the lands on their way to plunder, pillage and lay waste to any village that stands in its way. This is more pronounced as Vander's virtuosic drum antics are more in the forefront minus the inclusion of the smoothing out effect of the horn sections. While more dramatic in nature, this version also has the tendency to become a bit monotonous as well as somewhere around twenty minutes into the thunderous march the vocal tradeoffs tend to seem a little silly as the call-and-response effect carry on and on and on a wee bit too long and with minimal instrumental distractions to be found makes it all the more prominent. While the instruments are scarce by comparison, Zander rocks the house as expected but also of high caliber are the combo effect of bassist Jean Pierre Lambert and Jean Luc Manderlier's phenomenal piano and organ segments.

MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH can only be taken as supplemental MAGMA material for as good as it is, it pales in comparison to the more MAGMA-nanimous "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh." I feel the original record company made the right decision to put these guys back to work as this version in its proto-scaffolding form sounds way too much like the Karl Orff cantina "Carmina Burana" which has always provided a wealth of influence in the overall Magma sound. Without all those jazzy brassy instruments adding extra layers of atmosphere and counter-bombast, the overall feel comes off as a bona fide Orff tribute album albeit more in a rock context. While personally these kinds of releases from the vaults type of albums don't usually do it for me, this one is an interesting way to hear how the ideas were layered over time.

I came across this one in a very strange way. This was my first MAGMA album which i mistook for "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh." My initial reaction was a scratching of the head because i couldn't figure out why it was deemed in such high regard. Once i figured out that this was nothing more than a rough draft / first edition and finally heard the final cut, it all made sense. I avoided this one for a while simply because of that bad taste involved but now that i'm checking it out in a fresh clean slate, i have to admit that it's actually a pretty good album in its own right, it's just not on par with the much improved second rendition. Definitely a must for MAGMA fans but certainly not the place to begin exploration of their discography and eccentric career. Just be careful and don't assume that everything with the two invented words MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH in the title are the same. Even the bonus track of the same name on newer editions of "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh" is a different version. Now how's that for confusing? Ugh.

3.5 rounded down

 Mythes Et Légendes, Volume III by MAGMA album cover DVD/Video, 2007
4.84 | 65 ratings

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Mythes Et Légendes, Volume III
Magma Zeuhl

Review by UselessPassion

5 stars If I were to recommend one of the Epok series to a Magma newcomer, it would definitely be this one.

This setlist showcases Magma's range quite well, from the dark, oppressive atmosphere of Kohntarkosz to the uplifting neo-gospel stylings of Linhs and 'm'hnt'ht-R', as well as the more accessible jazz fusion stylings of Nono and The Last Seven Minutes. This setlist feels rich and fulfilling and hits all of the major emotional beats one expects from this incredible group of musicians, from the crushing weight of hell, to moments of poignant reflection and finally to the heights of ecstasy.

This particular DVD, Epok III, sees a considerable step up in sound quality compared to the last two releases. Christian Vander's drums are more appropriately mixed, still full of nuance and texture but not as overbearing and overtly harsh as they were at times on Epok I and II.

While Magma are excellent on album, they're truly a world apart when performing live and thanks to these DVDs, we finally have a small fraction of this integral part of their legacy available on relatively high quality video and audio. The performances here are precise and charged, and although the sound and video quality still isn't quite as fantastic as it could be, it captures far more than any other live Magma offering to date has managed.

If you're new to the group or already a fan of the studio albums (but have never heard Magma live and in high quality,) this DVD and the next in the series, Epok IV, constitutes the holy grail of zeuhl. The apocalypse of humanity has never sounded quite so beautiful.

 Floë Ëssi / Ëktah by MAGMA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1998
3.89 | 39 ratings

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Floë Ëssi / Ëktah
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Tapfret
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars Never have I been much of a collector of singles, but this "single/b-side" CD has a very special place in my collection. Their is a fairly long-winded story that goes along with my affinity for the disc that is likely not particularly review appropriate. The short version is hearing this on the radio (yes, the radio) accidentally one early 1999 night before bed while setting the clockradio alarm. The unmistakable vibrato of Chistian Vander with the familiar muffled ring of slightly overdriven Rhodes whiffled through the tinny little clockradio speaker. "That sounds like Magma!!! ON THE RADIO!" It was, as it turns out, Ëktah being played during a promotional interview for the 1999 International Progressive Music Festival in San Francisco. What better than to hear Magma on the radio? How about finding out I was about to see them live?!? Something most of us thought would not happen in the US at that time.

The song itself, as previously stated, was undeniably Magma textured. Obviously not the epic composition we have come to expect, but very intricate and tightly mixed music. Vocally the verses not only carry the operatic tonality we come to expect from Magma, but Christian's syllabic rhythms on Ëktah are unique even for him.

The "A side", Floë Ëssi, is the jazzier of the tunes. My only live experience with Magma has featured Phillipe Bussonnet on bass and he never disappoints. Here, he blasts into the song with his driving, growling sound in he songs jazzy intro, then softens in the middle; complimenting the soft ethereal harmonies of Stella and Isabelle. The song rounds out in less then 3 minutes, but does not feel short or in any way incomplete.

Overall, this is an extremely enjoyable listen, albeit short. It is highly recommended for fans and actually makes a very accessible intro to Magma's sound for the unfamiliar; a feature that actually convinced me this was worthy of tipping to the 4 star side. The catch is availability. To my knowledge, at the time of this review, neither of these songs is featured on any of the many Magma compilations or live publications.

4 Stars

 Simples by MAGMA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1998
3.55 | 19 ratings

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Simples
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Tapfret
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

3 stars Rather than have an accidental "quick rating" deleted, I decided to give this collection of singles a listen, then another, and another. Moments that I totally expected, but obviously I found enough enjoyable aspects to these 5 songs to warrant several listens and a review.

Familiarity arrived in the form of Mekanik Kommandoh, which as is it implies, is the 6th movement of MDK; and Tendei Kobah, which is recognizable as the intro to 1001 Centigrades opener Riah Sahiltaahk. The latter would be identified in the 2014 re-recording of Riah Sahiltaahk as Watseï kobaïa. The recordings sound comparatively primitive to later renditions, but take nothing away from their enjoyability in that regard. Whether hearing these pieces outside of the context of their parent compositions is left for the subjectivity individual listener.

The highlight of the album for me was Mekanik Machine, which I will be presume to label "proto-funk-metal". By most Magma standards it appears quite simple. But it is a raw and heavy tidbit that most Magma listeners should find joy in.

The low point would be Klaus kombalad, which I would not be able to pick out of a lineup of late 60's psychedelia as an actual Magma tune.

Overall, Simples exists in the early horn-heavy phase of Magma. I would say it is not likely a good starting point for Magma noobs, but an enjoyable enough listen that it should be included in any Magma collection. Unless you have all these singles individually. In which case, forget it.

 Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.30 | 850 ratings

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Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh
Magma Zeuhl

Review by marcobrusa

3 stars Polyrythm works along big instrumentation. The overall effect is impressive, but i do not listen to this unless i want to hear a march. Zeuhl is a hell of a sub-genre. In this case, the inventor is not the most likeable character for me. I get the trance every now and then but the music is too marching. The man's falsetto is a little annoying, the rest of the instruments are ok. Drummer and leader is a genius because he created something different. The music is very difficult to appreciate. I can listen to a couple songs but then i get bored. The changes are not different enough maybe... so 3 stars. It's a good album but not for any prog collection.
 Magma [Aka: Kobaïa] by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 399 ratings

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Magma [Aka: Kobaïa]
Magma Zeuhl

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "I've had dreams. Dreams about John Coltrane. In them I'm trying to get somewhere, but it's far, far away. I'm searching. I keep trying to get to the concert, the Coltrane Concert. But by the time I arrive, it's over." -Christian Vander, describing his recurring dreams about John Coltrane, 2015 [The Wire Issue 381]

Christian Vander was born in 1948 near Paris. From a very early age, he knew he was different from his peers. As he confesses in one of the interviews, he never wore stylish clothes, nor listened to popular music in his teenage years. His bohemian mother introduced him to classical music and jazz. Young Vander even had the privilege of meeting Chet Baker and future Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones. However, no other musician had a bigger impact on him than Coltrane. With his obsession growing, the young man started regarding the musician almost as a god, a prophet or his father, more so, because Vander never met his biological parent. When the jazzman passed away in 1967, out of depression, Vander went on tour to Italy. "I arrived in Milan and I did everything I could to destroy myself. Took stuff, drank... And I was like that for nearly two years. But one morning in Turin I woke up and saw the town completely illuminated, like I'd never seen before. And I said to myself: John Coltrane didn't allow himself to die like this." He left, returned to Paris, and became more involved with musical groups, playing around local casinos. Together with Laurent Thibault, the future Magma producer, they invented the whole mythology of Kobaïa and composed the opening track of Magma's first, eponymous (however, also often called Kobaïa), double-LP album, which was released under the Phillips label 1970.

Magma tells a story of the Earth's enlightened, intellectual elite deciding to escape their planet in search of a new world to create a better civilization, far from their home, destroyed by wars and politics. They finally settle on the planet Kobaïa.

The album opens with a Cuban-esque groove accompanied by throbbing bass, tight rhythm guitar, passionate drumming, and a jazzy horn section. When Klaus Basquiz's vocals take the lead, presenting a story in an unidentified, Gothic-sounding language, some listeners might picture a more elaborate version of Blood, Sweat and Tears or Chicago. However, at one point, after a short, baffling interlude, owing a great deal to European classical music traditions as well as spiritual, almost voodoo culture-like choir singing, the track drops into a rapid, heavy free-jazz section recalling musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, and even Peter Brötzmann. Then comes a contrasted, quieter, piano part, leading into a jazzy climax of this extremely powerful and effective opener - "Kobaïa.""Aïna" follows with a pleasant, laidback avant-jazz theme, including a double saxophone duel. The vocals posses a similar spiritual quality, rooted in New Orleans' soul music traditions, whose origins can be traced back to Africa. Suddenly, the track changes its path, expediting its pace and becoming far more sophisticated. "Malaria" continues the overall atmosphere with a somewhat unsettling intro, which dissolves into a more, catchy, Latin avant-rock motif, utilizing a dry overdriven guitar and, more prominently, a flute. Side two of the first LP is opened with a mysterious melody on interplaying flutes. The same melody is picked up by Claude Engel's guitar together with drums, piano, and a horn section accompanying. After numerous harmonic and dynamic variations on the theme, comes a quiet, Kind Of Blue-like cool-jazz part, hesitantly leading to the reprise of the introduction with a marching rhythm applied. This suddenly resolves into "Sckxyss", which takes no time to warm-up. The magic fusion of sexy jazz rhythms, Stravinsky-like neo-classical music, rocky guitar, and Magma's own avant-garde elements is a truly intoxicating one! "Auraë" follows a pattern similar to the previous tracks, stating a very different statement using a similar vocabulary. Here, Francois Cahen's flawless piano work in conjunction with one of the flutes plays a crucial role in the dark, ominous feel. The atmosphere, still unsettled, grows in power with other instruments starting to creep in. The tension is dissolved on a rather cheerful line, similar to Easter European music in its broken, uneven rhythms. Then, the song moves into jazzier scenery, without losing its quirky integrity. Once again, following the footsteps and describing the nature of each passage of this piece would create a biblical-length epic. The piece is closed in an aggressive, yet controlled manner.

Disc two starts as if presenting a new volume of the story, with a solo flute melody, picturing a lonely shepherd in the mountains sitting on a rock and entertaining himself with the instrument. Taking Magma's dynamic, expressive style into consideration, the calm atmosphere continues for a surprisingly long time, even when other instruments and vocals join in. "Thaud Zaïa" finally becomes very Magma-like with a slow, disciplined marching rhythm, which after many repetitions, and a few beat variations, leads to the lone flute passage. "Naü Ektila" opens with something very untypical of Magma - a folk acoustic guitar passage accompanied by a clarinet. The addition of vocals and bass don't make things more punchy, rather the opposite. Another acoustic, feminine part comes in. The remaining composition is built from there, featuring a great, dry rock guitar riff, powering the Santana-like Latin jazz-rock machine. The appearance of a percussion solo leads to loud free-form mayhem. As if from the ashes, comes a very Coltrane-like part with François Cahen's amazing piano solo. With reappearances of the acoustic motif, the piece ends in a very classy, stylish way. "Stöah" starts with a high-pitched, screaming monolog in Kobaïan. The repetitive piano sequence, bringing a neo-classical chamber style of Hindemith and Stravinsky to mind, is presented with Klaus Basquiz's vocals. Later on in the piece, we get a bit of a teaser of the style Magma would employ on Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh - jazzy piano passages with choir work very much reminiscent of Carl Orff. "Mûh" opens with a dreamy, celestial piano passage and for the first few minutes follows a similar aura, until the very cheerful Cuban jazz-like melody comes in, broken by a short neo-classical interlude and a lengthy, varied instrumental workout. As I've said a few times already, describing the exact direction of the music on some of the tracks would create a pointlessly long and boring review. The whole album closes with an odd recital in Kobaïan.

Magma's debut is characterized, above all, by incredible eclecticism, variation, and diversity, sophisticated compositions, magnificent musicianship, and capability of making all the influences, ranging from Stravinsky's dark, neo-classical works to free-jazz a la Sun Ra to Easter European folk to New Orleans soul music, work together and create a unique, one of a kind fruit. Furthermore, Magma or Kobaïa gave birth to a whole new sub-genre of progressive music known as "zeuhl." Atmospheric, vigorous, creative, unorthodox, innovative - these are just a few of many adjectives perfectly describing this music. Essential listening!

 Üdü Ẁüdü by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.75 | 356 ratings

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Üdü Ẁüdü
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Welcome to a strange, grotesque, and musical alien world. It's a place where bouncing melodies, fat bass fuzz, and weird keyboard textures interplay to create songs that will make you smirk, tap your foot, and scratch your head all at once. Welcome to Üdü Ẁüdü.

This is my first Magma record; in fact, it's my first listen to the "zeuhl" genre here on Prog Archives, and it was an entertaining experience. Üdü Ẁüdü is weird while retaining melody, and moves at a fine pace through mostly upbeat songs that are packed with music and musical sounds. You'll boomerang from dancing rhythms to open-ended a breezy passages that feel improvised. The sound, instrumentation, and vibe fits right in with the '70's prog scene, though Magma's voice is literally a unique one, because all of the lyrics are nonsense words created by the band's founder. They're quirky, but they work, and really do make it feel like you're walking among aliens listening to their off- kilter pop music.

From a song writing perspective there's not much here to grab you, in part because of the overall feeling of mystery or ooky spooky vibes the band creates. This is accomplished by the instrumental work, which is great. There's moments of Zappa-like orchestration and flippancy, but for the most part this Magma album is all about keys, drums, and bass... bass especially, with a near-constant stream of off-kilter lines and experimentation to enjoy. For me, this album isn't about the songs, it's the effect. A lot sounds ad-libbed, giving Üdü Ẁüdü a jam session-like quality. The downside of this is that there isn't much variety, as the equal parts prog/jazz/funk/Tralfamadorian folk sort of blend together throughout the experience.

Creative and entertaining, Üdü Ẁüdü outdoes a handful of shortcomings to become a lot of fun. Recommended for those seeking a good dose of weirdness in their classic prog collection, especially bass lovers like me.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

 Merci by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.53 | 183 ratings

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Merci
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars Wow! Is this MAGMA or Earth, Wind & Fire? Christian Vander, are you there somewhere?!! Did the Kobaians beam you all back up to your planet? Or did they implant those dreaded disco soul chips in you again. What can we think of the most hated album in the MAGMA discography. After the excellent run of originality and channeling of otherworldly forces that lasted from their debut in 1970 to "Üdü Wüdü' in 1976, it seems even advanced technology could not help the Kobaians hold back the backlash that dethroned progressive leaning music of the early 70s. While some bands like King Crimson were wise enough to call it a day before the great shift, others who stuck around found themselves watering down their output album by album, whittling away their loyal fan bases and becoming shallow caricatures of their innovative glory years.

Even the Kobains succumbed to these pressures as heard on the watered down "Attahk" in 1978, add to that the financial pressures of operating such a huge number of musicians on board with an ever chaining cast of members and it's really not hard to imagine the temptation to dummy down the innovations and go for the gold in the highly profitable pop music world of the 80s. Perhaps a good idea at the time but considering this is a whole different band of musicians on board (at least 25!), Vander could have had the decency to at least release this under a different moniker that wouldn't tarnish the image of one of the 70s' most unique forces in the prog world. After six years of inactivity the album was a hodgepodge of tracks recorded throughout the early 80s and at this point Vander was bored with the whole MAGMA thing anyway and after the release of MERCI would suspend activities with the band and focus on his jazz-fusion oriented Offering albums.

"Call From The Dark" begins the album and after a few tinkles of some strings and immediately begins what sounds like something you would hear on a disco soul album around 1979 leaving a first time listener accustomed to all the zeuhlisciousness of previous MAGMA offerings totally bewildered and just a few notes away from pumping out "Boogie Wonderland." While the music itself is perfectly decent for that type of sound, complete with beautiful vocals, a horn section to die for and a nice booty shakin' rhythmic section, it's like whoa!!! Is this MAGMA? WTF?

The second track "Otis" is less danceable and at least has a faint trace of the vocal trade offs of Vander and female vocalists from the past, but this song is particularly weak although perhaps acceptable for aging Kobaians in nursing homes or doctor's offices. Vander's screams in the middle sound like a mating cat and totally out of step with this mellow repetitive soul music. "Do The Music" is a rather strange little track as it sounds like zeuhl is battling it out with disco leaving the listener with no clear winner but admittedly a unique experiment that does make me think of going to the disco on Kobaia! I mean, they need to get a little light now and again too! "Otis (ending)" is a gospel sounding organ track with Vander screeching. Hmmm. No comment.

The one long track on here "Eliphas Levi" is the anomaly. It actually feels more like the zeuhl music we were expecting albeit more serene, pacified and stripped down in both instrumentation and feel. It does however have those ratcheting vocal deliveries that build in repetition accompanied by piano and percussion. This one is actually pretty enjoyable although very much on simmer as opposed to the full intense pyroclastic flow MAGMA usually delivers as the track drags on for over eleven minutes and feels like it never gets up to expected speed. The vocals are quite pleasant though and this is probably the best track on board and has a pleasant complex interchange at the end.

The album ends with the appropriately titled "The Night We Died" suggesting a now neutered MAGMA calling it a day and throwing in the towel. This is basically a sombre piano ballad with the Kobain females singing in unison. Overall i end with the same impression as i began. WTF? This would be perfectly good music for the most part for a Motown act trying to revive their career although a little unfocused but this MAGMA! Those who are held to a higher standard of complexity and innovative incremental progression as well as a higher energy level. This album is too mellow for its own good with the most energetic track sounding like a Michael Jackson B-side with Earth, Wind & Fire backing it up. Nothing on here is bad per se but for a band that carved its own niche in music and continued to ratchet it up album by album, this is surely a let down. After hearing this, it's very hard to believe they would come back stronger than ever 20 years down the road. 2.5 rounded down

 Köhnzert Zünd by MAGMA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
4.84 | 16 ratings

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Köhnzert Zünd
Magma Zeuhl

Review by jazz2896

5 stars This is sheer Kobaian perfection. If you're a fan of Magma, of course you'll need to hear this in some form or another, it takes all the proper live releases from the band and adds extra punch and clarity to the proceedings, so new details will be heard even to those who have memorized the included disks. Not to mention there are two disks of glorious new material. For those who aren't die hard fans, it might be a slightly expensive gateway, but if you're willing to drop for it and throw yourself into the deep end, it's an excellent way to get into Magma, for live Magma is certainly best Magma. Heavily recommended to all fans of the darker, more transcendental side of the progressive spectrum.
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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