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Zeuhl • France

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Magma biography
Founded in Paris, France in 1969 - Disbanded in 1983 - Reformed in 1996

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.

⭐ Collaborators Top Prog Album of 2009 ⭐

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MAGMA Videos (YouTube and more)

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Mekanik KommandohMekanik Kommandoh
SEV.R 2017
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Live At Marquee Club London March 17 1974Live At Marquee Club London March 17 1974
Seventh Records 2018
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Riah SahiltaahkRiah Sahiltaahk
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Concert 1971: Theatre 140 BruxellesConcert 1971: Theatre 140 Bruxelles
Seventh Records 2018
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Slag TanzSlag Tanz
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Seventh Records 2013
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Trilogy ( 3 CD Set )Trilogy ( 3 CD Set )
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MAGMA discography

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

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

4.04 | 428 ratings
Magma [Aka: Kobaïa]
4.12 | 394 ratings
1001° Centigrades [Aka: 2]
4.29 | 924 ratings
Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh
4.14 | 443 ratings
3.76 | 379 ratings
Üdü Ẁüdü
3.70 | 335 ratings
2.54 | 195 ratings
3.66 | 110 ratings
Mekanïk Kommandöh
4.27 | 642 ratings
4.20 | 478 ratings
4.13 | 358 ratings
Félicité Thösz

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

4.44 | 228 ratings
Live/Hhaï (Köhntark)
3.14 | 52 ratings
3.99 | 81 ratings
Retrospektïẁ III
4.54 | 117 ratings
Retrospektïẁ I-II
4.05 | 29 ratings
Concert 1992, Douarnenez:
3.42 | 42 ratings
Concert Bobino 1981
2.83 | 27 ratings
Concert 1971, Bruxelles - Théâtre 140
4.32 | 32 ratings
Concert 1975, Toulouse - Théâtre Du Taur
4.15 | 49 ratings
Concert 1976, Opéra De Reims
4.28 | 55 ratings
BBC 1974 - Londres
4.59 | 91 ratings
Theusz Hamtaahk - Trilogie
4.07 | 37 ratings
Bourges 1979
3.36 | 23 ratings
Live In Tokyo
3.74 | 32 ratings
Zühn Wöhl Ünsaï - Live 1974

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

4.17 | 29 ratings
Concert Bobino 1981
4.31 | 48 ratings
Theusz Hamtaahk - Trilogie Au Trianon
4.43 | 59 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume I
4.42 | 59 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume II
4.82 | 71 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume III
4.80 | 61 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Volume IV
4.55 | 33 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes, Epok V

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

3.82 | 19 ratings
Mythes Et Légendes
2.80 | 16 ratings
3.56 | 24 ratings
2.07 | 18 ratings
2.56 | 16 ratings
Über Kommandoh
4.56 | 16 ratings
Archiw I & II
5.00 | 2 ratings
Mythes Et Legendes (Box Set)
4.89 | 58 ratings
Studio Zünd
3.13 | 13 ratings
4.50 | 4 ratings
45 Ans De Creation Hors des Sentiers Battus
4.79 | 19 ratings
Köhnzert Zünd

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

4.33 | 6 ratings
4.50 | 6 ratings
Hamtaak / Tendeï Kobah
4.55 | 11 ratings
Mekanïk Kommando / Klaus Kömbälad
4.67 | 9 ratings
Mekanïk Machine/Köhntarkosz
3.50 | 2 ratings
Lïhns / Hhaï
3.50 | 2 ratings
3.50 | 2 ratings
2.63 | 8 ratings
Ooh Ooh Baby / Otis
3.91 | 45 ratings
Floë Ëssi / Ëktah
3.00 | 2 ratings
K.A - Extraits - Edition Radio
3.80 | 44 ratings
Rïah Sahïltaahk
4.43 | 61 ratings
Slaǧ Tanƶ
5.00 | 2 ratings

MAGMA Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.20 | 478 ratings

Magma Zeuhl

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

5 stars Christian Vander revived his MAGMA project at the turn of the millennium and tested the waters to see if his classic prog rock visions were still viable in the brave new world so he resurrected the never-ending tale of his Kobaian mythology and set out to complete the tales that were initiated so long ago. After the well received comeback album 'K.A.' which made a huge splash in prog circles with some even declaring the album the very best of the entire MAGMA canon, Vander took that as a green light to at long last finish up the third chapter of the Köhntarösz trilogy which began all the way back in 1974 with the 'Köhntarösz' album and revived thirty years later in 2004 with 'K.A.' This was obviously a major convoluted work of Shakespearean proportions and as nebulous as a library written in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs but Vander's vision was clear and the ability to record in the modern world had finally allowed the opportunity to bring the opus magnum to completion.

Drummer / composer / Kobaian-in-chief Christian Vander and his diva wife Stella are the only original MAGMA members to return from the distant past to bring new light to this epic cosmic soap opera but with the assistance of a new generation of outstandingly brilliant musicians, MAGMA conjures up one of the strongest albums of the band's near half century of existence. While the musical works only found completion with the release of 2009's tenth studio album ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ, the extraterrestrial fairy tale had found its own mythological conclusion as far back as 1975 when all the characters and plot had been crafted and the initial stages of this album were in the works but put on the shelf due to the sudden shift of the musical world and the financial pressures of 70s album production. The origins of ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ were actually present on the 1975 'Live / Hha' where the initial "'Ëmëhntëht-Ré (Announcement)' is combined here with "Rindë (Eastern Song)" from the 1978 album 'Attahk.'

For those who follow the mythology in a geeky Star Trek convention demeanor will already know that this saga of cosmic folklore narrates an ancient Egyptian pharaoh encountered by a modern day explorer seeking eternal spiritual enlightenment and the secrets of the entire universe unlocked or something of the sort and since the lyrics are all in the invented Kobaian language, you'll just have to take my word for it! For the rest of us who just enjoy the nonsensical liturgy presented in a never ending variation of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' laced with an incomparable mix of jazz-fusion, progressive rock and the hypnotic trance inducing build up of minimalism, we are presented with one of Kobaia's greatest gifts to the musical realms of our humble planet and for that i'm eternally grateful :) While carved up into six tracks for the sake of labeling, ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ is for all intents and purposes is designed to be experienced in its entirety from the first thundering percussive drive to the final spaced out ending 'S'h' as each track seamlessly connects to the next.

But it's in between where all the good stuff occurs. ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ much like 'K.A.' which preceded it, is a bizarre amalgamation of spaced out choral sections engaging in the endless acrobatics of scaling to musical heights, reaching climaxes and then settling down to build up to the next. Add to that the virtuosic bass abuse that reaches unfathomable heights as it zigzags around like a free radical on steroids backed up by Vander's jazz-rock drumming prowess that enervates the listener just considering how this man's physical stamina has survived the punishing drive for all these decades. The music exhibits the classic MAGMA-esque ratcheting up effect with every cadence and crescendo milked to its maximum usage with the usual vocal trade offs that exist somewhere between an exotic space opera and the seedy jazz flavored speakeasies located in some back alley. Simple melodic runs get twisted and contorted in progressive time signatures run amok and the musicians hover in and out of sync creating a roller coaster ride experience that is unmatched in all of music history.

ËMËHNTËHTT-RÉ ultimately comes off as a classic performed by seasoned masters of their trade with not even a single flaw that hinders the impeccable progression across the classically infused score. Somehow every tiny detail is crafted with the utmost minutia fussed over to bring utter perfection to the mix. This album was released with an accompanying DVD called 'Phases' which shows the madman perfectionist Christian Vander scrutinizing every agonizing detail and cracking the whip to make every nanosecond of playing time implement the desired results. The video is designed to give a glimpse into the maddening conditions of an incessant studio session where a tiny thirty second segment can take hours to hammer into perfection. This is perhaps the most sinister sounding MAGMA release as if some Goth band decided to go classical but ended up with a jazz-fusion band trying to pull it off and in the end created the creepiest cosmic soundtrack the universe has to offer. This one was a slow burner for me but after a gazillion plays, it has revealed a never-ending display of musical diversity and virtuosity that presents one of the most ambitious space rock operas ever to be recorded. Another perfectly crafted album by MAGMA.

 Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.29 | 924 ratings

Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Listening to prog nonstop can be a bit of a chore sometimes.

The complexity of the music, the length, the sometimes unnatural, inaccessible and improbable changes in time signature, key signature and lyrical expression can tire out one's brain after a while. It took a bit of mindless music to wash it all away, lost of electronic music and, yes, even rap. But everyone needs a change of pace periodically throughout their life, and since life is always a full circle, it was inevitable I'd come back to prog.

I just didn't think it would be to this album.

Granted, anyone who's a fan of Magma knows the story, the brainchild of Christian Vander and his made-up language that looks and sounds like French and German had a baby. But even though this isn't the first in his storytelling project, it is widely considered to be THE album that personifies this genre called "zeuhl" that the band pioneered. What the genre is isn't necessarily written in stone, but from the first nine minutes of the album it's quite clear that at is roots, it is a fusion of rock and jazz, with sporadic elements taken from the world of contemporary classical music, as well as opera (LOTS of opera, in fact all of the singing is very operatic and melodramatic in fashion).

Now I was a percussionist in William Paterson University, which has a New Music program, a program which plays music from composers such as Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, amongst many others, so this kind of music isn't too jarring, as I'm sure it is to many others. This is a kind of music that's best witnessed as a performance art rather than bumping in your car stereo. But the classical elements break up what would otherwise be just a typical fusion band. "Hortz" trugs along for roughly 5 minutes in rhythmic fashion before abrupt and jarring shouts and screams couple with some atonal jabs and stabs from the ensemble. It finishes rather chaotically before "Ima Suri Dondai" bounces jovially, almost dance like, across a quick 7/8 syncopated beat. In popular music terms, this is probably the catchiest track of the lot, if you can even use that terminology.

After 15 minutes, though, it starts to set in a very rhythmic, almost minimalistic pace. The main key signature never changes, save for maybe a few atonal breaks, shouts and freakouts interspersed, but otherwise, it's one long song from start to finish that doesn't really have any true breaks or interludes, save for a brief piano break in the beginning of "Nebehr Gudahtt". The piece only truly changes at the final three minutes, where it all but degenerates in a slow, tribal march-like tempo, fit with loud drums, screeching horns, feedback and lots of screaming.

Now I'm not sure the first live performance of this album had the some kind of riotous impact as, say, "The Rite Of Spring", but I'm damn sure it got a close enough. Even in a made up language that you can't understand, it's quite obvious an impactful story is being told here, and not exactly a very peaceful one (This ain't a peaceful LSD acid trip on a classic Gong album here). There is emotion and hatred being in expressed in the kind of manner that is shunned in the music world. It's the kind of album that would be made by a jazz-rock fusionist if Terry Riley and Anton Webern had a bastard stepchild.

Magma's first album "Kobaia" is actually a tad more accessible, because each track is isolated, and feels more like a classic rock band exploring the outer limits of music trajectories, whereas "MDK" is the result of such transformation. It's not perfect (once you get past the 12 minute or so mark, it gets rather repetitive), but it's easily a landmark album for laying down the roots of this underground genre of progressive music.

I only wonder if they gave out translation sheets at concerts so audience members could try and sing along...

 Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.20 | 478 ratings

Magma Zeuhl

Review by GruvanDahlman
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Magma occupies a space in the spheres of music that is totally unique. No other band sounds like them and the genre they created, zeuhl, is not for everyone. I am not saying that to scare people off but it is true. As in most cases regarding the more extreme sounds in music there is a somewhat limited fan base, as opposed to more easily digested ones. Having said that I would also like to state that Magma has so much to offer to those who dare venture into and explore this dark and foreboding landscape.

Ëmëhntëhtt-Rë is an album released by this longlived band 39 years after their debut. There are many examples of bands that over such a long period of time (in this case also a disbandenment/hiatus) fail to reproduce the splendour and majesty of past glory but Magma does the opposite. Alot is very much the same as it has always been. The chanting is there, the vocals sung in Kobaïan, the heavy distorted bass, Vanders exquisite drumming and so forth. All that is pretty much identical to the classic stuff but the material is just as brilliant as ever, something one might have expected to be otherwise. Ëmëhntëhtt-Rë is a very intense album. Now, that's not a shocking statement when speaking of Magma, I know. But it is. Intense, powerful, dark and overwhelming. The four piece suite that occupies most of the album is a stunning piece(s) of music. It attacks you and sucks you in like a monstrous vampire and stuck inside the belly of the beast you stand in awe and amazement. It is, to put it mildly, a stunning experience.

There is no point in dissecting the pieces on this album. Just listen to it and you'll be alright. However, I must emphasize that "Ëmëhntëhtt-Rë II" and "Ëmëhntëhtt-Rë III" are my favorites on the album. The 2nd piece is the longest, 22 minutes in length, and offers a great variety. It is also my absolute favorite on the album. The 3rd piece with its 13 minutes the most hard rocking and intense of the pieces. It reminds me alot of the song "Mekanik kommandöh"from MDK in regards to intensity and power. It's like the band is barely able to contain the massive amount of energy produced. I get the feeling that they are about to explode. What is there to say? Brilliant? Well, yes.

The material on the album was not entirely new back in 2009. It is made up of bits and pieces played live over the years but it has never, as far as I understand, been recorded in the studio, at least not in this grand and fullfilled way. I think this is just as good as anything the band ever made. MDK may be the absolute pinnacle but this is not far off. It fills me with such emotion, joy and exuberation that I am about to shoot off into space, never to return. Fueled by the energy from the album I could sail off to the farthest corner of the universe and still have it in me to go back to Earth. It's that good.

Is Ëmëhntëhtt-Rë a good place to start if one is new to Magma? Yes, I suppose so but there are other albums just as apt to begin with. I do think however that you can't go wrong with this one. The power and the glory is all there. Go for it, why don't you?

 Köhntarkösz by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 443 ratings

Magma Zeuhl

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Finally got a copy of this LP, a used copy, so the review is going to be the old vinyl version. Kohntarkosz is the followup to the masterpiece that is Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh. Here Christian Vander is joined with Stella Vander, Jannick Top, and Klaus Blazquiz from the previous lineup, and they brought in Welsh guitarist Brian Godding from Blossom Toes, as well as others. The album starts off with the first part of the title track, and you know right away it's not going to be in your face as its predecessor. It tends to go on the slow, dirge, plodding pace, but the vocals are easier to take in. It's a more minimalist piece to say the least. Had I made this my first Magma purchase years ago I would have likely sworn them off. Things really pick up with "Ork Alarm". A truly ominous piece with Jannick Top using cello. Part two of the title track picks up more, with a more fusion feel to it, dominated by electric piano. In fact this points more towards the fusion-oriented direction of their 1975 live album (which includes a live rendition of Kohntarkosz, both parts). The piece really picks up steam towards the end. Then there's the brief John Coltrane tribute, "Coltrane Sundia", which is rather calm and relaxed.

To me, it's doesn't quite hold up to the greatness of MDK, because it lacks the intensity of that album, but I still find it enjoyable despite the flaws.

 Theusz Hamtaahk - Trilogie by MAGMA album cover Live, 2001
4.59 | 91 ratings

Theusz Hamtaahk - Trilogie
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Kaelka

5 stars This superb album recorded live in Paris in 2000 states a fact that French followers of Vander's band have known for a long time : Despite the complexity of the music (and especially the vocal harmonies), Magma has always been at their very best when performing on stage. The studio albums, although ranging from the very good to the excellent, never display fully the sheer energy or the amazing grandeur the band shows when playing live. Whether you see them in a big theatre (like the Trianon where this recording was made) or in the smaller (or sometimes very small) venues they tend to stick to nowadays (for lack of a large enough following probably), it's always a daunting experience and an immense pleasure.

Here of course the Zeuhl Wortz is at its best, Bussonet on bass and Paganotti (yes, he's the son of the 70s' Magma bassist) on the piano, a great brass section, Mac Gaw on guitar. Stella and Isabelle (with the addition of Julie, Christian and Stella's daughter) are fantastic as usual, and Klaus is the king. Christian Vander is, in every possible meaning of the word, behind all of it, like a mad conductor who would lead the orchestra with drumsticks instead of baton. Needless to say, his performance on drums is beyond words.

The music is quintessential Magma, one of the mightiest pieces written by Vander in the 70s and never before played and recorded as a whole three-part suite (over two hours of music, longer than a classical symphony). Yet it is accessible to all ears, at least to all ears curious enough, and a rather good entry point into Zeuhl and Magma's universe.

And for those who are interested (and for die-hard fans), a booklet is included with the complete lyrics in Kobaïan !

5 well-deserved stars for this masterpiece.

 Zühn Wöhl Ünsaï - Live 1974 by MAGMA album cover Live, 2014
3.74 | 32 ratings

Zühn Wöhl Ünsaï - Live 1974
Magma Zeuhl

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

3 stars Christian Vander and MAGMA were fairly busy during the early 70s when they pumped out an amazing number of complex and innovative progressive rock albums that cleverly mixed and mingled jazz and rock together and would ultimately fuse into their new style tagged as zeuhl. During this productive time the band not only put out five studio albums but created enough retro material to fuel a new series of releases well into the 21st century. Amongst these archival gems are a great number of live recordings and in 2014, Vander released a 40th anniversary collection of material titled ZÜHN WÖHL ÜNSAÏ - LIVE 1974 which was recorded at Radio Bremen Sendesaal in Germany on the 6th of February, 1974.

The two disc set contains the majority of the 'Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh' album (on CD 1) in a live setting with only the final 'Kreühn Köhrmahn Iss De Hündïn' missing from the set however a new intro 'Sowiloï (soï soï)' (12:24) is included which adds a bizarre slow moving rhythmic build up to the main show mostly focusing on Vander's percussive and vocal combo evoking a sense of Kobaian harmony with the universe. It is accompanied by the guitar and keys and ratchets up so slowly it could possibly qualify as the most extensive intro in music history. It also has a noticeably different feel from the rest of the set which while competently performed seems a little isolated in mood and feel.

Disc 2 contains only two long tracks each clocking in over twenty minutes. The first 'Korusz II' is basically nothing more than a twenty minute drum workout by Vander himself as he uses percussion as the sole means to narrate a cosmic tale as he paints the picture with one rhythmic drum roll at a time. The second track 'Theusz Hamtaahk' is the opening first movement in the 'Trianon Trilogy' which is was already released as a live album of the same title in 2001 along with the second movement 'Ẁurdah Ïtah' and 'Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh' thus making this one a little redundant in the live archival releases.

Most importantly rather than the material presented which has been released in better forms, this album seems to be about displaying a short timeframe in the band's short lived lineup which included Christian Vander on the usual drums and vocals, Jannick Top on bass, Michel Graillier and G'rard Bikialo on keyboards, Claude Olmos on guitars and Klaus Blasquiz on additional vocals and percussion.This lineup is the bridge between the heavily fortified personnel on 'Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh' and the majorly trimmed down simplification of Vander's 'Ẁurdah Ïtah' which originally emerged as the soundtrack for the avant-garde film 'Tristan et Iseult'

Personally i don't find ZÜHN WÖHL ÜNSAÏ - LIVE 1974 to be in the same league as other MAGMA live releases. Firstly, almost all the material has already been unleashed from the vaults and the small differences are of no significant interest or consequence. Secondly i really find the stripped down versions of 'Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh' to sound woefully incomplete and missing all the stuff that made it so powerful and dramatic. Without the horn section and woodwinds, the whole thing comes off a nothing more than stripped down Teutonic stomp into rock opera territory which is the same reason the 1989 release of 'Mëkanïk Kömmandöh' has never much appealed to me either. And thirdly, the twenty drum solo 'Korusz II' is well performed but frankly doesn't seem too exciting either as it simply churns on and on without the dynamics and bombast that make MAGMA live experiences so magical. A nice supplement to a MAGMA collection but this one just seems mediocre.

 K.A by MAGMA album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.27 | 642 ratings

Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic 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
3.66 | 110 ratings

Mekanïk Kommandöh
Magma Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic 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
4.82 | 71 ratings

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
3.91 | 45 ratings

Floë Ëssi / Ëktah
Magma Zeuhl

Review by Tapfret
Special Collaborator Eclectic & C/JRF 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

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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