- The Discovery of Ëmëhntëht-Rê (Antoine de Caunes)
- Le Grand Blues Band
- Eskaton Communique 1979 (Eskaton)
- Eskaton – ’4 Visions’ & ‘Ardeur’ (Trev Faull)
- Eskaton – ‘Fiction’
- Eskaton Kommandkestra (Bernard Gueffier)
- Le Mans 29-04-93
- Vive Le Mans! (Ehm Aïmaah)
- Xcranieum (Ruben Sano)
- Ghost of Magma’s Future
- Present C.O.D. Performance (Michael Draine)
- Ork! Update
The Discovery of Ëmëhntëht-Rê
Antoine de Caunes
The story of Ëmëhntëht-Rê can be told thus:
One day a man called Köhntarkösz discovered the tomb of an ancient Egyptian grand master, who had been assassinated. The fatal blow came before he achieved the goal he had set himself, of magical immortality. He successfully lowered himself into the main vault of the tomb, and standing at the doorway he heard the songs of angels. The fate of the deceased. As he pushed on the slab covering the burial place, the dust, which had accumulated over thousands of years, seeped into all the pores of his skin. He experienced a complete and total vision of the life of Ëmëhntëht-Rê.
He fainted and all the experiences and investigations of Ëmëhntëht-Rê were revealed to him. When Köhntarkösz awoke he did not remember it all, except for snatches, which were fragmented and so, he tried to reassemble them until he had a thorough knowledge of the masters work. It took him an entire lifetime to arrive at the state where Ëmëhntëht-Rê had been, which was to revive the Egyptian God of Creation: Ptäh, who was floating in space, asleep in the universe. That is to say, to appear in material form. Ptäh did not actually re-awaken and then continued his sleep, until someone discovered the formula once more for the re-awakening. Ëmëhntëht-Rê was almost there, Köhntarkösz took his whole lifetime to attempt to do it in turn.
These allegorical tales and references to ancient Egyptian mythology are evidently significant, and deserve detailed study. But I have no personal knowledge of the esoteric arts etc. and feel that the earlier Magma Fanzine “Transe” covered the subject in more depth than I ever could. So unless someone wants to write the occasional article on the subject for Ork Alarm! That’s all I will say about the subject that is clearly dear to Christian’s philosophies. – Ed.
The above item was loosely translated from Antoine’s book and he based this section on an interview with Christian Vander called “La Longue Marche” in Rock et Folk N° 100).
LE GRAND BLUES BAND
Philippe LEROUX - Drums
Laurent COKELAERE - Bass
Arnaud DUNOYER DE SEGONZAC - Keyboards
Marco PAPAZIAN - Guitar
Jean-Do SALLABERRY - Guitar
Klaus BLASQUIZ - Vocals & Percussion
During the Spring ’89 Michel FUGAIN tour, four of his musicians decided to form a group to play the music they love and share: the blues. They are Laurent COKELAERE, Philippe LEROUX, Arnaud DUNOYER and Marco PAPAZIAN; Jean-Do SALLABERRY soon joined them.
The GRAND BLUES BAND really started up with the arrival of Klaus BLASQUIZ, as you well know, a multi-faceted artist whose career started in blues bands during the sixties before he joined MAGMA (between 1969 and 1981), then he sang with the ODEURS (at the beginning of the 80′s) as well as writing for the rock magazines (Rock et Folk…).
Since the autumn of 1989, the group has been giving over fifty concerts per year in many Parisien clubs, sometimes with major artists like Mino CINELU, Slim BATTEUX or Jean-Jacques MILTEAU.
The GRAND BLUES BAND music is a well-balanced mixture of blues, southern rock, Cajun and even salsa music. Their songs include covers from many masters of the blues (RY COODER, LITTLE FEAT, STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, ROBBEN FORD), as well as their own original recordings in the rock/blues style.
Le grand Blues band
CD (New Rose 422430)
Their debut CD is of course not Zeuhl music or avant-rock and therefore would not normally be mentioned in Ork Alarm! But of course any album that features Klaus could be of interest to many of you, especially if your tastes in music stretch beyond the pretty restrictive ground we usually cover. I’m no fan of the blues, (except for Beefheart) but I can tell you that the musicianship is excellent and Klaus’ vocals are in perfect English (thanks to all those ZZ TOP and DOOBIE BROTHERS albums in his collection, no doubt). Highlights of this 51 minute album are a fine rendition of ‘Tobacco Road’ (J.D. Loudermilk) and ‘Walking by myself (J. Rodgers). My favourite piece however was the classic ‘Witch queen of New Orleans’. Apart from those, there are as mentioned above, several tracks which are more straight rock composed by the group, such as ‘Brett’s stuff’ by Arnaud Dunoyer which is melodically pleasant if not particularly adventurous. A more stirring rock tune is ‘Stanleys hop’ written by Milteau who guests on this album, as do Batteaux and the excellent guitarist, Jean-Michel Kajdan (ex-Alien).
Overall it makes a relaxing change to listen to an album like this once in a while. If you like the blues, you will enjoy this release. That’s as close to an unconditional guarantee as we get chez Ork Alarm!
ESKATON COMMUNIQUE 1979
For us, music is not an objective for itself. It is a way to convey our ideas. This approach however does not mean that we do not care about music. That would be mad. We consider that all of us are living in difficult times and a dangerous era. In a usual way, one human being has no chance to gain freedom. Family, school, work, cops, all are leading us toward lethargic capitulation – do not think, just accept! Deceit, wars, jails, torture, atom bomb…. and shut up – we refuse to blindly go along.
Sometimes during our music, one can find a very cool piece, suddenly disrupted by a very tart tune (the voices – two sopranos, very often have this role). It is a call to wake up, open your eyes! After each of our concerts we try to open a discussion with the audience. We refuse to enter into the game “you are the public, we are the musicians”. We refuse to put on a show with elaborate props and costumes. We try to say, you can do like us too. Our individual technique as musicians is not terrific; our only technique consists of playing music together.
We also live together. Some are working. Some are still students. All of our money is kept in a common fund. We try to live our ideas… reading, music, work, discussion, life.
’4 VISIONS’ – Eurock EC81002
Trev Faull – Outlet Magazine 1980
“Like a sculpture models a work of art, like a painter creates a great picture… so ESKATON become sagacious and meaningful…”
ESKATON were an eight-piece band formed six years ago. They played regular clubs and concerts but didn’t seriously record themselves until they went into a studio in Trappes in November 1978 to lay down the foundations for a privately financed album. The group were: AMARA KONIG & PAULE KLEYNNAERT (singers), GERARD KONIG (drums), ALAIN BLESING (guitar), ANDRE BERNARDI (bass), GILLES ROZENBERG (synth) and ERIC GUILLAUME and MARC ROZENBERG on Fender pianos.
Their sound is clear, un-trifled with any trends or afflictions. They are not a keyboards based band as such, as the two female vocalists and guitarist have much say in affairs. Shades of early Magma about some of the sound but generally lighter and certain elements of jazz also self-inflicted.
In early ’79 they played around the Paris area doing more concerts and by all accounts obtained a faithful following. In April of that year their one and only EP45 was released ‘LE CHANT DE LA TERRE’ with the beautiful ‘IF’ on the flipside.
The only thing left for me to do is to try and convey to you some of the exquisite sounds that I have heard from listening to an albums worth of material on cassette (’4 Visions’ recorded November 1978) plus the aforementioned EP.
‘ECOUTE’… begins the tape, spiralling shafts of delicate guitar strings against a soft focus of melting, wordless vocals from Amara and Paule. They all fit perfectly in with each other, the bass, the guitar, the keyboards and voices all building up to a tight fusion of organic control. Light, jazzy and very accessible.
The wordless voices finally give way to song lyrics and the theme is developed, urgent and bubbling. Add a guitar solo just this side of heaven and you begin to get a picture of this group’s dedication to their music. The striking clarity of the vocals is set in perspective within the overall musical level of the group. No one tries to dominate; it is real group participation.
‘PITIE’…. begins with haunting organ tones and minimal backing which quickly develops with the help of the soft and exquisite vocalists. Gradually the song unfurls and the instrumental sound uncurls. The guitar and the bass work off each other at times, the sound is still as clear as a mountain stream. Fresh and quite exhilarating.
‘ATTENTE’…. opens the second side, at first with nothing but a cold driving wind followed by a cache of synthesizers all at once exploding into a full stomp and charge. The girls’ voices arrive adding the vital ingredient to the mix. Things progress with keyboard improvisation and an overall impression of warmer winds blowing through the lonely fences that surround them. The girls have such a rare and extreme beauty (natural not forced) in their voices to completely sweep one away. I’ve got a picture to prove they look nice too!
‘ESKATON’…the last and very long track is more urgent than any thing before it and continues the ideals and vitality of the group although the tape began to become intermittent here and I was not able to make good judgement of this song.
In all, a cassette I shall treasure for all time, a remarkable achievement!
The EP is really an extension of this tape and consists of two tracks. The topside ‘THE SONG OF THE EARTH’ is a fast, happening sound with quick-fire vocals almost skat style in places and that jazzy-modern backing approach.
‘IF’ on the other side is basically an instrumental with wordless singing from the girls to give it that something extra. Atmospheric keyboards open out as the whole piece skit-skats along on stop-start, bobbing rhythms. The voices blending deep into the heart of the tune, along with prancing keyboards and bubbly guitar notes. The instruments dance, they urge you to take part mentally, share something with them. They are a perfect stage show of ideas, no gimmicks of course but in the end their winning harmony of sound is achieved. You don’t really need comparisons because they seem to be going their own way. Let’s hope there are some more recordings forthcoming!
At present they are down to 7 members. A. LABANI has replaced guitarist Alain. One keyboard has dropped out with Eric Guillaume departing and finally Amara Konig has become Amara TAHIR Whatever the outcome it just has to be rewarding. I have utmost faith that this group will record a devastating album I hope they don’t wait too long!
‘ARDEUR’ – Musique Post Atomique E 38001
Trev Faull – Outlet Magazine 1981
The music of ESKATON has an air of vibrant mystery surrounding it. A magical escalation of sound, featuring the mostly wordless voices of Amara and Paule complemented by the dual keyboard wizardry of Marc and Gilles Rozenberg. Whether your attention be focussed on the energetic drumming, the rootsy bass or the Gypsy violin there is never a moment without something of interest happening. This album was recorded in 1980 and is only available on import from shops such as Lotus and Recommended. Sonic critics have likened their sound to that of Magma, but I think it unfair to draw too many comparisons, as this album stands alone.
The group have been together since the mid seventies although there have been some changes to the personnel. The very fact that they have lived together and played together for such a long time has undoubtedly strengthened the union and fusion of their music. Whether it is being expressed in a held organ chord, a piano sequence or perhaps a burst of fire from the drummer, nothing stands still. The self-titled track that closes the first side is a reminder of this with its wiry keyboards, stalking bass and feverous voices all mixed with a beautiful rainbow colouring effect.
Side 2 opens with the romantic imagery of ‘Un certain passage’ with its sweeping, star-bright keyboards dashing delicately across the sky only to be traversed by the spirit of an extra-terrestrial violin. After a tempo change for the livelier middle track the album closes with the 10 minute tune Dagon’. It begins with a wave of deeply throbbing surf that washes back and forth until it beaches a lonely organ melody upon its shores. From thence springs a bass sequence that brings to mind ‘Careful with that axe Eugene’ (Floyd) until the girls’ voices filter lightly into the background calling out like the Sirens from the Iliad causing all who hear to come hither and be transcended! After an energetic bass interlude mixed with phantasmogorical keyboard passages, it gradually returns to those subterranean caverns beneath the ocean. It remains a true classic of its kind.
Originally named Eskaton Kommandkestra at the time of its birth in November ’74, the original line-up included Xavier de Raymond on keyboards. In 1978 the group shortened its name to Eskaton while Xavier left the group, Marc Rozenberg stopped playing bass to play piano, bass being played by André Bernardi. 1978 was also the year of their first recording entitled ’4 Visions’, which was only issued on cassette in ’81. Their first real record release was the 1979 single ‘Le Chant de la terre’ / ‘If (E 01). In 1980, Eskaton released their first LP, ‘Ardeur’ (E 38001). In 1983, they issued their second LP, ‘Fiction’ (E 383001) which perpetuated their musical style and their wish to mix evocative lyrics with strong and contrasted music. In ’84, Gilles Rozenberg left the group and his brother Marc played guitars and alternated on keyboards with Paule. A 1986 studio recording called ‘La Lutte’ is featured on the ‘Enneade’ CD (Musea FGBG 4005).
Palais des Congrès
Le Mans (Europa Jazz Festival du Mans)
I was going to call this review Equipe Vander Storm Le Mans, but I’ll leave the motor racing cliches to mon ami Ehn, for his brief summary later in this issue. Since you, dear readers, keep ignoring my pleas for reviews, I’ll have another bash at describing a Les Voix de Magma gig.
The Festival promoter made a speech about forthcoming events and then introduced the main attraction -Les Voix de Magma – their seventh concert coincidentally. All twelve members quietly filed onstage from both sides of the wings. The ensemble line-up was on a two-tier stage, with the choir on the platform at the back, the four ladies on the left and the four guys on the right with several metres space between them. Then the musicians take their posts on the electronic keyboards and double bass. Finally with Christian Vander in place at the grand piano they commenced with ‘I Must return (Windows)’. It was a full ten-minute version during which someone in the audience thought he was at a Prince concert and started clapping along, but soon realised what a fool he sounded. By the way, please accept my apologies if I sometimes refer to this one in Ork Alarm! as ‘The night we died’… ‘Merci’ never will be one of my favourite albums, but it does have some nice songs, even though it was not really MAGMA to me. I’d prefer to listen to ‘Köhntarkösz’, or ‘Ceux du Dehors’ (by UNIVERS ZERO) actually.
For this next song, Simon Goubert crossed over to the piano and Christian went to the principal microphone, centre stage. And so, the Kobaïan version of ‘Zëss’, including the “Jesus Sanctus” gospel section. As I recall however, the physical element of the gospel part was not as O.T.T. as when they performed in Paris. ‘Zëss’ has for me always been a vital element of the show every time I’ve seen it – the only duff version I can recall was from Monaco 1981, sub-standard simply because I only saw an atrocious quality (monochrome) pirate video of the show.
Some pieces obviously had to be dropped from a festival appearance because of the restrictions; therefore the next number was ‘Ronde de nuit’ from Stella’s solo album. Most of the choir left the stage and Stella Vander moved to the centre of the raised platform behind the drum kit. On the way she took exception to a small electronics box and kicked it out of touch. Meanwhile Simon slipped into the wings while Christian retook the piano stool. This song is not a classic piece, yet it is a superb vehicle (whoops, I promised to avoid the sports car puns) for a predominantly vocal ensemble. In particular Stella was in fine voice, making this almost as good as some of her recent performances of ‘C’est pour nous’ – see drooling sycophantic comments in previous issues.
‘Ronde de nuit’ drew the least applause of the evening, and I wondered whether a choral version of ‘You Glory the one’ would be worth attempting for a future Les Voix de Magma gig.
The last two thirds of the show were the three classics that every Magma fan wants to hear (and see on video, Georges?) in their full glory. The trilogy of “Theusz Hamtaahk”.
The acoustics of the Palais des Congrès seemed o.k. from where I sat near the front – but once Christian started drumming, apparently it was quite loud at the back. Anyway, ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ had the whole audience enchanted, in a respectful silence but even the few in formal evening dress were rocking and rolling in their seats like a ZZ TOP convention. I believe that the new section used to link this number to ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ that they played in Paris was dropped from this gig, at least I did not notice it, I’m thinking of the part that sounds like it should be in one of the 1976 tunes either ‘Musique des Spheres’ or ‘Ëmëhntëht-Rê’.
Perhaps they had a particularly good sound-check that afternoon, because the vocal parts were much more closely linked than they were at the first six concerts and all my doubts were washed away during the ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ section which saw Christian centre stage again on lead vocals. The whole group now seem to have been well rehearsed and confidant in the material – pretty amazing when you consider the complexities of two hours of Vander’s finest music.
Then the choir joins Christian for the “Dowëhrï soï – Dowëhrï sün” section until he goes back to the drum kit while Simon Goubert improvises (just a bit) on piano with Pierre-Michel Sivadier filling out the sound on synth (Patrick Gauthier has left the group again). Christian plays the brief percussive interlude before ‘C’est La Vie’ then they all sing the chorus of “Do wërï wïsëhndo”. Then a sharp segue into the ‘Triomphe d’Aphrodite’, which heralds an abbreviated version of ‘Mekanïk’, starting with ‘Hortz fur dëhn Stekëhn West’.
‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ seemed flawless to me – exciting, harmonious, synchronised and without superfluous keyboard jamming. If anything, perhaps Christian’s drumming was a tad less forceful than on previous outings, but still as fast and agile as ever. What more can be said about it? It’s the Classic MAGMA -The true spirit of Magma to many of us. Les Voix de Magma gets better at interpreting it every the. Just before travelling to France that week, I had watched the ‘Un Homme… Une batterie’ video again because I realised there was a mistake in my comments about it in the first batches of issue #13. I said that the video did not feature live material; I meant Live MAGMA material, because that is what I am constantly being asked. It does of course feature a few short live extracts by OFFERING and possibly the CV TRIO. However, the reason I bring this point up now is that part of the video demonstrates some of the finer points of Christian’s drumming in this opus. Watching him play it live (and close-up) so soon after seeing it in slow motion in the video I noticed many more of the tricks that he discloses on the tape. It’s all about poise and posture I think.
Goubert jazzed up the MDK theme a bit towards the finale. Christian seemed to notice and it looked to me that he brought Simon back into line by repeating a cue. Simon then restated his cue for the choir and the show climaxed with ‘Kreühn Köhrmann Iss de Hündïn’.
Sadly we were not treated to ‘Ehn Deïss’ tonight, or in fact any encore, since it was a festival and the Claude Barthélémy Octet were due on soon. Stella however, brought the ensemble back for their rightful presentations and I think she mentioned their forthcoming concert in Reims, but was drowned out by the applause for their leader. So that was it, the roadies rushed onstage and half the audience poured out to empty Georges Besnier’s stand. I doubt if he has done such good business since the La Cigale gig in 1990. When I left him he was surrounded by empty Harmonia Mundi packing cases. Another wonderful evening, a great gig yet again.
VIVE LE MANS!
For a little over two weeks each April a rectangle of land in the French region of the Sarthe, 500m from Le Mans railway station, attracts up to 30,000 itinerants, ranging from devout jazz enthusiasts to quasi-fanatical new music supporters.
They come to see the Europa Jazz Festival du Mans, Europe’s finest and most famous musicians come too.
Launched fourteen years ago, it has provided a creative and innovative programme of solely European music. Since then, French musicians and groups have stamped their names on the festival’s history; none more emphatically than Magma.
It was on 29-04-87 that Christian Vander showcased his special jazz project STEP BY STEP at the Palais des Congrès with perhaps a dozen famous musicians, mostly ex-Magma, but sadly Jannick Top who had been on the bill did not appear. They played a ninety-minute set of classic Coltrane and McCoy Tyner numbers. Not being a true jazz buff, the only one of which I recall the title was ‘For Tomorrow’. The following evening OFFERING played their last show before a ten-day residency at the TLP Déjazet in Paris. That night they performed a lovely rendition of ‘Another Day’. After the show Christian was reunited with Elvin Jones, who is a great admirer of Vander’s unique skills.
Slip-streaming boldly forward six years and the latest incarnation of Magma were once again an important driving force at the Europa. They made a rolling start with ‘I Must Return’ before storming away with the more powerful ‘Zëss’. A full range of lighting equipment this evening made for a better visual show for the audience, which was packed to the galleries tonight (2000 maybe, whatever, it was a full house). But I don’t suppose Christian liked the yellow spotlights much, however being a festival he obviously had less control of these matters.
At one point Les Voix de Magma slip into a lower gear for ‘Ronde de Nuit’ but they soon showed a new lease of life with three swift movements from Theusz Hamtaahk. Once Christian Vander flicks the main switch and leads his twelve strong band off at full chat, the audience are mesmerised as he weaves away at the controls of his Ferrari-red Gretsch until almost midnight. With a full complement of mecs in the wings waiting to resolve any technical problems, and the team manager always hovering somewhere in attendance with the video gear, they gladden the hearts of all who flock to see them at every opportunity.
Eventually, the event ends in a climatic showdown as the band play one of their sweetest versions of ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ and the British contingent left in their Bentleys for the long haul back to Blighty. The diehards stay on to the bitter end to watch Claude Barthélémy sweep through some stunning guitar licks until dawn breaks. The full NOTES team were there with a fine selection of albums to melt your ears. I was particularly keen to buy the bronze Zeuhl medallion or the even more rare Vander/Top insignia…. But an Ork Alarm! writer’s wages do not exactly meet the requirements of the Social Charter. (That’s right folks, you get a full share of the profits, i.e. you get nothing at all except a free issue – Ed.)
Several of the crowd survived the next twenty-four hours of the most appalling thunderstorms in living memory, with hailstones as big as a baby’s fist! Soaked to the skin they turned up in Paris to see Didier Malherbe’s terrific new band ZEFF at the New Morning club at 20h30 the following evening. But that’s another story that you will have to get the next FACELIFT magazine to read about. If they don’t print it, perhaps we will in a future Ork Alarm!
ATOLL, the progressive rock group from Metz, led by the exceptional guitarist Christian Beya have had their 1979 album ‘Rock Puzzle’ reissued on Musea (FGBG 4024). The bands, founded in 1972, were from the same generation as PULSAR and ANGE but while they had the musical skills of the former, did not have quite the same international success as the latter. They had plenty of innovative ideas and highly complex arrangements enabled them to demonstrate their inventiveness. ATOLL’s first two albums were strongly influenced by ANGE’s first album ‘Caricatures’. But by the third album the group had developed their own elaborate style and become one of the major progressive groups of the Seventies. Their third album ‘Tertio’ (Musea FGBG 4019) was always more to my taste, showing off their percussive virtuosity and featuring Stella Vander and Liza Deluxe on backing vocals. Their wonderful arrangements forged them streets ahead of most of the progressive scene, in the same class as KING CRIMSON? Well, certainly beyond YES.
Then came ‘Rock Puzzle’, which whilst not remotely Zeuhl influenced, and more mainstream than ‘Tertio’, may still have a curiosity value for some of you. Particularly those who want to hear Stella Vander and Liza Deluxe singing a previously unreleased version of ‘Smarto Kitschy’ in English. The first half of the album is a little disappointing but the songs gain in complexity like a Frank Herbert novel as the disc spins along. The group split up in 1980 after first the lead vocalist quit, then they tried a formation with John Wetton on Bass but this union was short lived and finally Beya left.
In 1987 Beya formed a new band using the name ATOLL, but without their talented vocalist André Balzer, the new formation produce a more guitar orientated commercial rock, not unpleasant, just not as challenging. This “New Atoll” are more in the vein of the Eighties version of their original influence ANGE or perhaps QUASAR. They still exhibit flashes of pure brilliance such as the joyous vocals of Andre Teitschaid with a soaring guitar solo by Chris Beya on ‘Métamorphose’ recorded in 1987. This song is featured on the Musea album ‘Enchantement’ but a less impressive version is also used on the ‘L’Océan’ album (Flarenasch 96.970) which mixes some simple melodies and vocal harmonies to good effect, unfortunately Beya’s inspired guitar work was not used on the version of ‘Metamorphose’ included here. But, and it’s a big one: ‘L’Océan’ is variable, at times drifting into something like a FRANCE GALL ‘Babacar’ style. There is also a live album ‘Tokyo Live’, featuring some early songs as well as the new material, recorded in 1989. Start with ‘Tertio’ or the Musea sampler album ‘Enchantement’.
XCRANIEUM are a Los Angeles based trio inspired by the music of King Crimson, Thinking Plague, and Univers Zero. Personnel consists of Phil Williams on guitars, Greg Gunthner on bass, and John Wells on percussion. Their recorded works thus far have been documented on two cassette releases produced at their private studio. The first tape entitled ‘Influx’ shows a strong Fripp/Crimson influence circa ‘Lark’s Tongues’ with focus on tempo shifts and rhythmic counterpoint. This music was recorded in 1990 using less than average resources, but the results were very good considering a 4-track medium. Three of the four tracks use a systematic approach with several guitar layers and heavy rhythmic foundation.
The second work, ‘Moodgraft’ has a different feel to it. Accents here are on dynamics and atmosphere. Keyboards, sequences, and the addition of two percussionists are also present. Subtle hints of Univers Zero and Peter Frohmader surface throughout. While the opening track ‘Moodgraft’ explores many sonic changes, ‘Disarray’ is a building block for dense keyboards and taped effects. ‘Isolation’ is the stand out track blending acoustic guitars with heavy bass passages. The final cut, ‘Boundries’ is more along the lines of film music setting a dark, sombre atmosphere. This music was recorded on an 8-track console with great results. At present, XCRANIEUM are writing new material for their debut compact disc release. The music has matured dramatically and will offer a more aggressive rhythm section as well as equally tormented guitar passages. And with the addition of a new keyboardist the music will appeal to those into the heavier realms of avant-rock.
Ghost of Magma’s Future
The following is an extract from “Ange to Zukunft – The history of French rock, 1968-2010″ by Victor Von Munchausen.
Magma’s 1999 world tour saw the reappearance of Arnie Tinker, a man as brilliantly innovative in his own way as Colonel Sanders had been in his. Almost nothing is known of Tinker’s early life, his Bolivian passport describes him as a ‘commodities dealer’ and his personal staff reflect his two philanthropic interests – the rehabilitation of convicts and furthering the careers of actresses.
Arnie’s assault on the World market for bizarre album selections began in January of that year when his record label (Thirteenth) flew a planeload of journalists to Haiti to unveil Magma’s latest line-up. Even through the haze of locally made champagne several scribes noticed that the band bore a striking resemblance to the ensemble who had visited the Americas more than a quarter of a century earlier. And the announcement that the laser controlled synthi-6000′s had been dropped in favour of a couple of de-tuned VCS-3′s and a battered Rhodes (an early keyboard instrument similar to the Yamaha) did not inspire much confidence, either.
These misgivings were compounded when the musicians were introduced since neither Janni or Mickey had recent top 40 albums, while the lead vocalist, a bass guitar salesman called Claude of all things, had even cut his hair short sometime in the intervening years.
By the end of the year, when Magma had been voted as “New musical group of the year” by Smash Hits magazine after a string of platinum discs, many of the reporters were to regret the wagers they had made with Tinker – there were bankruptcies and broken legs in the offices of many leading magazines. The journalists later admitted that they had failed to grasp the significance of the soberly dressed gentlemen, who looked like lawyers, and who had been introduced as the press relations team.
At the Concert de Paul Ricard, the band played a long improvisation that few in the audience recalled had been released in the early 90′s. That had of course been before the fall of the American dollar and the Ayatollah’s amazing resurrection. (Our supreme cultural attaché, Sheik Yerbouti, had immediately enforced the Death Penalty for listening to Ye Olde Popular Musick and banished the Forces of Mediocrates from the airwaves forever – unless Nixon brings them back). But probably the principal element in Arnie’s sudden rise to the top of the charts simultaneously throughout all three continents was the innovative ‘Opera pour trois Cellï et batterie’ by Janni.
At the Madison Square Gardens in February, the press relations team disclosed that the support group were rehearsing love songs with English Lyrics and Yerbouti’s agents quickly had them put to more useful employment in Australia. After which many subversive pop groups hiding out in the southern US vicinity and Wales, urgently rewrote their lyrics to avoid subliminal references to the banned subjects. But the press relations team were quite sharp and writ servers slapped injunctions on every English language musical combo and a local judge, now president of Thirteenth (South America) Inc, upheld the action.
In Rio they suffered for a while from hecklers and those who spent the entire concert standing at the bar spouting forth. These persistent chatterers were becoming a problem that Arnie had to have eradicated. After two nights of this, the press relations team armed with confiscated videos of the offenders, moved in to have the entire audience interrogated. Malcontents were ejected and from then on a strict door policy would apply at all future concerts – No bullshitters, Fans only.
This strict application of “the door policy” led to some predictable scenes at the Juventus football stadium. After the army had restored order, the gig was played without an audience (just the CNN TV crew) and the twin bassists laid on a demonstration of absolute superiority in front of the still-smoking grandstands.
The next soirée, a festival at the Oval Kennington, was marked by an extraordinary sound-check in which Magma did not take part. Group after group rehearsed their acts in a torrential rainstorm and inevitably blew their amplifiers or lost their voices. Arnie Tinker would neither admit nor deny that he had hired pilots to seed the clouds with dry ice. He merely retorted: “Show me where in the contract it says you can’t.”
After the six-hour set by Magma, sharing the Europe Tonight show with Claude and Esther, Arnie issued his now historic statement. “From now on Thirteenth will release every concert on CD within six weeks of each show. We have had some disputes over the years with various managers and producers. We can’t change the past, but we can relive it! – The new Ptäh label will from now on be releasing DAT tapes of every concert we have played since 1973 (and a few even earlier). We have known for years that this is what the fans want; in fact the idea was originally Frank Zappa’s. (He had planned to make his entire vaults of live tapes available via digital telephone lines but pressure from the PMRC put paid to that in the early 80′s). So, yes we will try to make available every single concert we have played, since we started taping the shows around the the Janni first joined us.”
This momentous task took Ptäh a little longer than originally planned, and at first the music-buying public were a little apprehensive of some of the selections. People were saying “Oh why can’t we have the solo shows by Esther first, why do we have to get Mickey’s improvisation at the Marquee….” Eventually the market was swamped by Tinker’s music and the Forces of Mediocrates were as long forgotten as Johnny Halliday. This constant deluge of Zeuhl music soon became the most popular form of audio-visual entertainment the world has known, although some say Elvis was big too.
The rest is history; other forms of music still existed. There were pockets of neo-progressive groups still lurking in the Parisian clubs. Malherbe’s Gong grew from strength to strength. Ange reformed every couple of years for a special concert and the occasional world tour. Zukunft even broke free and started a new form of serious music for the late 90′s. Dallio reformed Art Zoyd for a second attempt at their concept of the marathon twelve-hour concert. This was in 2002 as I recall, but the music could have been from any period of the 70′s or early 80′s. The 70′s nostalgia boom took off for a third time and that ageing crooner Dennis took Australasia by storm with his revitalised Univers Zero.
But overall Esther and Claude’s magical vocals serenely swept the airwaves as a new disc or DAT was released every week. Tinker’s drum solos became a talking point in the weekly news summaries and Magma was undoubtedly a household name by the turn of the century. Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose. An appropriately French phrase, wouldn’t you say?
Michael Draine (© 2003 Michael Draine)
Roger Trigaux, founding member of UNIVERS ZERO and PRESENT, visited America’s Cuneiform Records in May to discuss plans to produce a live recording of his new guitar duo, Present C.O.D. Performance. The name “C.O.D.” refers not to the American postal acronym Cash On Delivery, but to the French grammatical term, “complement object-direct”.
Roger has recovered from the long illness that forced his retirement from music in 1986, and feels the present to be rife with opportunity to reach new audiences via this streamlined musical vehicle. The duo, which includes his son Reginald on guitar, has performed so far in Belgium and northern France, playing 2 and a half hour sets consisting of both new material and Present’s ‘Promenade Au Fond D’un Canal’ and the two-part ‘Le Poison Qui Rend Fou’. The performances consist entirely of tightly composed, non-improvised music, and use no MIDI, guitar synths, or drum machines.
A tour of France is planned for September ’93, with other European countries to follow. Roger looks forward to touring America, though expenses will dictate leaving behind the elaborate video and lighting installation used in the European shows. Cuneiform hopes to release a live Present C.O.D. Performance CD in 1994. The two classic ’80s Present albums, ‘Triskaidekaphobie’ and ‘Le Poison Qui Rend Fou’ are available on one CD from Cuneiform Records.
LES VOIX DE MAGMA
09-07-93 Théâtre Municipal, Lons-le-Saunier
10-07-93 Prades (40km from Perpignan)
??-11-93 Bordeaux (Georges simply says “Postponed until November – probably”)
SOPHIA DOMANCICH TRIO
02-06-93 Instant Chavires, 7 rue Richard-Lenoir, 93100 Montreuil
XAAL / ZUKUNFT
05-06-93 Théâtre Clavel, Paris
06-06-93 Théâtre Clavel, Paris
08-07-93 Etang des Aulnes, St. Martin de Crau (near Arles) 09-07-93 Etang des Aulnes, St. Martin de Crau 10-07-93 Etang des Aulnes, St. Martin de Crau 11-07-93 Etang des Aulnes, St. Martin de Crau
WINDSONG records have discovered the master tapes that Magma recorded on the 14th March 1974 in the BBC radio vaults. These were feared lost but recently intrepid researchers discovered them and contacted Windsong, who have released several CD’s of the John Peel sessions. Windsong then contacted Christian on April 19th 1993 to ask permission to release the two tracks ‘Köhntarkösz’ and ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’. (See Ork Alarm! #8). I had been hoping that Seventh or AKT would release these, so now that another company is interested, the chances of these gems being immortalised on aluminium seemed quite strong. When I discussed the matter with Georges Besnier however, he confirmed part of the story I heard: that Christian likes the version of ‘Köhntarkösz’ but is less keen about ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’. (I wonder if perhaps he has a better one from the 1974 concert in Brussels?) Georges says that overall it is not the best tape of those songs and he thinks Christian may not authorize the release of the BBC tapes. By the way, if this does come out on CD it will be precisely 58 minutes and 26 seconds long unless it gets edited. Now we need our German readers to locate the master tapes of the Bremen Studio F session. I have not heard of any 20-year-old Italian radio sessions so I guess that is one problem Georges won’t have to consider at the moment.
OFFERING have finally completed their third album, some of our readers heard it in April and say that it is outstanding. Apparently the version of ‘Purificatem’ is thirty minutes long with a very long and dark introduction. Christian plays a lot of the instruments himself on this album, I wonder if he has destroyed the earlier tapes again? legend has it that he wiped the original recordings of ‘Another Day’.
FATON CAHEN QUINTET
The FATON CAHEN QUINTET played at the Instants Chavirés jazz club, Montreuil (Metro Robespierre) on the 4th May 1993. Francois on piano, naturally, with Philippe Makaia (percussion), Eric Bedoucha (drums), Patrick Tilleman (electric and acoustic violins) and Claire Gillet (double bass).
SANS TAMBOUR NI TROMPETTE
Stella Vander contacted us recently and gave us the complete set list for the recent SANS TAMBOUR NI TROMPETTE concert at Le Plessis-Robinson (see Ork Alarm! #13) which was as follows: ‘Love is’, ‘Sands’, ‘If you glory’ (yes looks like a title change to me too), ‘Hello’, ‘Les Cygnes’, ‘J’ai du bon tabac’, ‘Ronde de Nuit’, ‘To Love’, ‘Piano solo’, ‘C’est pour nous’, ‘Quatre claviers’ (this is a temporary title apparently), ‘A la claire fontaine’, ‘Les temps passe est Mervieux’, ‘Seigneur, Ma joié est pure’, ‘The night we died’ and ‘J’ai plongé dans les lacs’. Stella also confirmed that the next gig by Les Voix de Magma will be in Lons-le-Saunier.
XAAL / ZUKUNFT
There are a couple of matinee concerts in the tiny Théâtre Clavel opposite Metro Pyrénées on the 5th and 6th of June. Both gigs will start at 15h30. XAAL are the support group and will be playing their interesting blend of Zeuhl & Fripp inspired music. Then for the second half, Marc Delouya’s group ZUKUNFT (see Ork Alarm! #6) will play a set comprising ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’, ‘Köhntarkösz’, ‘De Futura’
While in Le Mans I noticed that Seventh Records and FNAC (a major European record chainstore) did not have any copies of ‘Köhntarkösz’ for sale. So presumably it is also due for a Harmonia Mundi reissue. The following albums have all been reissued by Harmonia Mundi in recent months: ‘Kobaïa’ (The first double album), ‘Hhaï / Live’ (the Live 1975 double album), ‘Attahk’ and ‘M.D.K.’. You can spot the reissues by looking at the back sleeve and you will see a bar code, an HM number and the words ‘Diffusion Harmonia Mundi’ on the bottom. In the case of ‘M.D.K.’ some of the lettering is also in white where it was gold on the original CD. To my knowledge ‘M.D.K.’ is the only one that is an improvement in sound quality over the original Seventh Record releases, (‘Hhaï / Live’ and ‘Attahk’ were of course digitally remastered by Seventh for their CD release). It is of course taken from the same master tapes as the Japanese issue on A&M, whereas the 1988 release on 7th was taken direct from vinyl. But the story does not quite end there. The 1993 reissue does not include the bonus track (a 34 minute extra version of ‘Mekanïk’ from Vander’s private tape collection.), which Seventh put on the original CD release to compensate for the poor sound quality of the classic version. Finally there is one more reason why the fanatical collector must search out all four CD versions of ‘M.D.K.’ – The Japanese one is the only version that comes with the complete lyric sheet! if there is to be an English version of ‘M.D.K.’ distributed by Harmonia Mundi perhaps they will be kind enough to resolve all of these dilemmas by adding the bonus track and the lyric sheet Can anyone add any more confusion to the above? I’d love to know whatever you discover. Also what is happening over in the States on the Magma reissue front? – Let us know folks.
ART ZOYD have two new CD’s called ‘Marathonnerre volumes 1 & 2′ on the Atonal label which are taken from their twelve hour duration concerts in France in 1992. I’m told that the marathon concerts were very “new age” and not really the vibrant Art Zoyd style of the 70′s that I prefer. Apparently the shows got better in the last two hours if you could stay attentive that long. Also the current ART ZOYD line-up have a few gigs at the Passage Nord-Ouest, Paris on the 17th to 19th of June 1993.
ANDRÉ MERGENTHALER (Art Zoyd’s cellist and Alto saxophonist) also has a new solo CD but I don’t have any details on it at the moment.
PATRICIA DALLIO (Art Zoyd’s pianist) has another new CD hotly following on from her ‘Procession’ album, This one is entitled ‘Champs de Mars’ (Body Soul CD 00193) – certainly a red hot item, even more like the classic sombre ART ZOYD than her previous release. I’m told this is a real gem.
SOPHIA DOMANCICH / LYDIA DOMANCICH
The SOPHIA DOMANCICH TRIO has their latest album out now on the Gimini label, it’s called ‘Rêve de Singe’. Her sister LYDIA DOMANCICH also has a new one on Gimini entitled ‘Memoires’. This album features Pierre MARCAULT who also wrote one track.
PAGA GROUP (Bernard Paganotti, Klaus Blasquiz etc.) have at last finished their third album.
DIDIER LOCKWOOD played at the Europa Jazz Festival du Mans on 27-04-93 with electric bassist Alain Caron from UZEB and guitarist Jean-Marie Ecay.
ACROPHONY are an avant/chamber project from Canada. Their music fits closely into the Art Zoyd genre circa ‘Berlin’. Nicholas Sterling and George Walker do a great job handling their varied instrumentation and adding the vocal nuances of Michelle Hogan. The end result is a somewhat dark mood expressing their interpretation of various symbols, signs, and colours into a musical language. Their three-track mini-CD entitled ‘Sound and Symbol’ is a limited pressing of 300 copies.
XEN will be of interest to those who like the complexity of Zappa, the dark synth works of Peter Frohmader, and the intensity of the late Oliver Messiaen. David Bagsby is the man behind XEN. His dense, manic music is nothing less than amazing. There are three cassette releases by XEN, which are based on Max Ernst’s collage novel ‘The 100 Headless Woman’. David also has various other releases he’s done for theatre, ballet, and modern dance. All offering vital music; not to be missed.