- Magic Magma (Chris Cutler)
- Mekanïk Machine (John Peel)
- AKT I (Christian Jacob)
- Sans Tambour Ni Trompette (Jim Ross)
- Letter to Nico’s son (Giorgio Gomelsky)
- Alien Quartet (Gerald Arnaud)
- Class of’ 76 – Carmina / Masal / Potemkine / Xalph
- Zëss (Translation by Frank Charbonneau)
- Christophe Colomb The new album (Christian Vander)
- Les Voyages de Christophe Colomb (Ehn Aïmaah)
- AKT III (Jim Ross)
- Ork! Update
Chris Cutler – Sound International magazine May 1979
I take the reissue of A&M Records’ ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ and ‘Köhntarkösz’ as the excuse for the following exegesis on Magma.
Magma was founded in France eleven years ago at a time when UK and US records completely dominated the French youth market and French groups all had to play the pop and blues based music that the foreign companies were selling. More extraordinary still, and hard for us to really comprehend, they had to sing in English.
It was in this climate that Magma began to develop their own music in France, a music that was essentially not American and not aimed at the commercial market.
For many years they were received with incomprehension or derision, often with actual violence. Soon they discovered that to be able to play with any frequency at all they would have to actively involve themselves in building an alternative network in their own country. Amateurs of music there were a-plenty all over France, but they needed a centre, a rock on which to build. Magma more than anyone else took on this role; much furthered by the organising genius of Giorgio Gomelsky, at that time their manager. In about four years, certainly by 1974, an independent European music had a foothold in France. French musicians learned to respect themselves.
As I have said, what was so important about Magma’s music was that it did not concern itself with the fashionable foreign imports. It came mainly from a European compositional tradition – from Carl Orff, from Stravinsky, from eastern European folk music – and though their performing power came from rock and radical black jazz, the spirit, form and content of their “oeuvre” was unequivocally European.
Magma did not sing in English. Their main composer, Christian Vander, created a phonetic language (more like German than anything else) that was conceived as an integral part of his music. This was not so much a nationalistic innovation as an aesthetic one. Kobaïan, as the language was named, solved two problems for Vander: 1 How to avoid singing in English, and 2 (more importantly). How to use any text at all, that could match the power and suggestive vastness of the music – which was literally too dramatic for words.
It was in developing the dramatic in his music that Vander recognised a special quality inherent in rock, that electronic instruments have at their disposal a range of dynamics and frequencies that no orchestra can command. So when Vander took certain elements present in European “Art music” (particularly from Carl Orff), and introduced them into the rock vocabulary, he not only qualitatively advanced those elements in “Art music” (especially the dramatic ones) but also advanced the potential of rock music itself as a medium for serious cultural work.
Now opposed to collective work, its ability to work beyond Orchestra is doomed from the start as a hierarchical career structure whose relations are not personal or even ideological but simply commercial, an Orchestra’s co-operation in playing is not a function of its relations as people but a conditioned response to impersonal marks on manuscript paper and “creative direction” of a conductor.
A group like Magma, on the other hand, can be a close-knit collective with commonly held aims – both musical and supra-musical. It can communicate with its audience on an existential as well as on a musical level. This audience becomes a living part of a new creative process, unbound by the old cultural accretions of “Art music”. This audience experiences itself as a part of its own future.
In those days to attend a Magma concert was to go through a baptism of fire and it was precisely this ritualistic commitment – even fanaticism – which gave Magma the strength to do what they did and which made what they did decisive and compelling. It was impossible to ignore them because they transcended the rock commodity category and entered a world of ritual and community. And this was also a world of musical nationalism that rejected the culture of the UK and US. No wonder they were so influential: they opened the door to a “local” culture where before an alien culture had ruled.
As we have noted, Magma did not present their public with a nice simple musical commodity but rather with a social totality that included a shared struggle wrapped in a mystico-political ideology; essentially with a kind of religious participation. In this respect they were a bit like SUN RA and referred back to an older tradition in which the music was only a part of a greater social whole.
They adopted a Bon symbol as their emblem, which they always wore. They invented an entire mythology based around the planet Kobaïa. They dressed all in black. Their music was austere and highly disciplined, ecstatic and apocalyptic. They often harangued their audiences before, during or after a gig. Their main text, partially translated by Vander, described the purification of a wicked and warring humanity through willing self-sacrifice. “The Universe guides them into the celestial march – the one from which there is no return. And Immutable Fate now completes its work.”
This “seriousness” alienated both the non-progressive and the politically “left” among their audiences – or at least gave them a severe moral headache. Were Magma fascist? Was it true that Christian had learned Hitler’s speeches and sometimes declaimed them in Kobaïan at concerts? Rumour and speculation were rife and these as well as the black clothes, the discipline and the “spiritual radiance” cannot be divorced from their unquestionably progressive cultural position. But this is not the place to discuss such a complex question.
A Magma concert could be seen as a ritual of death – and it was all too easy to forget that the initiation it affected was rebirth: that Magma were actually dealing with awakening and catharsis and never with fatalism or despair.
Magma had the extraordinary and unique quality of not only using highly complex rhythms – they were the first rock group I ever heard using a 5:4 relation (where five equally spaced beats are played in the space of four) – but also enmeshing everything in clear, strong body rhythms, which bear the listener along with exhilarating ease. Often they employed the device (used by Stravinsky) of playing precise additive rhythms (5/8, 9/8, 7/8, 5/8 etc) against a straight e.g. (2/4) crotchet rhythm, so that a third, implied rhythm emerged alternately on and off the beat – a rhythm which carries the listener straight through all the “bar lines”.
This is a form of musical expression, which is more appropriate to rock music (technologically) than to any other musical form – and yet it is hardly ever used.
I think it is true to say that no rock group has employed – and mastered – the use of dynamic modulation as Magma have. There is a continual mobility and sometimes even the effect of “waves” of sound which subtly overlap; different parts move from foreground to background and vice versa so that both timbre and implied rhythm perpetually shift. Again, especially with the suggested rhythms arising from these dynamic variations the less “conscious” body is rolled across the bars.
Melodically speaking Vander moves from rhythm-as-melody, where melody is a function of repeated rhythms or rhythms varying additively, to a romantic lyricism. The Cradle Song from ‘Köhntarkösz’ is a good example of the latter, simple, poignant and impossible to forget. This is in fact a quality omnipresent in Vander’s compositions and is brought into sharp focus by the unique vocal styles of both Vander himself and Magma’s main singer Klaus Blasquiz. Many of Vander’s tunes are directly derived from, or have a strong affinity to, eastern European folk music melodies, and like them, are intended to be instinctively remembered and a pleasure to sing.
I am not well qualified to deal with this in any detail. Magma always use ambiguity in harmony; still lines which create harmonic modulations, not ones which resolve but rather which always imply further forward motion. Very common is the “Devil’s interval”, the diminished 5th, the most ambiguous interval in tonal music (hence the interdict on its use in the Middle-Ages – hence too its extreme mobility and implication of imminent instability and change). This interval has another quality too and one much exploited by Vander: it seems untouchable, external, to exist independently of the keys. It is much used by Messiaen for instance for the Immutable, the Eternal and Fate. Often Vander creates the impression of continual ascent. A concrete example of this is to be found in ‘Köhntarkösz’. Here the voices ascend the scale of D major while the basses descend in three uneven stages from C#, C, to E. Each time the voices reach the top of their scale: C#, they tie over to join the first note in the beginning of the next bass cycle. But at this point the scale cannot resolve while the basses are in E, so the scale has to continue to climb to its next note, which is D again and the beginning of another scale. Although it returns to the D an octave below, it gives the strong impression of an unresolved and irresolvable melody, perpetually climbing, set against a steady but tense bass.
So to these two records: Magma’s first two records were for Philips, France, the third and fourth for A&M, the fifth and sixth for RCA, the latest for Eurodisc. Christian also made a record for Barclay that is effectively Magma also.
These two releases are the A&M records and from Magma’s “classic” period.
‘Mekanïk’(Third movement of Theusz Hamtaahk – The judgement of Humanity for all its cruelty, its dishonesty, its uselessness, its vulgarity and its lack of humility. As predicted by the prophet Nebëhr Gudahtt moved and inspired by the Spirit of the Universe in its infinite wisdom.)
For the first time Christian built up one short piece (which first appeared in a seven-minute version on a Philips sampler in 1972) into a full scale, epic work. It is undoubtedly the biggest and most consistent work Vander ever achieved and I suppose his “master work” to date (though I prefer in some ways ‘Tristan et Iseult’, the Barclay record). Everything on ‘Mekanïk’ serves the music; there is nothing extraneous and no display of technique for its own sake.
‘Mekanïk’ has the confidence to proceed slowly and thoroughly (in common with certain Russian films) and doesn’t concern itself with novelty. It keeps attention not through frequent changes but by a sheer, overwhelming vastness, which includes the listener; by delicate control of tension and development and occasionally by the perfect and apposite use of detail and subtlety. Special mention should go to guitarist Claude Olmos in this respect.
The record was made at the Manor in Oxfordshire and the Aquarium in Paris in 1973. The whole story of its travails cannot be gone into here but one thing is worth explaining. The whole of the first 16-track tape was mixed down and put back on to a new 16-track master – the other tracks on the new tape were then all filled up, especially in building the choirs. As a result some of the rhythm track is lower in the mix than was probably intended, but of course it was impossible to raise because it had already been mixed down.
‘Köhntarkösz’ (Entering the tomb of Ëmëhntëht-Rê)
Effectively this has three tracks though one is split into two parts and occupies two-thirds of the record. This is the title track and demonstrates a level of rhythmic and harmonic subtlety in Magma’s music that they have not since equalled. Melody appears as a strong element and yet is almost entirely absent in a conventional sense. There is only rhythmic and harmonic tension; only implication, yet this creates its own body, its own melody and its own ineluctable motion. The choirs are used to particular and essential effect here.
As we noted in the context of dynamics so tempo too is grossly underused by rock music. This piece is an illustration of what can be done. As one of the most important groups of the decade Magma deserve your attention. The rest you must sort out for yourselves.
Mekanïk Machine (A&M)
John Peel – Sounds – 6th July 1974
I’ve certainly sorted out some tricky records to review this week. Describing Magma to someone who hasn’t heard them, ranks on a par with trying to explain test cricket to a Korean peasant. On the other hand, if you have heard them you’ll either love them or hate them – I can’t believe anyone could remain indifferent to such startlingly original music.
Let’s have a go at covering what they do anyway I suppose the nearest thing is to say that Magma = Contemporary European “serious” choral music + rock accompaniment – but that’s not really right either. For a start, I’ve heard no contemporary choral music that sounds as passionate yet as alien as Magma’s vocals. On a recent “Top Gear” we featured two pieces that the band had recorded specifically for the programme. One lasted half an hour, the other twenty-seven minutes, and I found the concentration required to absorb such dense and challenging music over such long periods very hard to muster.
One of the numbers was called ‘Köhntarkösz’ and that’s the title of the LP from which this remarkable single is taken. The dominant musical (as opposed to vocal) instrument here is the electric bass and I can’t recall ever having heard the bass played with such ferocity and attack – it maintains this ferocity throughout the single and presumably throughout the LP. A tour-de-force. Electric guitar is featured too, initially distant but growing in intensity until it howls like a siren over the close. Magma is a 21st century visionary band and a single by them seems something of an anachronism. Try to hear it, if only as a taster for the LP.
Les Voix de Magma
“Les Voix” Concert 1992 in Douarnenez AKT I
Hi-Fi video March 1993
The themes of Magma re-orchestrated. The light was born in Douarnenez last summer and the celebration was continued at La Villette in the autumn. One previously unreleased track, ‘Zëss’, was composed by Vander in 1979. A live recording of extracts from the concert in Brittany. The predominance of vocals, characteristic of the group, surprisingly does not eclipse the other instruments. Yet the master tapes were not made on multi-track and mixed down, but they were recorded directly in two track digital stereo. It took quite some talent by F. Juan Guerrero to produce a perfect balance on these first cuts in a concert situation. Duration 44mm 42s. Dynamic range: 50dB. Rating: ****
Les Voix – Concert 1992 AKT I
These live recordings reproduce the magical, moments captured in concert during the festival “Jazz en Baie” at Douarnenez on the 2nd of August 1992. Christian Vander is surrounded with eight choristers and a light instrumental formation (Keyboards, upright bass) and we discover in an essentially vocal orchestration some of Magma’s major compositions.
One finds here the forceful incantations, the hypnotic trances, the incandescent lyricism, the vocal work and power, which made such a reputation for this leading group. The pre-eminence of the voices lend emotion and are particularly expressive. Reinforcing the contemporary dimension of these pieces: Opera, Pagan Oratorio or Christian Gospel (Superb!) as well as the strong moments in this innovative concert. The acoustic bias, the discrete instrumental arrangements (principally the piano of Vander) shine an essential light on a unique approach. Magma remain one of the most fascinating new music groups in France…
Sans Tambour Ni Trompette
Venue: Ampithéâtre Pablo Picasso.
Town: Le Plessis-Robinson, near Paris.
Date: Saturday 27th March 1993.
A unique concert by Christian and Stella Vander with Isabelle Feuillebois.
The tiny theatre Pablo Picasso played host to one of this year’s more unusual events in the Kobaïan calendar. Christian, Stella and Isabelle played, as a trio, a set comprising songs from ‘Offering pts 1 & 2′ their solo albums ‘To Love’ and ‘D’épreuves d’Amour’ as well as premiering five new pieces. Christian and Stella took to the stage, Christian on Piano where he stayed throughout the evening. Most of the time Stella stood to the right of a small keyboard, occasionally adding percussion and a few keyboard parts to the show. They kicked off with ‘Love is’ and were shortly joined by Isabelle who apart from adding a third part to the vocals played periodic percussion. ‘Love is’ was followed by an outstanding version of ‘You glory the one’, the vocals coming across with much more force than on vinyl. ‘Hello’ from ‘D’épreuves d’Amour’ also fared well, Stella’s vocals being as warm and beautiful as ever. The first of the new songs came next, most definitely one that would be at home on ‘Offering pts I & 2′. ‘J’ai du bon tabac’ and ‘Ronde de nuit’, which followed, showed Stella’s vocal abilities off to great effect.
‘To Love’ led into ‘C’est pour nous’ via an impressive piano improvisation from Christian. The last three pieces were all new material. The first of these was a duet between Christian and Isabelle; the second a duet between the Vander’s and finally Isabelle joined them again. These last three songs were very much in the style of Stella’s solo album.
An enthusiastic crowd brought them back for an encore of ‘The night we died’ and then the show climaxed with an awesome new piece by Christian alone on vocals and piano. This closing item veered once again toward the OFFERING sound.
Although there don’t appear to be any plans to repeat this event (as yet) I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys Offering and the solo works of Christian and Stella Vander. And finally, that’s right not a trumpet or tambourine in sight – no drums either but Christian’s piano work was magnificent.
LETTER TO NICO’S SON, ARI
New York – October 1982
You don’t know me but I know your mum, Nico. Her record company asked me to write a few words for her new release and rather than a serious ‘critique’ I thought it would be fun to write you a letter and tell you a good story about her.
There are many good stories about Nico. This one is about her penchant for marvellously curious catastrophes and could be entitled: NICO AND THE DOCTRINE OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.
It was 1974 or 75 in Paris. I was managing MAGMA, a fiercely original and uncompromising band, not welcome, of course, on the radio, TV or in commercial clubs. We had a hard time getting gigs and saving money to improve the equipment and we were playing in Maisons Des Jeunes, parking lots, public squares, abandoned churches, slowly but surely making progress.
Although I had never met your mother I knew her work and much admired her uniquely ironic and accurate sense of the dilemmas and contradictions facing modern artists. So, when my friends Bob and Barbara Benamou introduced me to her I was delighted. At the time, pursuing a seemingly obscure but no doubt meaningful artistic quest, she was working with Philippe Garrel who, besides literally starving, was making some mysteriously beautiful & avant-garde films. She was also living with him, in this apartment where everything, but everything, was painted black. Now, you know your mother’s propensity for dark, conspiratorial plots, no- One can quite follow, and I don’t precisely remember how it occurred, but one day she ended up living with my wife, my newborn baby and myself in our house in Sèvres. She was easy to live with, considerate and discreet, except that first thing in the morning she would ask one to partake in a concretion of 100% proof peppered Polish vodka with hot-sauce and God knows what else that would set fire to one’s mouth.
One night I took her to see MAGMA and she sort of fell in love with their music. Opening her eyes in wonderment she would say in her slow, rounded speech: “Oh! But Giorgio, this is the best band in the world…” The band, particularly Christian Vander also liked her work. They were due for a tour, she for a record, so, I thought, let’s put them together for a while and, who knows, something great might evolve.
As I told you, intelligent music was not exactly in demand and touring France was more like guerrilla warfare, with endless Identity Checks at toll-booths of the Autoroute, cancellations of concerts for political reasons and other no less harassing difficulties. We were, however, breaking new ground and just about perceiving the end of the tunnel. So, when on a cold, misty and wet morning in February – having warned Nico to expect a certain degree of discomfort – we left Paris, our spirits were high: She needed the money and we needed the exposure.
MAGMA’S line-up at the time consisted of 7 musicians and 2 roadies and normally they would all be travelling in an old Mercedes van, which took 9 People plus the equipment. With Nico and myself we were 12 now, so I took my car along, an old but comfortable 2-seater Facel-Vega in which everyone wanted to ride and I had a hard time establishing fair turns. The first 2 or 3 gigs went off well but as luck would have it – and thanks to draughty hotel-rooms and poorly heated halls – your mother came down with a terrible cold. This prompted her to acquire a substantial supply of medicines of all kinds, culminating with a particular brand of cough syrup that, much to our relief, seemed to alleviate her condition and generally keep her cheerful. Never mean when it came to sharing her discoveries, she invited us all to taste the healing properties of her elixir and soon, alas, everyone began to sneeze, puff, cough and whiffle and buying little brown bottles.
A few days later at one of the most important concerts of the tour – in Lyon or Avignon – I remember her (and everyone else for that matter) getting on stage with a whole supply of these little bottles. Sipping and singing, singing arid sipping, she stayed up there for over an hour and a half, finally provoking the legendary impatient French audience into catcalls and boos.
You can imagine the mood the next day. Never short on quips, Die Alte Zwetschge (‘Old Plum’, an affectionate tease) was totally disconsolate, disenchanted and displeased with the tour, Magma, life, the whole thing and me. Our next gig was in Toulouse, quite a distance away and I had planned to leave early with the sound-roadie to check out the old theatre where the show was scheduled. Somewhat apprehensive, I thought perhaps she should ride with me and the roadie but then decided she’d be more comfortable in the van and after imploring the boys in Magma to use all their guiles to cajole her during the long journey, I left.
We got to the theatre early, checked things out and waited for the van to arrive. 7 O’clock, 7:30, 8, 8:30, no van. The concert was due to start at 9, so we began to worry a little and decided to backtrack up the road and find out what, if anything, had happened. You can imagine my horror when, in the middle of nowhere some 20 miles from the city. I saw the old van lying nose down, off the roadside. In a 50 foot deep embankment and, but for empty syrup bottles, no one in sight. Fearing the worst, I drove to the nearest gas station and called the theatre. No news. I asked the people there to call the police and every hospital in the region and holding my breath drove back to the city as fast as I could. When I got there a considerable commotion was under way: hundreds of people were crowding the entrance, pushing and shoving. Somehow I ploughed my way through, got inside and there in the foyer the most sorrowful sight awaited me: looking like a bunch of wounded from World War 1, with bandages on heads, knees, elbows and feet, leaning on crutches and walking-sticks, sat Nico and the most forlorn-looking band of musicians I ever laid eyes on.
I know that mine was perhaps not the most considerate reaction, but I couldn’t help laughing. Naturally I tried to find out what had happened; between Nico’s dark mutterings and the bands contradictory narratives, it was impossible to figure out and to this day we’ll never really know. I remember that with the bandages and walking sticks your mother looked like the ultimate Mater Dolorosa of Rock & Roll at the mercy of Unintended Consequences… Of course, the concert got cancelled and so did the rest of the tour. Nico went back to Paris, then to England. Magma went back to saving money for a new van, and the record was never made. Who knows, it might still happen one day. In the meantime I often ask myself: What the hell was in that cough syrup?
Christian Vander is a monotheist: he adores Coltrane with a “Love Supreme” which protects his life from all weaknesses of the fleeting form, the mediocre kindnesses. If he is sometimes sombre in an incomprehensible brown study, it is that his temperament is out of reach for certain ideas which are common for the average Frenchman: Good taste and good sense are for him extraterrestrial notions from those of his groups ALIEN and MAGMA, of which he habitually wears the emblem. With his early 80′s quartet, he thrived by the force of his conviction where everyone else had failed in the years since Coltrane’s death: Reborn in the Coltraneian fashion, and returning a profound sense of speech which many others paraphrased without truly uttering. His hurricane “Elvin Jones” style creates a deluge of inspired phrases from his partners: Michel Graillier and Jean-Pierre Fouquey, who take it in turns on piano and synthesiser in a captivating emulation of Vander’s energy; Alby Cullaz, visibly passionate within this experience, has broken away from his habitual “bop gigs”, and perfectly integrates the generous sonority of his double bass with the very electric violence of the group. Don’t wait for a rainy day to discover their meteoric charge of passion and optimism.
THE CLASS OF ’76
In which we take a brief look at some of the Magma school of music, it will have to be very brief in most cases, because nothing was ever written about these groups in the UK and I have not seen much in the French Press either.
Next issue I hope to have a feature on ESKATON KOMANDKESTRA CARMINA A five-piece line-up, originating from Chaumont with quite an original formation – drums, bass and three saxes. No known recordings but they were hoping to record an album for Giorgio Gomelsky’s Utopia label. Little known about them except that they toured as a Magma support group for four dates late in 1976. The drummer, Manuel Denizet, left the group at the end of 1977 along with one of the saxophonists – Phillippe Gisselman to join Yochk’o Seffer’s NEFFESH MUSIC. Gisselman then joined SERGE BRINGOLF’s STRAVE and worked with Seffer on John Greaves album ‘Accident’ in 1982.
MASAL were another five-piece group from Lyon who started in 1973, their 1976 line-up was two saxes, drums, keyboards and bass. Their founder, the drummer Jean-Paul Prat, with the help of a lot of guest musicians made an excellent album in 1984 called ‘Masal’ which featured two of the finest pieces of Zeuhl music I have ever heard. He alternates some strong, powerful sequences with some serene, soothing passages building into sumptuous orchestral movements. Overall the album is like a beautiful but forceful version of WEIDORJE with an enormous brass ensemble and a lot of blissful guitar work. In fact it’s such a masterpiece that it seems strange that no one has re-released it. However, Jean-Paul Prat is now totally devoted to a religious way of life and wants to forget everything about his previous musical career. Obviously Musea cannot reissue the album without his permission, so unfortunately this gem will soon be lost forever.
POTEMKINE – Astounding jazz-rock combo performing in the same spirit as Magma circa 1971, i.e. the most detectible influence on their music was Magma’s second album: ’1001 Centigrades’. Originally a five-piece, from Toulouse, their core formation was a classic quartet of guitar (Charles Goubin), bass (Dominique “DouDou” Dubuisson), drums (Phillipe Goubin) and piano (Michael Goubin), but with the rare addition, at the time, of a violinist (Xavier Vidal). Many thought that they were in a similar vein to the English jazz-rock groups such as BRAND X and the HATFIELD’s, but there was also a slight influence of ZAO. Altogether this melange of styles produced an exquisite and inventive music, full of nuance and subtle twists. They recorded a single (‘Rictus’ / ‘Mystère’) in 1974 and three albums. Of these my personal recommendation for reissue would be for their highly charged debut ‘Triton’ – icy blasts of new music. The original quartet toured extensively in ’76 and ’77, briefly becoming a septet, which soon split up. Some joined VERTO, NOUVELLE LUNE and IGUANA. They planned to reform in March 1977 to record the ‘Foetus’ album with a classical choir on the backing tracks. The eventual recording of ‘Foetus’ was somewhat different to the original plans and does indeed remind me of the Canterbury bands. The final album ‘Nicolas II’ (1978) was less accessible, with a warm melodic jazz-rock influence. Potemkine opened the “Rock d’Ici” festival in 1978 at L’Olympia, Paris with a brilliantly inspired set. But even though they had a distribution deal with EMI for Belgium, a major contract for the rest of Europe eluded them. In November ’78 the quartet toured Belgium, Germany and Holland.
XALPH In 1976 Christian Vander was very impressed by Xalph, enough to have them as support act for part of the winter Magma tour (Festival Utopia). The group came from Bordeaux and intended to produce their first LP on the Utopia label – they had a lot of original ideas and produced some fine music with a strong identity, but for some unaccountable reason their hopes were dashed. They had been expected to rise to the same level of esteem in European Music as Magma… Of course they were strongly influenced by the best of Vander’s work and also by Mid-70′s WEATHER REPORT, and were quite a success in the Bordeaux region but being so far away from Paris eventually led to their disbanding. No recordings were officially released until Musea put one track from a 1980 session on their ‘Enneade’ sampler album. Their original leader and sole composer was Jean-Pierre d’Aran who played electric guitar, sax, soprano sax and bass clarinet (phew!). The group’s sound however was a collective affair, all the musicians playing an important part in the process. There was a slight predominance towards the keyboards of Serge Korjanevski who later took over control of the group before leaving to join UPPSALA. Another strong element in their music was the dual guitars of Francis Ferrere and Patrick Briand. A demo tape from the late seventies line-up exists (with Jean-Pierre Alcauve on bass and Xavier Jouvelet, drums) but not much else. Claire Laborde, the vocalist, later joined Magma briefly in 1980.
Hello! Oh Divine Master of the Universal Powers,
We are there! We are ready!
In this Ancient Stage, We have come for the final Meeting!
Today is the Day we are going to die.
And I say Thank You!
I am the Master of Truth, of Blasphemy and of Deceit!
I am the Master of Conscience! I am the Master of Myself!
I am the Master of Worlds where I don’t exist anymore!
They are there, the Planets, the Galaxies,
The Birds that have sung since the Dawn of Time,
The entire Universe, all Souls, all kinds of Music,
All the Joys and all the Pains,
And you too Kreühn Köhrmahn.
In this Ancient Stage, We have come for the final Meeting!
In this Ancient Stage, begins the End of Ends,
The Chaos of the Apocalypses,
Where everything returns to Nothing!
In this Ancient stage, we are going to die.
And I say Thank You!
He is Pure now, Wisdom is his name!
Master of Winds, of the Air, of the Rains,
Of everything that flies, of everything that is free,
Like foam you lay yourself down,
Like foam you vanish under the soft Sun,
The Messenger is your name!
Master of Lightning, of Storms, of Elements of Trance,
Great Instigator of the Internal Dilemma,
Madness is your name!
Master of Waters, of Blood, of the mass of Lakes,
Of Rivers and of Oceans, Abyss is your name!
Master of Furies who dance on the Blood of the Blasphemists,
For who we celebrate the Feast, Sehnteht!
The Day of Sins is his name!
Master of Terrors that we celebrate at Dusk,
Who creates the Mystery in these Worlds of the Unconscious Mind,
Strange is your name,
Master of Passions, Master of Revulsions,
Master of Tears and of Torments,
Love is your name!
Master of Clouds that overcast the Dead,
Whose Desire it is to hide the Corpses,
That they carry out of the Infinity,
Close by those for whom the heart beats no more,
Tenderness is your name!
Master of Magics, of immeasurable Forces, of the Obscure,
Of the Sorcery, of the Gohëtie,
Obviousness is your name!
Master of Lavas, of Volcano Masses,
Of Fire that dries up our Tears and burns our anguishes,
You are the Universal Core!
Purification is your name!
And you Kreühn Köhrmahn,
Master of all Life and of all Death,
ZEUHL is your name!!!
Master of Time, Renowned and Wise in the Indifference,
Inundating the Heavens of a Marble Smile,
You are there! And you know,
We will be battling you till the last Instant!
Impassive is your name!
And we can fly and sing like Birds,
We can fly over the Prairies of the Universe,
Like the Eagle pursuing his Prey,
But there is no more Prey,
Because the Eagle is a Flower, and the Prey its Perfume.
Today is the Day when everything rebecomes the Whole,
In this Ancient Stage, We are coming for the final meeting.
In this Ancient Stage, Begins the End of the Ends,
The Chaos of the Apocalypses, where everything returns to Nothing,
Today is the Day we are going to die.
And I say Thank You
“THE JOURNEYS OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS”
1 – The city of Palos
2 – Voyages on the ocean
3 – Utopia
4 – The mystical storm
Here is the third document from AKT.
It features original compositions by Christian VANDER, composed for a show that took place in September 1992 in Reims, the theme of which was:
“The voyages of Christopher Columbus”
The extracts from the ships log, read by Christian VANDER, share with the listener the excitement of his crossings, hopes, doubts, his struggles against the elements, to eventually increase his knowledge of the world.
The recording reproduces the soundtrack of the show, written for a one off open air performance which took place in the autumn in Reims on 12-09-92.
Many tens of thousands of people assembled in the streets of Reims to witness this multimedia spectacular staged in honour of Christopher Columbus which featured gigantic projections, screens of water and fireworks.
The show was shown on three screens in various locations depicting the chronicles of Columbus. A musical finale with lights and fireworks followed this.
Far from being just a historical re-enactment, it sought to reconstruct the feelings and atmosphere of the time, to paint a vivid portrait of the events.
Serge GAYMARD was the director of the show.
I had composed this music as if for a friend, a neighbour, a travelling companion.
On a wave of notes, soft and strong, over which to recite the narrative.
I knew nothing about Christopher Columbus except that he was a man who sailed the open seas.
His adventurous life was full of peril.
In bygone times lay waiting to be discovered, then one day came a mariner …
Today the island of Thule is that much nearer.
The Vikings and American Indians knew of this.
On to things concerning SEVENTH records and in particular OFFERING, we are preparing an album that will include COSMOS, A FIÏÈH, LA MARCHE CELESTE, PURIFICATEM and TOUS ENSEMBLE. Of course we will let you know about it when it is ready.
We are also preparing to release an album by Patrick GAUTHIER, and towards the end of the year Simon GOUBERT is going to start recording a new album.
Les Voyages de Christophe Colomb
AKT III – released 12-03-93
And now, a third solo album from Christian Vander. After the majesty of ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ and the sheer beauty of ‘To Love’, what can we expect from Christian on the new label?
For the last six months I had heard stories of a “Son et Lumiere” in which Christian had played piano and narrated the story of Christopher Columbus’ epic voyage of discovery. This had been performed in the streets of Reims as part of the Automnales de Reims, celebrating the 500th anniversary on 26-09-92. I also heard rumours from those who had seen a video of the show, that the best piece of music was ‘La Marche Celeste’ From that I deduced that the new material was not particularly inspiring.
So here it is at last, the new album (42 minutes of music and narration). Christian composed and recorded the work in two weeks prior to the street spectacle, with the help of Stella Vander who programmed the synths and generated the sound effects.
That was the first surprise; I’d been expecting a piano soundtrack, but the score is all electronic.
1. ’La ville de Palos’ – Starts with an uninspiring film music style followed by a short narrative by Christian then some loud sound effects. After about four minutes of this, the initial refrain of ‘La Marche Celeste’ begins, but the story of Columbus overpowers the music.
2. ’Voyages en la mer océane’ – I begin to realise that this album is designed for the French speaking world and does not have a lot of commercial potential outside of that market. From the evidence of the first half of the album, the musical content would seem to be an inconsequential backing track for the story (which is quite naturally all in French) – Strange that the album should be subtitled “Musiques”. ‘Douarnenez 1992′ (AKT I) was subtitled “Les Voix”, and “Nëhèh’ (AKT II) was known as “Sons”. Both of which are apt, but if this is the musical album of the series, I wonder what AKT will call the ‘Toulouse 1976′ album?
In his role as the voice of the Admiral Columbus, Christian is pervasive and while the music has many short passages of interest it takes a markedly subsidiary role – equal in prominence with the sound effects, which I must say are quite spectacular!
The second part of the story concludes with a passage lifted from ‘Eliphas Levi’, which sounds like Guy Khalifa’s flute but is probably Christian revisiting a favourite tune on synthesiser.
3. ’L'utopie’- Immediately this piece started playing, my glum expectations cleared and I knew the album would get more interesting in the second half. The intro tapes that Georges Besnier played before the band came onstage at the Paris concerts of Les Voix de Magma had a peculiar flavour of Vanderienne composition. But I had thought no more about them, believing them to be simply something that Christian thought worthwhile for a concert introduction. However it now transpires that they were the musical segments from the second half of this album. The theme of ‘L’utopie’ has a certain energetic excitement that stirs a thrill in me, like the joy I get every time I listen to ‘Undïa’ (the version used in the Tristan et Yseult movie, not ‘The Unnamables’ album cut which has less power than the 1971 demo tapes). The narration on this track is more evenly matched with the music, and reminds me of the stage show that ANGE performed in April 1990 (a ballet called ‘Sève qui peut’).
4. ’L'orage mystique’ – Again this was played just before the Paris concerts last October. Tumultuous surges of choral backing and intense multi-tracked keyboards provide a worthy film soundtrack for a historical drama. While the music is not recognisably Magmaïenne, and certainly nothing like tile classic ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ album, these last two tracks have some stirring moments and the narration does not detract too much from their intensity. Perhaps the sound effects are too loud but on the other hand I can see how important they would have been in the overall performance coupled with a light show. Those of you who were disappointed with “Sons” should at least prefer “Musiques”, but I could not honestly recommend this album to anyone who has not already got all the Seventh Records releases. It is another one for the collectors, I fear – but not a failure, just Vander exhibiting another facet of his talents.
Ehn Aïmaah 1993
(But, for a more positive response: read Jim’s review below – Ed.)
This, the third release from Christian Vander’s AKT label, is a recording made of an open air concert that was performed in September 1992 in Reims to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America (Thanks a bunch Chris!) Christian Vander who narrates throughout composed the music.
The first track, entitled ‘La Ville De Palos’ starts off appropriately enough with lapping water and ships horns interspersed with loud keyboard drones but this soon gives way to the main theme which goes by the title ‘La Marche Celeste’ although this isn’t credited on the sleeve notes as such. It is a rousing piece that I have heard being likened to a “German beer drinking song”.
‘Voyages en la mer océane’ paints a musical picture of the various elemental forces encountered by Columbus on his journey, building to a dramatic climax as a storm strikes. The calm of the storm being musically depicted by the first few bars from the beginning of ‘Eliphas Levi’ on the ‘Merci’ album.
Tracks three and four (L’utopie’ and ‘L’orage mystique’) remind me very much of Rick Wakeman’s ‘Journey to the centre of the earth’ and also ‘Revelations’ period Jean-Michel Jarre, with their mix of quiet piano passages and narrative and loud, brash synth pieces.
Unfortunately my comprehension of the French language has suffered through lack of use and so a lot of the story remains a mystery to me, but on the whole, this is a very enjoyable and listenable CD. Especially recommended to fans of the “Concept” album school of music.
Jim Ross 1993
(Ehn:- Ahhh, yes at last we agree Jim .. Sève qui peut! Sève qui peut)
CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO
18-03-93 Le Sunset, 60 rue des Lombards, Paris
19-03-93 Le Sunset, Paris
20-03-93 Le Sunset, Paris
STELLA / CHRISTIAN / ISABELLE (Sans Tambour Ni Trompette)
27-03-93 Ampithéâtre Pablo Picasso, Le Plessis-Robinson
LES VOIX DE MAGMA
29-04-93 Palais des Congrès, Le Mans (Europa Jazz Festival du Mans)
??-07-93 Reims (Possible concert – date still to be confirmed)
??-11-93 Bordeaux (Georges simply says “postponed until November – probably”)
29-05-93 Théâtre Municipal, Calais
One of the future AKT releases will feature a (rehearsal?) session by MAGMA recorded in September 1969.
Jannick Top plays his unique cello styled bass on UTE LEMPERER’s (German Torch singer) latest album. She was in London in March for a concert at The Sadlers Wells, but sadly without Jannick.
ART ZOYD were quite active last year with marathon twelve hour concerts and various promotions for their excellent ‘Nosferatu’ album. I still don’t know what happened to the projected UK tour though. If it ever happened there was certainly no press coverage or advertising. Let’s hope they try again soon with help from RéR Megacorp perhaps. Chris Cutler’s mail order company also staged a wonderful FAUST reunion concert at the Marquee in London on 1-11-92 at which Jean-Herve Peron promised to return soon. Anyway, in between ART ZOYD’s various French concerts some of them managed to find time to produce two new solo albums.
Multi-instrumentalist THIERRY ZABOITZEFF has released a second solo album of experimental New Music called ‘Dr Zab & his Robotic Strings Orchestra’ (Mantra). Like his previous solo album (‘Promethée’) it has an electronic ambiance to it that’s spiced up by various experimental touches on bass, percussion and winds. The feel is much like ART ZOYD, but the sound is more focused, making the impact perhaps even greater.
Keyboard player PATRICIA DALLIO is back with another colleague from Art Zoyd, Alain Eckert on guitar, for her second solo album ‘Procession’ (DTR 554). Unlike her earlier piano solo album (which I must add that I have not heard), this New Music CD (53 mins) is quite similar in style and content to many recent Art Zoyd works. It also features alto saxophonist Philippe Gisselman from the 70′s Zeuhl group CARMINA. The talents of Eckert and Gisselman enhance the dark climates and provide impressive atmospheres, avoiding all the electronic excesses that often detract from solo keyboardist albums. It is the dark Art-Zoydian undertones that immediately struck me on first listening – a must for any AZ collector. I find myself returning to this album every few days, in fact it’s one of the finest albums I have heard in the last year.
If you still have not discovered the WEIDORJE CD – Archie from Eurock Magazine says: “WEIDORJE was Bernard Paganotti’s Post Magma band. Their one album was pure Kobaïan space music (a la ‘Üdü Wüdü’). This reissue has two extra bonus tracks making it a real treat for all fans of high intensity sound”.
XAAL is a band that combines the sound of KING CRIMSON with the spirit of Magma. Basically a trio, they play up a storm as a heavy rhythm section backs up a super-sonic guitar / synthesized guitar assault that’s embellished by various winds and keyboards. They played a concert at the Théâtre Trevise in Paris on the same night as the concert in Le Plessis-Robinson, a bit of bad timing unfortunately.
“UN HOMME … UNE BATTERIE”
ReR Megacorp should now be stocking the ‘Un Homme… une batterie’ video by Christian Vander, be warned though – it’s a curious item, a drum tutor, with only a few very short live OFFERING clips.
Chris Cutler also mentioned in passing that he might speak to Daevid Allen concerning some of the untold stories about Magma. Time was when they represented two poles of music in France and were intensely aware of one another – going to each other’s concerts and sometimes enacting dramas. It was a fascinating time: Magma and the classic GONG…. Let’s hope Chris can find the time to interview Daevid for Ork Alarm!
Richard PINHAS’ latest release ‘DWW’ on the Cuneiform label (Rune 40) is sadly no better than many of his solo albums of the eighties but at least he is starting to get involved in the music business again and perhaps will reach the inventiveness of his HELDON era with his next release. In the meantime the 1992 album ‘DWW’ features Patrick GAUTHIER on three tracks and Paganotti plays bass on another. Gauthier wrote one track ‘Ballade pour Frederic Magnus’ but most of the album was compiled from a variety of sessions from 1983 up to 1991.
ARTE (Franco-German TV)
ARTE (Franco-German TV) have discussed with Christian, a special programme about Magma; now don’t forget to set your video recorders…. Especially anyone with a PAL system! But wouldn’t it be even better if Seventh could get the rights to sell the programme in PAL, NTSC and SECAM video formats?
XCRANIEUM are a Californian trio who are developing in the THINKING PLAGUE / UNIVERS ZERO vein. They have a vaguely King Crimson / Zeuhl influenced demo cassette recorded in 1991 called ‘Moodgraft’ it’s a sometimes light, gentle, relaxing music with the occasional melancholy flavour of Univers Zero. Another more recent recording ‘The State of Time’ for a Cable TV program is more ambient and partly improvised. Their bassist, Greg GUNTHNER informs me that they are planning a CD release soon in their new heavier style. The subtle twists in their musical styles are intriguingly hard to define – AUDION magazine said “Intensive yet elusive instrumental music that is totally fascinating”. We hope to do a feature on XCRANIEUM in a future issue of Ork Alarm!
Daniel Denis was in the audience at Christian’s concert in Le Plessis-Robinson and he is, as far as I know (we discussed the availability of Univers Zero T-shirts) still working on his new album, but Jean Christophe Alluin says that it will also feature Andy Kirk and Dirk Descheemaeker (both ex-Univers Zero) and will have a more “live feel” than ‘Sirius and the Ghosts’.
Ultima Thule still have stocks of their release by SHUB NIGGURATH: ‘Live’ (AMC 036). It is a forty-minute tape of five tracks recorded in Paris on 13-01-89. Often quoted as “Magma inspired”, Shub Niggurath have always been much more than that. For proof, check out their awesomely powerful debut LP on Musea. With influences that include: Stravinsky, H.P. Lovecraft (the author) and King Crimson, their concoction is a weird and fascinating neo-gothic horror fusion, particularly brooding and spooky on this concert recording. Meanwhile, Shub Niggurath are working on another album for 1993.
Sophia Domancich – Funerals (Gimini 1001).
Her debut CD featuring Bruno Tocanne, Paul Rogers, The brothers Guillard and, on one track, John Greaves. A passionate example of jazz-fusion, with the benefit of the horns in parts.