Ork Alarm! # 12

February 1993

CONTENTS

  • Les Voix De Magma
  • In The Presense Of Zao (photo: Michel Adda)
  • L’Olympia, June 1980 (Andy Garibaldi)
  • Musique Noise
  • Univers Zero AD 1978 (Kenneth Ansell)
  • Brussels 1982 Interview (Duncan Lane)
  • Yochk’O Seffer (Cenam)
  • Xaal 89 – 92(Jad Ayache)
  • More Golden Years  (Steve Lake and Paul Cole)
  • Laurent Thibault
  • Contrexéville (Rolf Spengler) (photos: Kristina Pohl)
  • Ork! Update

Les VOIX DE MAGMA

Some Thoughts On Concerts & Other News

Best performances were ‘To Love’ on 17-10-92. ‘C’est pour nous’ on 15-10-92. This was a marked improvement on the versions that I have seen by Offering, Stella’s clear voice firmly in the spotlight in this simplified arrangement. ‘Zëss’ 15-10-92. Well, the funniest version anyway, but with the most powerful intro by Patrick Gauthier. ‘Mekanïk’ 18-10-92. 16-10-92. & ‘La marche celeste’ 17-10-92. A strange song, with undertones of Germanic marching tunes and a peculiar electronic swirling at the end. Some thought that it was tremendous, others were less enthralled…. I will sit on the fence for a while longer, like most new Vander compositions it takes several listens to evaluate.

Stella stuck to vocals throughout except for a few simple keyboard strokes during. Jean­Francois Deat handled most of the lead male vocalist chores on the old Magma pieces such as ‘Wurdah Ïtah’, ‘MDK’ and ‘The night we died’. Patrick Gauthier wore a new design (single red logo) Magma T-shirt and played mainly electronic keyboards. An element of uniform has crept into the show with all the men wearing grey jackets except Simon Goubert who wore a white one and played piano for a large part of the show.

‘MDK’ was quite inspiring most nights but often a bit uncoordinated in places where Simon Goubert seemed to improvise too frequently for my taste. After the final concert someone said they thought Goubert was playing a completely different show to the rest of the group. Well that’s much too unfair but there were certainly a few problems, which Stella accepted after the gig. My other grumble was that there seemed poor synchronization of the male choir during ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ and ‘MDK’. There were many points where they missed their cues and occasionally Christian seemed to slow the tempo perhaps to try to realign the group. Obviously with a little more rehearsal time before the next gigs they should be able to resolve these eccentricities before the Le Mans Festival in April.

Christian played “Toy keyboards” (I guess it was a Casio, but the voicing sounded like a plastic piano) on ‘Tous ensemble’, piano on ‘To Love’ and of course drums on the main feature of ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ / ‘MDK’. Philippe Dardelle played upright bass and the rest of the group was a choir composed of Julie Vander, Isabelle Feuillebois, Addie Deat, Benedicte Ragu, Jean-Christophe Gamet and Alex Ferrand. Most of the band read from a score for the controversial finale of ‘La marche celeste’. The controversy revolves around whether you love or detest this new piece. Overall there was not much rapport with the audience, an atmosphere possibly created by the subdued lighting and total lack of introductions. Most of the pieces were well received by the majority of the audience, the last three shows in Paris were completely sold out and the first one on the fifteenth was quite well attended too although there was again very little publicity in Paris for these gigs, a small note in the events listing “Parisco” and a couple of lines in “La Liberation” on the sixteenth. Reactions among the audience after the shows were decidedly mixed about the encore, but everyone loved the middle section of the show.

After the spring concerts, perhaps Christian will now concentrate on his ambition to reform the electronic Magma line-up he has been planning for some time now. Klaus Blasquiz, Jannick Top and Michel Graillier have agreed to rejoin Magma for special concerts occasionally – providing that the organisation is professional. However, Klaus is not planning to rejoin Magma on a permanent basis.


ZAO

SHEKINA (FGBG 4067.AR)

ZAO – the cream of the Magma school have had their third album reissued on CD. Their first two albums are even better than this one, but we will have to wait a little longer for those. ZAO were formed soon after Yochk’o Seffer and Francois Cahen broke away from Magma in the autumn of 1972. They rapidly developed their own new style of Zeuhl jazz with their 1973 album, ‘Z = 7L’ which featured the soaring vocals of Mauricia Platon and the intricate fender piano of ‘Faton’ Cahen. However, the next recording was the stunning ‘Osiris’ album that still has a magical intensity and is enhanced by the exotic percussive talents of ‘Ty Bourn’ (who was playing with Faton’s trio last time I saw them). The second album was so perfect that it would be impossible to expect the band to match its beauty, but they came close in 1975.

The next album, ‘Shekina’, was recorded early in July with a female string quartet (the QUATOUR MARGAND) adding an inspired neo-classical element to the unique blend of Zeuhl, Rock and Jazz. But Joel Dugrenot had left the band by this time to join CLEARLIGHT, and I feel that Gerard Prevost’s bass guitar lacks some of the emotion that oozes from Joel’s bass work on the first two releases. However, that aside, ‘Shekina’ is a masterpiece. An album that most groups who later followed Magma’s and ZAO’s lead could never match for sheer inventiveness and musical integrity.

Unfortunately I have always been less enthralled with ZAO’s last two records ‘Kawana’ and ‘Typhareth’. ‘Kawana’ is o.k. but not up to the same challenging standards of their early releases, even though Didier Lockwood had joined the group at that point (1976). Didier’s violin playing was most impressive on his own ‘Surya’ album but lacked some of its sparkling originality when he was not the lead instrumentalist. Seffer was still inspired on sax, but Cahen had less influence on the more commercial sound of ‘Kawana’. Personally I find the most satisfying piece on the reissue of ‘Kawana’ is the long, previously unreleased track from 1973, ‘Salut Robert!’, which also happens to be a Cahen composition.

But in comparison ‘Typhareth’ (which means ‘Beauty’) was almost dull, lacking all the mystique and ingeniousness of the original band. Indeed by the time this final album was made in 1977, Seffer had left the band to concentrate on his new line-up NEFFESH MUSIC who were to produce a couple of more intellectually stimulating albums in ‘Ima’ and ‘Delire’. Without Seffer, the penultimate incarnation of ZAO were a pale imitation and nothing on that album matches the spirit of François Cahen’s future solo career. Much later, on the 6th June 1986 in fact, ZAO reformed for a one-off gig at the Rex Club in Paris. This was to celebrate the reissue of ‘Z = 7L’ by Madrigal on vinyl. Yochk’o Seffer’s daughter Debora joined the group on violin for this reformation in a combined concert with Seffer’s group of that period, SEPTUOR.

So, getting back to the present release… ‘Shekina’ (Like all the ZAO albums, this takes it’s title from the 13th century Kabbalah, this title is loosely translated as ‘In the presence of God’). Musea are doing a wonderful job of repackaging these classics and often adding extra unreleased material and / or a very informative booklet. The text of which is usually in both French and English. These booklets are probably the first time anything has been written in English about some of these groups for many, many years. The booklet in this case uses four photos by Michel Adda of the band from the days when Afghan coats and cheesecloth were all the rage. In this episode Alain Juliac eloquently details the history of ZAO from October 1974 to late 1976. The story continues in the booklet included with the Musea release of ‘Kawana’ (translation: ‘Pure Intention’) and the early days will be covered in forthcoming releases of ‘Z = 7L’ and Osiris’. Speaking of which, I have never seen the originals of these on vinyl except for when I gobbled them up in Cheapo Cheapo’s in London way back in 1975, so presumably everyone who bought them in the seventies still treasures them as much as I do.

‘Shekina’ opens with the intriguing ‘Joy!’ written by Faton and runs through various shades of the ZAO musical palette culminating in the magnificent opus ‘Bakus’. This combination of Cahen’s classical background and Seffer’s Hungarian roots and the hard work put in by the string quartet to interpret Seffer’s jazz arrangements leads to an awesome experience of spiritual intensity. There is little in the way of jazz-rock / fusion to match the first three ZAO albums and no one in the field exceeds their originality. What made the combination of Seffer and Cahen so great was their absolute determination to integrate diverse influences and yet create a personal, original, European music. The influence of Vander was only the start of a Cabbalistic journey to another musical universe entirely. Join the voyage now. Contact Musea.


L’OLYMPIA, PARIS JUNE 1980

Andy Garibaldi

MAGMA are one of the truly unique groups of the modem music world. They have no predecessors, no successors and probably never will. Yet they have been the springboard for over fifteen solo careers and the overriding influence for several classic groups of that period such as METABOLIST, UNIVERS ZERO and ART ZOYD.

In 1980, the group had been in existence for ten years and to celebrate this achievement, the MAGMA “retrospective” was staged at the Paris Olympia. Guided by founder members, vocalist Klaus Blasquiz and drummer “par excellence” Christian Vander, the event consisted of three six-hour concerts featuring over twenty musicians that had played in the group in its first ten years. The fact that all three concerts were almost sold out, shows the stature that the group commanded, in France at least.

The French concert is a different kettle of “poissons” from the usual concert in England. No security guards in evidence, a bar in the actual hall, as well as outside, cameras in abundance and a positively party-like atmosphere. With such good vibes, the event was the cause of even greater expectations than when I heard it was to take place, two weeks before.

The lights go out, the audience cheers with anticipation and the first MAGMA line-up of the evening saunters onstage. This is the line-up from 1969 – 1971 featuring Francis Moze on bass, Claude Engel on lead guitar, Francois “Faton” Cahen on electric piano, the three-piece horn section of Seffer and Lasry on Saxes and Toesca on Trumpet, plus Vander and Blasquiz. Opening with ‘Kobaïa’ from the first album and continuing this first set with two tracks, written by Lasry and Cahen, from the second album. The Jazz influence is very apparent with all members having shares in the soloing with very much a band-sound as the tracks swing along in time-honoured manner. Seeing this line-up it is clear that Vander has consolidated and fused his Jazz background with his own music and conceptions to create a brand new form of music. The sound is loud, the P.A. crystal clear and the group are on top form.

The lyrics (in ‘Kobaïan’) are introduced for the first time. The main reason why Magma are not regarded worldwide as a truly innovative group stems largely from the fact that they sing in Kobaïan, a language composed by Christian Vander. It is no ordinary language, being one that is more heart-felt than understood. This has been the big turn-off for many thousands of potential fans, but with an open mind and heart this bridge can be crossed quite easily. The lyrics will become apparent and meaningful to those who can put themselves into the music.

In the other numbers, the horn section blow themselves into an utter frenzy whilst two uplifting solos come from piano and guitar. A short set ends to much cheering and Klaus Blasquiz announces the imminent arrival of the ’75 – ’77 line-up after a short break.

So after a lager and an Eskimo (yes, ice creams were on sale in the hall, too), the lights go out, the audience cheers even louder, and… Silence. Intentional silence as the group waits. Then a short sharp and loud shout from Blasquiz heralds the arrival of ‘Köhntark parts one and two’ followed by a hail of frenzied activity from Vander on drums and cymbals, Bernard Paganotti on bass, Didier Lockwood on violin (with a cape Batman would be proud of), Patrick Gauthier and Benoît Widemann on keyboards and Gabriel Federow on lead guitar. The vocalists Blasquiz and the gorgeous Stella Vander set the piece in motion and we are treated to thirty minutes of spectacular playing and singing, of which the main high point is Lockwood’s violin solo midway through part two. Whereby he reaches and causes an emotional intensity that you feel than if you don’t explode then the concert hall must. This line-up is possibly the most successful band, in commercial and musical terms that Vander has put together, with only Jean-Pol Asseline absent from the original line-up. (Gauthier took his place on keyboards).

After such an amazing track, the group then take you even higher with a fierce rendition of the, hitherto unrecorded, ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’. After the initial burst of frantic vocals, there follows some spacey vocal interplay from Vander, Vander and Blasquiz before the whole place is switched into overdrive and look, Christian Vander, using a drum signature that would make the ‘Bolero’ look easy for a child, hurtles into an express train rhythm that combines with the omnipresent growling that threatens to explode at any minute and gradually engulfs the hall as all the lights go out and the music gets louder.

Just as you feel that you’re about to be engulfed yourself, the piece bursts like a bubble and the vocalists bring it back down to earth, before the whole thing is taken to an even higher emotional peak by another incredible solo from Lockwood, all the time accompanied by the awe-inspiring rhythm section and keyboards. End of part two and Klaus Blasquiz announces to the audience who are giving MAGMA a standing ovation (and we’re only half way through) that MAGMA 1980 version would continue in fifteen minutes.

Sure enough, the new MAGMA is as different from the previous line-up as that was from the first line-up. Opening with a rapid-fire funk bass and clipped drum signature sequence, Blasquiz, in a fluorescent orange boiler suit with mirrors stuck to it in a random sequence, intones the audience to roar approval (if my French is correct)… and they do. After a short burst from synthesiser stage right and guitar stage left, the MAGMA musicians, notably Vander, Dominique Bertram on bass, Jean­-Luc Chevalier on guitar, (the two aforementioned wearing purple boiler suits and sporting giant safety-pin shaped dark glasses!), Benoît Widemann and Jean-Pierre Fouquey on keyboards, are joined by Klaus, Stella Vander, Lisa Deluxe and Maria Isabella Popkiewicz (all four in similar orange outfits) in a previously unrecorded number ‘Retrovision’ that features the vocals much more than before and includes a scaring solo from Chevalier on guitar, halfway through, like all Vander’s compositions, the piece constantly changes pace and mood but this always serves to enhance the overall compelling nature of the work rather than lose it altogether.

After this, the familiar piano intro to ‘Hhaï’ is heard and Vander steps up from his drum kit to perform lead vocals, a truly uplifting moment. Like in his drumming, Vander throws every little bit of himself into his singing and it comes over not only as a superb lead vocal effort but also as a truly magical performance. At this point, Francois Laizeau supports Vander on percussion, a new find and from his work here and in the next piece performed, the nearest thing to Vander style and intensity I have yet to hear, although still a long way behind the master.

Between ‘Hhaï’ and the final piece of the set, the musicians change stage positions. Laizeau takes Vander’s place, the three girl singers move to the back of the stage on a raised platform, the keyboard players and guitarist don’t move and the bassist Bertram is joined by second bassist Paganotti. Using a vast Sci-Fi space arena projection, ‘Zëss’ is set in motion with some gentle instrumental work and ethereal female vocals. Then a figure clad in a Darth Vader type helmet rises from a pedestal at the back (It’s only Blasquiz, I hope) to announce in French that we are all going to die and that he’s grateful for it. There follows a long French recitation from this Lord of the Universe, before he disappears and the piece begins to move. Then Vander, in a bright purple space-suit affair, makes his appearance centre-stage on lead vocals. There follows some of the most incredible theatrics and costume design appearances as Vander and Co. unfurl their story. Vander’s singing is positively breathtaking and the band perform another tidal wave of music with the listener totally absorbed throughout. In this piece Chevalier performs another guitar solo that is so intense it could bore through several inches of steel plate. The visual aspect is heightened when the three women enter, dressed in skintight space outfits, and proceed to become lead vocal counterparts to Vander in a brilliant vocal display. The end comes, but Stella announces that the finale is due in ten minutes.

The audience have been present for five hours and have given every song rapturous applause. Ten minutes later, the lights go out and a slightly disguised piano intro, care of the excellent Benoît Widemann, heralds to the crowd, even after only a few notes, the arrival of the MAGMA piece that is their most famous and their “tour de force”, the awe-inspiring, ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’.

The announcement of these words by Blasquiz sparks the, by now, seventeen piece band into what, on the final night, must rank as the best version of ‘Mekanïk’ ever played by a MAGMA line-up. Three bassists, three guitarists, two keyboard players, two percussionists, one violinist, five vocalists and Vander create the most delicious, gigantic wall of crystal clear sound that has ever assaulted an audience. To describe the peaks of joy, which this piece attains, is a hard task. The highlights of the number are an Earth-shattering bass solo from Paganotti, accompanied in part by the Banshee-like synth-violin wailing, and a solo from Lockwood on violin, which reaches such a high emotional level that he ends up on his knees with blood pouring from his mouth, before the band hurtle on a collision course to the end of the piece and the end of the event. No encore, but how could there be? Nothing could follow this.

The event was of course recorded and at the time I hoped that when the album was released it would not only achieve worldwide success that had so far eluded MAGMA, but reveal to everyone that Vander is following firmly in the footsteps of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, as one of the few geniuses of his instrument and compositional mystery.


FULMINES REGULARIS

MUSIQUE NOISE

(Musea FGBG 2028)

A review of this 1989 Zeuhl album seems long overdue in Ork Alarm! but the album may be becoming hard to find now that Musea are discontinuing their vinyl stocks. But for what it’s worth, these are my feelings about an album that I’ve had lying around for ages now, but have never been totally satisfied by. MUSIQUE NOISE are a relatively new line-up from Paris, they are not simply another copy of MAGMA, rather they are a progression in line with the way Vander’s music was developing in 1979. It’s as if they have taken the path that MAGMA might have followed if Vander had not diverged in 1980 towards the Otis Redding, John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner homages of the 80′s.

‘Fulmines Regularis’ opens with ‘Pas Encore’, which initially seems to be a mock Kobaïenne vocal driven piece in the style of ESKATON and ALTAIS, with wedges of MAGMA from the ‘Üdü Wüdü’ era. The mid section of the piece is based around a slow sax refrain with ostinato Kobaïan vocals somewhat like parts of ‘Mekanïk. The track concludes with a bass / drum pattern again heavily influenced by Vander and Paganotti. The second song ‘Unique au Monde’, is more like ANAID in both vocal content and its jazzy structure, but this time with similarities to PHILEAS FOGG and late period ZAO. Finally, just when you think they have exhausted the plagiarism they round the whole thing off with some WEIDORJE style synth.

 

For sure, it is not breaking any new ground, musically, but the LP is worth buying just for the first track. Side one ends with ‘Mise au point’ which is undoubtedly Musique Post-Atomique and could easily be mistaken for an outtake from any ESKATON album, not surprising when you notice that the album was engineered by ESKATON’s pianist, Marc Rozenberg and vocalist, Amara Tahir.

Flipping the record over one gets a feeling of trepidation in case every other member of the Magma school is about to receive a brief exhumation. Thankfully however, this side is almost entirely all their own work, with just the occasional doff of the cap to the ESKATON college of composition. It begins with a Carl Orff operatic feel over a tense, ever building keyboard backing. Unfortunately the results are not as intriguing as most of side one. The next track, ‘L’étroit Huit’ is much more original and quite a convoluted composition. The general mood is sombre but the quirky 70′s organ sound is disquieting and the female vocalists begin to grate towards the ending. The bass playing on this one has an Ourgon-Gorgo flavour of MAGMA circa ’79 that is quite satisfying. The final track ‘Pzkr!’ is a disappointment and I feel it contributes just a little annoyance to spoil an otherwise interesting album.

Overall ‘Fulmines Regularis’ strikes me as a fair example of the variety of music available from Les Enfants du Magma, and if you enjoy ESKATON, this is pretty close to any of their work. If you have never heard some of the bands referred to above, then I suggest you buy this MUSIQUE NOISE album before it becomes as rare as all the other classic albums by those other Zeuhl groups. Since as you will hopefully have gathered, I do actually like much of this album, I think that Bernard Gueffier’s opinion on the album is worth including, (please note that Musea is Bernard’s own record label).

This new group offer one of the most exciting and superb examples of actual Zeuhl music, with powerful, fiery themes on which rise the female and male vocals in the best MAGMA and ESKATON vocal tradition and which are enlightened by fantastic sax or keyboard parts. They are dynamic, with tremendous melodies containing complex developments and hyper-elaborated arrangements. Better than other Zeuhl groups because of their great technical talent and original inspiration and sumptuous Carl Orff – like choirs.

Personnel

Isabelle BRUSTON: Chant, Nouvelles
Jean-Philippe GALLET: Vocals, Sax
Frederic HUYNH: Bass
Denis LEVASSEUR: Piano, Synths
Cornelia SCHMID: Chant, Pompèch
Philippe ZARKA: Drums, Percussion, Voice.

Other recordings

One track ‘Villiers’ on the sampler CD ‘Enneade’ – Musea FGBG 4005 (1988)


UNIVERS ZERO

AD 1978

Kenneth Ansell

By far the most extreme of the groups that took part in the Rock in Opposition series of concerts in Britain in March 1978 were UNIVERS ZERO. They were the most divisive of the groups to play at the New London Théâtre on 12-3-78: they received less applause but sold more records than any other group on the bill (which included Henry Cow, Etron Fou, Stormy Six and Zamlas Mammaz Mannas).

The six musicians played dressed all in black. Their music was in many ways dry and barren; superficially it dealt with aridity and sterility. But this was only the surface of the music. The music was drawn taught and stretched across the surface of emotional turmoil that intermittently thrust their way to the surface to break out in MAGMA-inspired rhythmic discharges, The music was akin to the dirge that provides an outlet, a release-valve, to dissipate the avalanche of feelings (both corporate and individual) that are barely held under control.

Their first eponymous album (recorded in August 1977) was released originally by the band themselves in an initial pressing of five hundred copies. It was then reissued on Atem records, (the label run by the French magazine of the same name; for a long time the only source of any press for the band that was anything other than derogatory). The record does much to indicate the nature of the band’s music. In 1984 it was remixed and reissued with the new title ’1313′ on the Celluloid label and finally reissued on CD by Cuneiform in 1989.

It opens with the dry violin chords of ‘Ronde’ soon to be joined by the richer and more mellow sound of the bassoon; add a deep-seated bass line and a masterfully controlled percussion part and you have the essence of their music. The instrumental lines enmesh and tangle, differing layers of the overall sound gradually moving to the top of the mix. Arrangements are carefully manipulated and ordered. From the gyrating ensemble passages to the solo hoarse gasping of a harmonium. In a sense the music seems to twist and heave its way towards a climax as the fist of tension rises more suffocating in your throat, and finds eventual release in expanding plains of sound. ‘Carabosse’, by comparison, has a certain grim humour in its wry and wiry staccato lines.

On the second side ‘Docteur Petiot’ brings to mind fevered delirium with its hectically skittering melodic lilies and recurrent theme of unease. Suddenly it drops away to leave a repetitive, mournful harpsichord, punctuated by a funeral bass. Despite its title ‘Malaise’ is full of popping good spirits and wayward energy. The album closes with ‘Complainte’; it’s another piece of oppressive music dominated by quinine violin lines, drawn out and lingering. Once again that recurrent atmosphere of unease, of escalating tension, is conjured up.

But good though the record is (and it is very, very good) it is only a pointer in the direction of the band’s live work. Within the live context, the suggestion of unvoiced feelings and convictions was much stronger. The constrictions of emotion was just that much more intense. UNIVERS ZERO were an extraordinary band.

They referred to their music thus:

“It is very difficult to talk about our own music. The influences are diverse, but there exists amongst UNIVERS ZERO a desire to recover the occidental spirit of music. But at no price do we want to sacrifice our music by working in an established direction, either, musically or socially. Music we listen to, for example, includes Captain Beefheart, Third Ear Band, Peter Brotzmann, Stravinsky, Penderecki, Huybrechts.”

“We believe that in order to make valid music, on both the human and social levels, we must not sacrifice anything on things other than music. Humanity and music are but the same. We are trying to remain realists at every moment. Technically we are trying to escape the preconceptions about the kinds of sounds one would expect from the instruments we use.”

At the London concert in 1978 UNIVERS ZERO’s formation was as follows:
Daniel DENIS: Percussion
Guy SEGERS: Bass
Thierry ZABOITZEFF: Bass
Patrick HANAPPIER: Violin, Alto Violin
Michel BERCKMANS: Bassoon, Oboe
Roger TRIGAUX: Guitar, Harmonium

UNIVERS ZERO Discography

LP  Univers Zero                 Eric Faes   EF 1313       1977
LP  Univers Zero                 Atem        7001          1977
LP  1313                         Cryonic     MAD 3005      1984
CD  1313                         Cuneiform   RUNE 20 CD    1989
LP  Heresie                      Atem        7005          1979
LP  Heresie                      Cryonic     MAD 3012      1984
CD  Heresie                      Cuneiform   RUNE 29       1991
LP  Ceux du Dehors               Atem        7009          1980
CD  Ceux du Dehors               Cuneiform   RUNE 39       1992
LP  UZED                         Cryonic     MAD 3008      1984
CD  UZED                         Cuneiform   RUNE 15 CD    1988
LP  Heatwave                     Cuneiform   RUNE 9        1987
CD  Heatwave                     Cuneiform   RUNE 9 CD     1987

Singles

7″  Triomphe des Mouches         RER         RR 10-5       1983
12″ Crawling Wind                CHAOS       CIS 1213      1983

Samplers

2LP Recommended Records Sampler  RER         RR8           1982
CD  Enneade                      Musea       FGBG 4005     1988

Daniel Denis

CD  Sirius and the ghosts        Musea       FGBG 4043.AR  1991
CD  Sirius and the ghosts        Cuneiform   RUNE 33       1991

Present (Roger Trigaux’s and Daniel Denis’ other group)

LP  Triskaidekaphobie            Atem        7008          1980
LP  Le poison qui rend fou       Cuneiform   RUNE 3        1985
CD  Triskai… / Le poison…    Cuneiform   RUNE 17CDX    1989


BRUSSELS 1982 INTERVIEW

(Duncan Lane)

CV: Christian Vander

DL: Duncan Lane   (In 1982 I went over to see three gigs in France and Belgium, after the second gig which was just inside Belgium, I made arrangements with Christian and Stella Vander for an interview – DL 1992)

DL:     How did you get the A&M contract, then how did you lose it?

CV:     It was all Giorgio (Gomelsky, their manager at the time). He got us the contract. We were very pleased with the way that A&M were handling us. They were very helpful. Then Giorgio was starting up his own record label, he wanted Magma to be on it, so he bought us out of the A&M contract for a very large sum. It was beyond our control.

The following year we had a whole tour of Britain arranged, but Jannick (Top) left. We had no choice; we had to cancel the tour. It was going to take a long time to find another bass player and for that person to learn all the material and, what’s more, get it to the right standard. We upset and angered a lot of people who had arranged the tour, but it really wasn’t our fault.

DL:     There has often been a rapid turnover in Magma’s line-up. Does that get you down?

CV:     Yes, yes it does, because a lot of work has to be done with new musicians, it can take up to three months. Like when Jannick left, it took us six months to find a bassist, so the group was not ready until a year later. (The guitarist and keyboard players also left around this time).

We’ve always tried to find musicians who have some originality, that’s riot easy in France. About three years ago, we were working with musicians who could play excellently, but that wasn’t enough; they couldn’t make the music breathe.

DL:     Have people joined Magma in order to gain credibility, using it as a major step in their musical career, as happens with Zappa?

CV:     It happens, but only with musicians who are not very important. Musicians have always joined Magma because they want to play the music. They are prepared to put everything into the music, but there isn’t just the playing, there’s a lot of hard work when you’re playing night after night, with all the travelling in the van. As with the first line-up, it was O.K. when there was a concert every two months, but when it got busy they used to get tired, there was a lot of work, it was no longer just fun. I thought I was playing with people who loved music as much as me and we were also playing their compositions. They would crack. Some would be calculating how much they would get once the LP was out. I never think about that and I never know.

Still, I pay more attention to these things now, not because I’m interested in the money, but I’ve got no intention of plunging forward while letting myself be exploited. That simply wastes time and energy. You must understand that I was too immersed in the music. You can’t imagine, but every single second I’m thinking about music.   Now, Giorgio, he always said I was his brother. When he gave me a contract, I signed it without reading it saying, “Since you’re my brother, you’ll be looking after my interests as well”. And in the contract it would be written that all Christian Vander’s royalties would be paid to Giorgio Gomelsky. And, you see, I don’t get any money from any of the records except for the very first one. All the money gets paid into his Swiss bank account.

DL:     That’s disgusting.

CV:     But it’s true.

DL:     Have you ever considered suing him?

CV:     That would take a lot of time and energy. For me it’s like this: Since I was a child I always wanted to play music. I had the good fortune to meet Elvin Jones and others. It’s always been an experience, I’ve made mistakes but, so what? it’s been an apprenticeship. For most people it would be the end of the world, by now perhaps I could have had a castle, O.K., great. As for me, I like Ferraris a lot; I would love to have a Ferrari. Too bad!

DL:      Many people used to regard Magma as a group of fascists, especially in France.

CV:     That was because when Magma was formed, it was the hippy fashion, when people wore flowers. I used to know most of the people in Paris who dressed like that. Suddenly everyone loved each other, smoked joints and were cool. But I knew very well that there wasn’t any love there and that they were a bunch of hypocrites. I didn’t want to play that game, I wanted the group all to be dressed in black because it was the colour of learning – in certain sects one wears black while learning, and once enlightened, one wears white. I also felt that in that way people would not be distracted by costumes and wondering whether the bassist’s socks were yellow or with little flowers. I thought it should be just the music and we played music.

DL:      I thought it might also have had something to do with the high level of discipline in the music, that some people may have found that threatening.

CV:     Especially in France, because here they have a horror of work, even when its a question of playing one note. People think it’s enough to play the notes, but it isn’t. You must get inside the note. There are a thousand ways of playing a note.   Even if the music is written, I still search for something else; it is never ended. When it is finished, I record it. The recorded version is the definitive version. The mood can change certain aspects of the piece, but the essence is in the recorded piece. That’s why when I record something; I always take a very long time. I have to be certain that I have exploited all the possibilities, right to the end.

The last number in our set, ‘Zëss’, its not finished yet, not structurally. I’ve put in a structure so that we can perform it and the group can learn to play it. I’ve already spent two years working on it, and it requires another year’s work. The truth is, it isn’t ‘Zëss’ yet.

DL:      Up to about six years ago, there was a dark intensity in the way Magma presented their music on stage. Although the intensity remains, the presentation is now much more colourful.

CV:     This two and a half hour set of music is more accessible, but it’s ten times harder to play. Each bass part is harder to play than that of ‘Köhntarkösz’, where there is also a lot of unison playing. People might think that because the current material is easier to listen to, it is easier to play, but a lot more work goes into the harmonies. For it to work and to be more accessible is a lot more difficult.

DL:     But it’s not a question of whether it’s easy or not?

CV:     Certainly not. The playing can be simple, but the playing must have every bit of life within it. When playing two notes, you should know exactly how to place them, to exploit each fully. As in a painting it may go directly from red to blue with no white in between, in music the one who can go from the red note directly to the blue note really has completely exploited both notes, not clipped with disjointed gestures. (He illustrates this by pretending to play bass: ‘VroooommmmPingggg’.) There are no dead spaces. There is always life. That’s why Jannick Top is an artist.   That’s the reason why when Jannick Top and I play together, just the two of us, it is so unified that the people opposite are nailed to their seats. That shows that you can command the stage with two notes. The more you know the value of notes, the less notes you play.

DL:     Since about 1978, there’s been a development of a theatrical side to Magma’s concerts. Personally, I’m not pleased with that, especially the costumes which have been irrelevant to the music.

CV:     Yes, its true. There was a problem. I imagined costumes, but you need someone to create them who is as creative in their art as someone can be in Magma. The costumes must impose something as well; they should be worthy. I hate theatre; life isn’t theatre.(I should point out that their stage wear was already more subdued by this time, gradually returning to simple black. – DL)

CV:     When I’m playing, I don’t know if I’ll still be alive at the end of the concert. Other musicians are afraid, they nevertheless think about their little comforts, their family life. That seems human, but with musicians it is not like that.   I would rather perish and remain worthy. There are jazz musicians, they all talk about Coltrane, but if a club owner says that Coltrane is rubbish, they won’t say anything for fear of losing their job. Me, I’ve been banned from all the Paris jazz clubs because of what I say about Coltrane; I don’t give a damn.

When I was a kid I wanted to play jazz. I might have played jazz if I could have worked with John Coltrane’s musicians, people who love music, but not what you get here. Here its not jazz, its a load of intellectuals who set themselves up as jazzmen with the clothes and act as if they’ve got it all sussed out. Yet they will not defend Coltrane, while Coltrane gave everything, and that’s hard. I will always defend Coltrane, I have loved him since I was eleven.

Now it’s normal for them all to say they like Coltrane, but they don’t go beyond what he did before 1958. It was then that he moved away from the approach of the ‘jazz standard’. After that, his music went onto a different level, where he would improvise on a single chord and the harmonic energy took him onto a more spiritual plane. There’s virtually no one around now to defend these things, even over there (USA) among those who worked with him, among themselves they have renounced him. It’s a big problem.

DL:     Recently, in an interview, you said that you were very pleased with the song ‘Otis’ (dedicated to Otis Redding) partly because it is concise and much of its power derives from that. Do you see your future compositions sharing that particular quality?

CV:     I have some pieces that are really fantastic, like ‘Köhntarkösz’ multiplied by fifty! I’m no longer at the stage where I need many phrases to say one thing, but sometimes the phrase has a richness that demands some repetition of it. Some people don’t understand that, they find it to be repetitive music. I know there are people who have made repetitive music with meaningless notes, but when you find the right note, you can repeat it a thousand times.

DL:     Is there a great difference between British and French audiences?

CV:     In France audiences are very difficult. Generally, French people don’t like music, they like a bit of folklore, songs with stories about love, life, drugs etc. When a number finishes, there is a little pause when they check with their neighbours before clapping. In Britain, on the other hand, they are much more spontaneous, they react directly to the music. I enjoyed playing in Britain very much.

DL:     Magma’s music has always been outside any musical fashion, be it disco, punk or jazz-rock. Does this ever make you feel isolated?

CV:     Never. Me, I like that, I think its fantastic to approach an audience who are expecting rock or jazz-rock with a music which is neither but has such energy – it exists but it’s not like anything else. I find that very stimulating.

DL:     What is your favourite breakfast?

CV:     Sweet coffee with concentrated milk.

© Duncan Lane – February 1982


YOCHK’O SEFFER

from Bartok to Monk (by Centre National d’Action Musicale)

Yochk’o Seffer of Hungarian origin has lived in France for many years now. He met Jean-Luc Ponty and Michel Portal at the ‘Conservatoire de Paris’ at which point he leapt into the world of jazz. He continued however to play with the legendary groups of the 70′s, MAGMA, ZAO, and PERCEPTION. Typically, he never limited himself to a single type of expression and may write for a septet of saxophones or he might appear in solo. His classical training and knowledge of contemporary music (from Bela Bartok to Krzystof Penderecki) grant him with great feeling and liberty in jazz. And this is how he’s been moving deeper and deeper into Thelonious Monk’s music for some time now, which he presented in 1989 in the form of a quartet. He’s discovered the same quality in writing as those composers who inspire him, the same rhythmic wealth. And in turn, Seffer and the musicians with him (Siegfried Kessler, François Mechali arid Peter Gritz) recreate Monk’s themes, giving them new modern breath bearing traces of the numerous experiences of the saxophonist-composer.


XAAL

1989 – 1992

Jad Ayache

In October I asked the excellent Zeuhl / Progressive group XAAL for an update on what they have been doing since the story of their first three years was last documented by Cyrille Beerens and Alain Juliac in Ork Alarm! #5 and Notes # 35.

“Hello, I’m Jad, guitarist of XAAL. You asked me to bring you up-to-date with our activities since 1989… Well, Laurent Imperato left the group when we were recording the demo tape. He was insisting on changing the style of the group into a more commercial style with vocals etc.

After that, the three of us rehearsed together for several months before we considered keeping the name of Xaal and playing a set of new pieces. We played our first gig in April 90 but it took a long time before we were happy with the results. On October 27th we performed as support for the Christian Vander Trio and things really started to move from here. We were contacted by Musea, who were interested in releasing an album from us. We started recording it (but since it was self-produced, it took quite a while to achieve). In 1991 we played a few fairly good gigs and finished mixing the record in May. Then Keith Turner of Progressive Records (and also the leader of the interesting British group QUASAR – ed.) proposed a deal to us, which was much more interesting than Musea’s and we therefore signed with Keith’s label in July. In the winter of 91, Patrick Boileau (drums) broke both wrists, which led to a very long enforced holiday – we eventually played again in the spring of 92, and it proved that the break was beneficial to the group. As the music improves, more people are coming to the gigs. We have played as support act for PAGA (Bernard Paganotti’s group featuring Klaus Blasquiz). Finally the record ‘EN CHEMIN’ was released in August 92 and it is slowly being distributed in Europe.”

XAAL Discography

K7 XAAL XAAL 01 1988
CD EN CHEMIN PROGRESSIVE 004 1992


ROUNDHOUSE, CHALK FARM

09-06-74

Steve Lake

Intriguing to watch the development and organic growth of MAGMA’s music, the French band are currently on their third tour of Britain in less than twelve months.

Physically at least, the band is rapidly diminishing. Since their dramatic entry at London’s Marquee late last year, the band have eschewed the services of Stella Vander (vocals), Rene Garber (bass clarinet) and now guitarist Claude Olmos. Surprisingly, this last departure has made the band stronger than ever and finally liberated keyboard players Michel Graillier and Gerard Bikialo, who have hitherto been obliged to take a back seat.

But strangest of all is that the content of MAGMA’s performance, ostensibly the same set they’ve been playing since December, continues to change dramatically with each passing gig. That is, the material remains the same but the way the group members relate to the material alters all the time.

At London’s Roundhouse last week, organist Michel Graillier tagged an eloquent Larry Young-like solo onto the end of ‘Mekanïk’, an increasingly impressive marathon of ever changing mood, running the whole gamut of emotions.

As ever Christian Vander’s drum solo received a huge ovation, but Jannick Top was quite possibly the star performer on this occasion. With Olmos gone: Top has assumed the role of solo guitarist as well as bassist. But importantly, he never once loses sight of his bassist’s authority even when playing finger breaking lead licks, made the more dynamic by his cellist’s use of vibrato.

Two hours of devastating music and the Chalk Farm audience rose to its feet as one man, without any bogus directive to do so. An impressive sight and a much deserved one.

MANCHESTER

15-02-75

Paul Cole

CAPTAIN’S Log Stardate 15-2-75… No sign of intelligent life form: U.S.S. Magma ETA uncertain.   After a two-hour wait, MAGMA were transported on stage at Manchester University’s Union Hall with a flurry of staccato movement custom-designed to heighten the whole significance of Earth’s fated future.

Then gallant commander Christian Vander’s cosmic chorale proceeded to O.D. on a sustained burst of savage interstellar overkill. Swirling sound-drops and Klaus Blasquiz’s elementary vocals fed to the most emotion packed tonic sol-fa since Tangerine Dream’s ‘Phaedra’.

The Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’s eight-strong task force with Didier Lockwood on manic violin and Benoît Widemann on keyboard control, engaged Warp Factor One for a display of musicianship that left something to be desired. However, Vander was impressive, and his drumming and Paganini AD 2001 violin work struggled against a holocaust of galactic fury with Bernard Paganotti’s bass and Gabriel Federow’s guitar emerging coyly into the lulls between the storms.

‘Opus Numero Deux’ became almost melodic at times with Stella Vander’s wandering vocals but proved inevitably unwieldy as climax built on climax. MAGMA ’75 are much the same as MAGMA’s three previous incarnations, despite frequent personnel problems.

The complex, ambitious Vander compositions have flashpoints of interest as they flounder in some extremely repetitious structures. They came in search of Paradise and found it in MAGMA – but will the end really be like this?

Captain’s Log Supplemental.. No signs of intelligible life forms. Maintain standard course


LAURENT THIBAULT

‘MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS REVER TOUT LE TEMPS’

(Musea FGBG 4054 AR)

Laurent THIBAULT was MAGMA’s first bassist before he became the director of THELEME records, the original French progressive label that issued albums by UNIWERÏA ZEKT and ERGO SUM. Later he became a famous sound engineer, working at his Château d’Hérouville studio with David Bowie, T Rex and even the Bee Gees….

In 1978, he decided to compose and record his own solo album with friends from MAGMA like Francis MOZE on bass, Richard RAUX on sax, Lisa BOIS (who he met while recording ‘Attahk’) on vocals. Additional musicians featured included his wife Jacqueline on keyboards, Dominique BOUVIER and David ROSE (both ex TRANSIT EXPRESS) on drums and violin respectively. Other vocalists were Lionel LEDDISSEZ (from UNIWERÏA ZEKT and ERGO SUM) and Amanda PARSONS (from HATFIELD & THE NORTH).

The result is a concept-album based on the paintings of Le Douanier Rousseau, which show the difference between dreams, art and reality. So, his album is divided into four tracks, each with a different climate. On ‘Orée’ it is dreamy-progressive similar to a lot of the quieter pieces on MAGMA’s first ‘Kobaïan’ double album – for example ‘Naü Ektila’ is brought to mind immediately. I was also reminded of a few peaceful songs by ANGE from the mid-seventies. This first track is serene, very beautiful and delicate with a marvellous female choir. ‘Aquadingen’ starts in a similar light vein but soon breaks into a darker and more anguished style with some bizarre frantic passages. Laurent used many found recordings of animals in the final mix, with what sounds like Cicadas, Toads and all manner of creatures clicking and croaking throughout this piece. The drumming by Bouvier is fairly basic but overall it’s an interesting soundscape.

‘La caravane de l’oubli’ begins with an exotic theme, again with a strong flavour of the first MAGMA album but to which is added Rose’s fluid violin and an Arabic droning instrument. This is meant to illustrate the march of a caravan through the desert. The theme is energetic and repetitive gradually building into a stronger “Moroccan” flavour as the Arabic vocal samples are added. Abruptly this stops and another pastiche of found recordings, this time of children playing, begins. The reality aspect replaces the pleasant bass / guitar theme and the dream state is banished by more forceful drumming on the title track ‘Mais on ne peut pas rêver tout le temps’. Noises of war and cries of horror break through and the whole work ends in Laurent’s disturbing shrill laughter.

The booklet supplied with this CD has a wealth of historical information on the early years of MAGMA and touches on the formation by Rene Garber of the MAGMA offshoot: UNIWERÏA ZEKT and Christian Vander’s early seventies jazz combo: TRANSITION. There is a lot of it which I have never seen in English before and for the MAGMA collector / fetishist this booklet is vital; of course you also need the booklet that comes with the WEIDORJE CD too. Keep up the good work Musea! Now, how about those ZAO albums….

So, Laurent Thibault is a musical painter and his paintings are exquisite, full of finesse and nuance. His album is certainly one of the most beautiful and impressionist and suggestive albums, with a strong Zeuhl influence too. If you like the spirit of Early MAGMA, or the dreamlike qualities of the more skilful and creative progressive rock groups from the seventies, then this is definitely a worthy purchase.


CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO

26-06-92     CONTREXEVILLE / CAF “CONC” / MAISON DE LA CULTURE
27-06-92     ST. DIE / M.J.C. FOYER DE L’ORME / SALLE DE MUSEE DE L’ORME

Early in June, I heard about two concerts by the Trio Vander on Cyborg’s concert news telephone service. As my girlfriend and I had already planned to visit a friend of ours in Strasbourg, it seemed obvious to combine this with the concerts. A few days after everything was booked we had a call from Strasbourg, in which we were told that there would be an additional concert at the ‘Cafe des Anges’ in Strasbourg on Thursday, 25-06-92. A reason to come a day earlier, but we hadn’t taken into consideration our employers opinion. So we arrived there on Friday afternoon. Our friend told us about a very good three hour long concert the evening before, and gave us a taste of it by showing us a short film of this show. Vander seemed to be in the mood to play and so we were very eager for what was to come that evening.

The night before, the concert had begun at 10 p.m. as usual and so we thought that 7 p.m. would be early enough to leave Strasbourg for Contrexéville. It was a 200km journey and the weather was extremely fine. No problems, it seemed, until we discovered a traffic board on the highway announcing two directions for Contrexéville, “par le col” or “par le tunnel”. Since the route through the tunnel was chargeable, we decided to go “par le col”, whatever that meant. We realised what an awful mistake that had been during a long ride through the Vosges, going up and down every hill in the area, via a very winding road. That was why we arrived at Contrexéville at 10:30pm. Contrexéville (yes, where the famous water comes from) is an old health-resort with the charm of the early 19th century and the Maison de la Culture is a modern building on a slope above the town. No lights gleamed and no music was to be heard when we parked our car there. After we had rounded the building, a small iron door opened and people came out. This was the entrance to CAF “CONC”, a small coffee bar. We entered a long, but not very broad, crowded room with all the charm of a canteen – if the bar opposite the stage hadn’t been there. The equipment was very inconveniently set up along the longer side of the room, so there was not much space in front, but much more at the sides. The concert had already begun earlier in the evening and the first set had just ended. Despite the break, all the tables were taken, except one in a corner of the room. It was the worst vantage point one could imagine in the whole place, because the back of the piano obstructed our view of the band, totally spoiling it in fact.

Towards 11 o’clock the musicians entered the room for the second set. Christian Vander, as usual dressed in his black overalls and with the Zeuhl sign on a blue string round his neck, on his black Gretsch kit (bass drum, 1 tom, 2 drums & assorted cymbals Hi Hat, Ride & Crash), followed by Philippe Dardelle on upright bass and Emmanuel Borghi, who is still playing piano with the Trio in spite of his split from Offering. As usual they started the set with songs by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner and some of their own songs. I recognized ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes’, ‘Giant Steps’, ‘My Favourite Things’, ‘Central Park West’ and ‘Dear Mac’. The band was in very good condition, not only that all three were absolutely convincing technically, but also they were in an extremely good mood for playing this evening. So they launched themselves to the top of this set with a mind-blowing fifteen minute drum solo by Christian. In continuation of his drum solos at the Offering concerts previously (remember Faches Thumesnil), he produced a very powerful drum solo, merging in the drums like a man – machine. Meanwhile I had moved to a better standing position and I couldn’t really believe my eyes.

Christian totally knocked me out, and at the end of the solo the audience reacted enthusiastically. Approximately fifty minutes had past when the set ended with Body And Soul. A half-hour break followed, giving the band and the audience enough time to have some much needed refreshment, before the third set began. This set was as convincing as the one before, showing three musicians who gave their souls completely to the music. It was half past One in the morning when a brilliant concert on a hot summer night ended, leaving behind an overwhelmed audience. After we had confirmed that the concert the following evening would begin at 10 o’clock again, we left for Strasbourg (par le col again, of course), where we arrived at 6 o’clock in the morning to take some desperately needed sleep.

The next evening we were driven to St. Dié by our Strasburgian friend, par le tunnel of course, which took less than half the time we had needed the evening before for the same distance (but what is the grey inside of a tube compared with the natural beauty of the Vosges). After searching a while we found the Musêe de 1′Orme, a modern cube hiding itself behind the facade of an old church. The concert took place in the Grande Salle, which looked like a cinema with its big, red, plush chairs. It was not very crowded when we entered and so we got very good seats in the third row just in front of the stage. The venue was nearly full when the Trio came on stage to play the same performance that they had done the evening before. Again they did it with technical brilliance and devotion, but we missed last evening’s mood. In contrast to the clubby atmosphere at CAF “CONC” this much bigger hail was more sterile. The musicians seemed to be lost on the large stage, with much more distance to the less enthusiastic audience than it had been in Contrexéville. The songs were more structured with less space for improvisation. Christian especially was in a fine mood again, showing his humour when he introduced the musicians at the end of the 1st set. He didn’t use a microphone, and someone from the audience shouted that he hadn’t understood what he had said. So Christian came back, introduced the musicians again using a microphone, turned back and as he went out he repeated Emmanuel’s and Philippe’s names again and again in a very loud voice. After a forty-five minute break they came back to play the second set, which ended after more than an hour of fine music at a quarter past midnight. It had been another brilliant concert, and an excellent reason not to miss the next series. They’re worthwhile!

Rolf Spengler


Ork! Update

CONCERT NEWS

LES VOIX DE MAGMA – Special concerts
29-04-93 Palais des Congrès, Le Mans (Europa Jazz Festival du Mans)
??-10-93 Bordeaux (Postponed, hopefully re-scheduled for October)
LES VOIX DE MAGMA
The concert in Le Mans is at the Palais des Congrès, Le Mans. It forms part of the Europa Jazz Festival du Mans. The support act will be the Claude Barthélémy Octet.

SIMON GOUBERT

Simon Goubert has a new album due out on the HOPI-MESA label? This was mentioned in a Japanese magazine recently but is unconfirmed by French sources

NËHÈH

The new AKT release “Nëhèh” goes far beyond strange and is, for many readers, a bitter disappointment. Please just bear in mind that the band were shall we say “enlightened” when they recorded it. It is a VANDER, TOP, BLASQUIZ & GARBER release. – It also has the subtitle “SONS”. One of the most perverse features of this recording is that Jannick does not play bass. I doubt if any Magma / Top fan in the world would have expected that to happen, but “c’est la vie”. This is an historical document more than a musical one, which is not to say that the music is bad (unsatisfactory perhaps, but not awful), it is just totally different to any other Magma recording (official or otherwise). I expect we had all been hoping for a mind-blowing opus similar to ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ or ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ or at least something similar to the crazier moments of the ‘Inedits’ album. But when you listen to this work it is easy to understand the affinity between Henry Cow and Magma that existed at that period.
Some of you have written to mime expressing a feeling of despair that Vander could have issued such an odd record, I find that gradually this improvisation eats into your soul – it’s not pleasant, comfortable or relaxing music, and no one really expected that. It is just Vander and Blasquiz at the extreme outer limits with Garber floating right off the edge. But Jannick; Oh why couldn’t he have played some bass on this!

ARTE TV

The ARTE TV broadcast of the Didier Lockwood – Twenty years special, went ahead as planned on the 19th of December. The show featured a small clip of Magma from the mid 1970s then about six minutes from the recording of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ that the line-up with Lockwood, Gauthier and Blasquiz made in September 1992. The sound mixer had presumably not heard Magma before, because the audio mix was diabolical, but at least it was a reunion of sorts and let’s hope there will be more to come. One small gripe was that the credits at the end listed the piece as “Mechanic Destructive Commando”… (No comment). Didier is planning many concerts in the spring to celebrate his twenty years in live music.

Finally, for tape collectors: there are private videos circulating of Magma in Reims 30-03-91 and the Offering concert in Soissons 06-04-91. Maybe this will be enough to convince Seventh Records that there is a healthy market for official CONCERT Videos (in both Pal and Secam). It would not need an expensive production to satisfy us…. just a complete mid 1970′s concert or two!

CRO MAGNON

CRO MAGNON now there’s a name from the past, eh? O.K. you have never heard of them. Well they are an interesting new Electric and Wind Rock-Chamber music ensemble from Belgium, working along vaguely similar lines to early ART ZOYD, UNIVERS ZERO and JULVERNE. Their first CD is out now called ‘Zapp!’ (HVB 9201). The sound patterns produced by this line-up of Violins, Bass, Keyboards, Saxes, Electric guitar and sampling are an acquired taste but surely an intriguing one worth investigating.

‘MEKANÏK’ AT THE MANOR

The story of the recording of ‘Mekanïk’ at the Manor, Oxfordshire is apparently an intriguing one, does anyone have Simon Heyworth’s address? If so, please pass it on; I would like to ask him about it. Chris Cutler informs me that when HENRY COW recorded their first LP for Virgin, they did not know at the time, but they were recording it on top of the 16-track masters for ‘Mekanïk’. They found out years later when they played the tapes again and found two or three minutes of a Christian and Jannick backing track at the start of the tape. Ork Alarm! #13 will feature a fascinating appraisal of Magma’s music (from the 70′s) by Chris.

DOMINIQUE BERTRAM

Dominique Bertram (ex-Magma / Alien bassist) has a new jazz-rock / Fusion CD called ‘Bass Now’. Bertram also has a bass guitar tutor cassette / book called “Methode up Bass” that he produced in 1990.

SYLVAIN MARC

Another ex-Magma / Offering bassist – Sylvain Marc has an even better new CD of instrumental jazz-rock / Fusion (cleverly titled ‘Sylvain Marc’) Andy Garibaldi tells me that compared to his funky ‘Nite Life’ album this one is really very good indeed – pure and unadulterated.

CLAUDE SALMIERI

Claude Salmieri (ex-Offering / Paga Group drummer) has a new CD entitled ‘Self Portrait’ which Andy Garibaldi tells me is superb (yes it’s jazz-rock / Fusion again). The guest list on this one includes Klaus Blasquiz, Yvon Guillard, Gerard Bikialo and Maria Popkiewicz. Apparently Andy is overwhelmed by this stunning work.

JEAN-PHILIPPE GOUDE

JEAN-PHILIPPE GOUDE (ex-Weidorje keyboardist) has a new CD called ‘De Anima’ on the Hopi-Mesa label (CD 006). I hope it is as good as Goude’s ‘Drones’ album that he made soon after Weidorje split up.

CHRISTIAN VANDER

Christian Vander is still keen to record another album with his jazz trio (Emmanuel Borghi and Philippe Dardelle) and has not dropped his plans for an electronic incarnation of Magma. In the meantime album release plans keep changing. In December I heard that the AKT III release would not be “Toulouse 76″ after all, but the September 1992 recording of the piano music that Christian played in the Christopher Columbus “Son et lumière” Concert in Reims. Georges Besnier also said that Christian was not happy with the original recordings of ‘Cosmos’ and ‘A Fiïèh’ and therefore started recording them again in the week ending 12th December 1992 with Patrick Gauthier. Most of the band are constantly gigging in various combos and this was a rare time when they could all get together to record the long awaited new album.

LYDIA DOMANCICH

Lydia Domancich CD ‘Au dela des limites’ and also a new CD – Lydia was the Offering pianist in the first half of 1992. Her first album features the participation of Pip Pyle on drums, Bernard Paganotti on Bass and Pierre Marcault (percussion). The new album includes the same percussionists and the horns are by the Guillard brothers. I have not heard the new one, but the bold cover design of ‘Au dela des limites’ caught my eye at the Cyborg stand in Paris in October and I have since come to quite enjoy the unusual, sometimes dreamy, quality of the music. It is a clever blend of modern technology (computers / synths), traditional jazzy piano, Amazonian percussions similar to the ‘Rhythmes du Diable’ solo spot that Pierre Marcault often played when he was in Offering. Not Zeuhl music, but occasionally close to Offering in style. I usually avoid albums with English vocals (except when Zappa writes the lyrics) but there are some very convoluted arrangements here that override my usual prejudices to an extent. Pip Pyle’s lyrics only feature on a couple of tracks, the majority of the CD is instrumental with a fast moving percussive slant. Every now and then the creepy electronics mingle with the moody grand piano producing a strange fusion indeed. I cannot recollect anything like it Oh, and I forgot to mention the pygmies … Well, try it anyway, it is definitely engrossing.

TATSUYA YOSHIDA

Tatsuya Yoshida CD ‘Magaibutsu’ (Review records rere 163cd). This is by the drummer from the Japanese Zeuhl group RUINS and most of this high-energy album has a Zeuhl sound. The RUINS ‘Stonehenge’ album is certainly intriguing and unmistakeably Zeuhl music in the same vein as ‘MDK’. The second album by this incredibly odd duo (bass/drums/vocals/electronic triggered items) ‘Burning Stone’ is also apparently very similar to Classic Magma in style.

NYL

NYL – this strange album of neo-Californian rock has also been re-released on CD and features Jannick Top on some tracks with the quintessential Magma Bass sound… Shame about the vocals and lyrics on this album though. However it does feature some unreleased material and the original vinyl version on the Urus label is extremely hard to find.

CYRILLE VERDEAUX

Didier Lockwood continues to release more conventional jazz such as his latest album with Caron and Ecay, but something much more appetising to most readers will be the re-release of the fourth (1978) album by Cyrille Verdeaux’s CLEARLIGHT. The, hard to track down classic ‘Visions’. As well as Didier Lockwood, another guest on this is Didier “Bloomdido” Malherbe, again there is some extra unreleased work on this reissue.

ARTE TV

The ARTE TV broadcast of the Didier Lockwood – Twenty years special, went ahead as planned on the 19th of December. The show featured a small clip of Magma from the mid 1970s then about six minutes from the recording of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ that the line-up with Lockwood, Gauthier and Blasquiz made in September 1992. The sound mixer had presumably not heard Magma before, because the audio mix was diabolical, but at least it was a reunion of sorts and let’s hope there will be more to come. One small gripe was that the credits at the end listed the piece as “Mechanic Destructive Commando”… (No comment). Didier is planning many concerts in the spring to celebrate his twenty years in live music.

Finally, for tape collectors: there are private videos circulating of Magma in Reims 30-03-91 and the Offering concert in Soissons 06-04-91. Maybe this will be enough to convince Seventh Records that there is a healthy market for official CONCERT Videos (in both Pal and Secam). It would not need an expensive production to satisfy us…. just a complete mid 1970′s concert or two!


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