- Vander / Top / Blasquiz / Garber “Sons” Document 1973 (Steve Ashworth)
- The Musical Instinct of Christian Vander (Frédéric Soupa)
- The Battle Drums (Frédéric Soupa)
- Ensemble Nimbus Key Figures (APM 9403)
- Where is Janik Top’s music? (Olivier Fromentin)
- Poitiers 13-04-74 (Steve Lake)
- Magma Théâtre du Taur / Concert 1975 (AKT IV) (Emmanuel Berland & Ehn Aïmaah)
- Magma “les voix” Bordeaux 04-05-94
- Mekanïk Kommandöh Live in Tokyo 22-08-93 (Naotsugu Ito)
- Ork! Update
VANDER / TOP / BLASQUIZ / GARBER
“SONS” DOCUMENT 1973 – AKT II
Recorded at the Manor at 1:00 am on 15-04-73 (the night after ‘Mekanïk’ was recorded) by the above named musicians, this CD consists of only one piece: “Nëhêh (Këhr)’, which must be a contender for the longest continuous track on a CD, running in at 70’06″. Firstly, Jannick is sans bass! With only voices, percussions, organ, bass clarinet, trumpet and Christian’s batterie being used. A high percentage, if not all of this sounds to have been freely improvised – a document of a moment or seventy where this quartet abandoned the compositional restraints of ‘MDK’.
The first three minutes consist of eerie vocal chords – perhaps, like Univers Zero, they had read H.P. Lovecraft’s story of Erich Zann and the unimaginable harmonies he created – it has that atmosphere. Then; spooky horror movie organ, joined later by bells, glockenspiel and other percussion. The vocals disappear, re-emerging after twelve minutes. After this it gets a bit difficult, and a tad tiresome. Klaus has a shout, tension rises then lapses. Some piano string bashing, lapse, cymbal bashing, lapse; then at 21 minutes, Christian’s drums add some form, at 26 minutes this starts to take shape and interest is regained. It subsides again at 29 minutes, but between the 32nd and 39th minutes, the best part appears. Something recognisable as Magma, followed by a fierce Vander backbeat aided by cowbell, organ sustained and grumbling and high pitched trumpet wailing, forming a high powered segment. Hot stuff. After this, it dies down markedly. At the 49 minute mark, it livens up a bit for two or three minutes with more weird vocals, clarinet and percussion, fading into an American Indian type drumbeat, then more one-note chanting and jingle bells. From 54 minutes onwards, not much happens. At 69 minutes, Christian starts to hammer out a familiar two-beat drum motif (‘Ptäh’?) that fades away, ending the disc. At this point I was left wondering if there was more to come, or whether there will be a “SONS” part 2.
This is indeed a brave, uncompromising if not totally successful release, but having said that, there are a few points to ponder. If the best 8-10 minutes had been released separately, tacked onto another disc, we would have wanted the rest. If this had turned up on the tape trading network, we would no doubt have been delighted at finding such a piece of Magma esoterica. It does have that otherworldly ambience that can be such an attraction towards Magma’s music. So, all things considered, AKT has provided an intriguing set from the Vander archives. It’s hard to listen to, but I don’t think we’d want to be without it.
THE MUSICAL INSTINCT OF CHRISTIAN VANDER
Frédéric Soupa – by permission of Batteur Magazine 1993
Singular creator dedicated in body and spirit to music and to John Coltrane, mythical’ drummer but above all unique composer, Christian Vander pursues a course on the fringe, the quest for the absolute truth.
FS: why have you created a new label, AKT, in parallel with Seventh Records?
CV: I have many concerts and tapes in my archives, which I have always hesitated to release because they are not completely successful works. AKT permits me to present these things which I do not want released on Seventh Records, because Seventh is intended for finished work and an idea of a particular musical sound, just as there was on certain labels in the seventies, like Tamla Motown, Blue Note or Impulse. On AKT, there are no overdubs; the pieces are rough cuts.
FS: These are exclusively old tapes?
CV: No, ‘Les Voix’ by Magma and ‘Les Voyages de Christophe Colomb’ date from 1992.
FS: The second production by AKT,’Nëhèh’, which dates from 1973, is rather disconcerting…
CV: Yes, I don’t really know who it is aimed for. It was a particular moment that we captured. Those who have listened to the tape have not had any rapport with what we were doing musically at that time, since that was the night after recording ‘M.D.K’. It is by Jannick Top, René Garber, Klaus Blasquiz and myself, and something real is passing between us. The essential thing is to find somewhere else, on another musical terrain. Jannick had been playing organ since two o’clock in tile afternoon in the studio with a window that looked out onto a cemetery. We listened to this strange music, this very special ambience. It is a strong moment that I have memorised, which is not the case with all the improvisations of this type.
FS: Are there many things from this era, which you don’t want to listen to again?
CV: No, not particularly. I forced myself to remember the good parts. There is always something that interferes with and disturbs the music. So it needed to have a permanent record of an improvisation.
FS: How did you compose the sound track for the Christopher Columbus show?
CV: In a hurry. I had it all composed and I recorded it myself on keyboards, in ten days, around the basis of the texts and the storyline of the show. When I heard about the project, I thought for just ten seconds and I already had the theme. I quickly got under the skin of the character reading the text. I adore the narrative side, I found the best things were more evocative when spoken over the music rather than sung.
FS: Les Voix de Magma has nothing to do with a “new” Magma?
CV: No. Les Voix is one of Stella’s ideas. We have re-worked a repertoire, which everyone could practise, using nine vocalists, a double bass and keyboards. The formation is very supple, which permits us to go wherever we want; to evolve freely. I play one or two themes on drums for the pleasure. A piece like ‘Zëss’ does not seem difficult to begin with, but in fact it is a nightmare to stage. We have only performed an extract of the definitive version (which is always in gestation, as it has been for a long while).
FS: What will the “new” Magma album be?
CV: I dreamt the seven Kobaïan titles one night in Brittany. I wrote them out straightaway. It is the first time in my life that I had the titles and ideas before the melodies. I do not yet know the significance of the words in relation to the tempo and again this is new to me. I might say it took me a while to comprehend their meaning. Except musically, I have ideas about the rhythms but I don’t know how they will be tangled up. Will one provoke the other? I’m going to produce this album practically solo. I wish to push it to the extremes of what can be done. I don’t know what the results might be. Above all it is a proposition that is wild from the beginning. If someone could conceive today what I want to do, I would not do it since it would be too late. I wish to propose something that is inconceivable. To give you an idea, it will start with a ballad with an incredible rhythmical division on which to build little by little into something else. Then, in the first four beats I will play a symphony within the harmonic base. The distension of time will be like I was concentrating on counting 1 and 2. Within the 1 and the 2, the world will pass by. The rhythmic base will be quite high at time level of the splitting of the cosmos, so that will bring about something for others to discover – which will be underneath my original proposition – a fragment which will fall apart. This will not be positioned such that the rhythms are squeezed. I only use rhythms that I know. It needs to be solved up to the point where I can go, no more and no less. If it follows one part of the principal that it is the music that requests and not you who makes it, then invention is practically limitless.
FS: Is there a particular concept in ‘A Fiïèh’, the latest Offering album?
CV: The pretext of the disc was to record ‘Cosmos’ and ‘A Fiïèh’, which we had performed on-stage for a long while. All the previous tours had more or less begun with these pieces. ‘Cosmos’ is an introduction to the true ‘Cosmos’ that will be developed much later. ‘Purificatem’ is the prelude to the next album by Offering which will be called ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’. I am working very much on a new genre of harmonisation. The idea is that each time you do something you dig a little deeper. It means trying to slow down imperceptibly, chord by chord….
FS: Towards a shell?
CV: No, a vertical stretching of the tempo: instead of going forwards or backwards, one goes down, without losing the previous harmony. You bring down the harmony but it’s as if it was close to a tone held by the next chord. You must achieve all that there is between the chords, at the vibratory level. This seems simple but requires attempting to count slower than you can imagine and between the 1 and the 2 you must see the world within! When I recorded ‘Purificatemn’ live, the tape turning, once again the tempo was not there and I searched for an idea on the piano to bring about the theme. It was necessary to find a possible circulation for the tempo for some of the parts. In the first cosmos of the penultimate bar, the internal vibration was not moving. It could not take the count of the exterior tempo because that was not the real tempo of the interior. The pitches were indicated beforehand but without definite order. This created the harmonies, which had to be fully understood and then performed. There were some traps for everybody, but this was formidable. I love this raw take of ‘Purificatem’. It is rare that I can re-listen to a piece immediately afterwards. I had planned the cut to be twelve or fourteen minutes, in fact it lasts thirty-four! This is a key piece for subsequent events. ”The story of Swans and Crows”
FS: Is this third album by Offering a success?
CV: It marks a clear musical evolution. This is also the first tune for a long while that it is musically current. Now we will attack ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’. We have played it a few times on-stage but it has not really been done before. This will be a record with one single track, the story of a man who is found somewhere in a desert and who intones a sort of chant. The wind runs around the world and reverberates its call to all the birds listening. They decide to unite and all sing a song in unison, which they think is perfect for calling “The Master of the Birds”. The last opening of a beak and the start of stunning harmonies. The theme of the story is that it is not sufficient to love. To love is only the beginning. To complete this, one has to create.
FS: Does your conception of rhythm differ according to the instrument which you use’?
CV: No, it is the same thing. For sure the piano does not sound like the drums, but the approach is identical, and require the same movement. I do not go along with the theory that music is linear. One could imagine that music follows a spiral, which one cannot see. It is in a sort of movement without a beginning. You capture a tempo which seems sometimes linear and sometimes in movement towards the interior of that music, which captured at the core of the spiral would form spires. Thus, at one time or another, one could subjectively hear the beat on your right but in reality, it is perhaps the opposite of what you would imagine, perhaps it could be elsewhere; the tempo continues to march on somewhere, unchanging. Every living thing does not repeat itself. For some years, I reckon no more than four; I have thought that if the music is attacked on a first beat, one should take a breath and not go crashing into it. Otherwise, later on you need fifteen beats to clear the tension and to make the music supple again. If you count calmly 1. 2. 3… that leaves enough space. This is much more harmonious. I discovered that one day in a studio, I counted 1, 2, 3, 4 and that was all it needed. You need to capture the rest point on the right beat, which seems to be there at the right tempo. It does not necessarily come after the first beat, but it comes somewhere. From that you can follow on with incredible experiences, always conserving the framework.
FS: How do you manage to place the drums in your trio?
CV: The drum kit is not all one tone; in reality it is the ensemble that forms the pulsation. The idea is of assisting, to be complementary. If you withdraw the drums, the tempo no longer exists; it is the same for the piano and the bass. A musician needs to comprehend the rhythm and play without the drummer. The drummer helps the people in difficulty and the inverse is true. The drums are above all a sound which shifts and not an indicator of the tempo. If everyone were imprisoned by a rhythm that had a tendency to always travel forwards, I would try to create a single blow to sort of re-position it rhythmically, which would permit us to relax and to clear the tempo. All this must be done with the utmost calm but also with energy. I don’t think life is any different to playing the instrument on this point. It is the general confidence that forms the sound. It is the music which requests and not us who make the music!
FS: Listening to your old recordings, do you find that your playing has evolved much?
CV: Yes. Before I would play with a certain energy, an ardour, but in reality I was not satisfied by the sound which I made. Today, I still do a lot of work, that’s evident, but on listening to certain tracks, I have the impression that I’ve progressed enormously. The trigger was effected in 1987. I had discovered something for which I’d been searching for a long while… I have always thought about the movement, the breathing. With Magma, I very often play movements. I do this instinctively, but in a state of trance. I did not understand why, I just knew it was a good path. Every time I wanted to analyse the thing, I found other things to play! In fact I don’t live for music twenty-four hours a day. Music is not an amusement neither is it relaxation or even a pleasure. You have to be on the look out, and attentive for each cosmos of the beat, permanently working to get inside it.
FS: How do you work with your instrument at present?
CV: I work on movements rather than exercises. I am privileged in that this comes naturally, which is unusual. One needs to try hard to have the same consciousness, the same fix on each of the elements. There is always a fluctuation, which is not foreseen. Very often the musicians are prisoners of a rhythmic value, which is too weak compared to the interior one, this pace would fit better in the background. This value should allow you to improvise between the blows, putting yourself beyond what you first thought of. Including the correct value of one quaver needs less thinking than using a triplet. This internal defilement expresses itself apart from what you can hear. The vibration is inside itself. The doubt between the beginning and the end of the beat, this margin, means that the musician is able to lose the music… When I drop a drumstick I pay great attention to the moment where I gather together, because afterwards you must be very delicate to come back to the real internal tempo. You can quickly lose yourself if you are disconcerted. In music you can be living, you can be dead!
FS: Are you often “dead”?
CV: Less and less, but this demands an incredible interior energy. A ballad is as exhausting as a fast tempo. A ballad is terrifying! The music does not stop, it needs to travel, and this is something tough, from violence to tenderness.
FS: Twenty-five years after the departure of John Coltrane, how do you judge the current perception of his music?
CV: When he left there was a great void. It needs time to digest his music. Young musicians today are able to recognise that he was an extraordinary musician, but without feeling this musical revolution, this veritable evolution. He inspires a lot of people into pushing a cry from their saxophones, but there’s still an enormous gap. Certain musicians play a little in this spiritual way, but “a little” is as good as nothing. It should be either that or not that, but never “a little”! John Coltrane’s music is engraved and serious. I believe that John had total recall of all the keyboards, using this he was able to do whatever he wanted, he could negotiate. Even Miles was afraid to play with him!
FS: Curiously, the saxophone is totally absent from your diverse formations?
CV: I have searched for a long while, I’ve had some experiences but I have never found a saxophonist who had the sense of breathing. He also needs to put himself a little at odds with the rhythm. It’s a shame that there aren’t music schools for wind players before they even begin to touch their instruments! There is a total distortion between what a rhythm player does and a saxophonist who plays harmonies. They do not gel! This is no more than copying John Coltrane’s phrases, and that will not make jazz! You need to throw yourself into it, to take risks, and above all to dare to get it wrong. Surely that’s what musicians need.
FS: Do you always listen to the old standards?
CV: Yes, but those that have been done, and done well by the people who invented them. To see some 18 year-olds covering them makes me sad… Jazz, as with all music, has to be born in pain. One hears people doing standards, playing softly, but it was never played like that! I don’t know, maybe they’re playing out of their backsides! Assholes! A musician must play with all his energy, all his life force, everything that he can put into it; and then, perhaps the ensemble will sound coherent.
FS: Even if they are doing exhaustive re-arrangements?
CV: … Yes. You can do it, but why not play music that fits our era? I am happy to play some standards from time to time, but not just that. An isolated musician who just takes a solo is not able to do much. The idea of music, is like meeting yourself. It’s not an egotistical expression.
FS: You only undertake the drums within the confines of the trio?
CV: It’s a question of priorities. Currently there are things that I want to do on piano and with voice. I work with other drummers, like Jean-Claude Buire or Marc Delouya who advance in the same sense. If I was to play the drums, who would lead the group? If I am stumped by a harmony, quite often it is after trying two hundred and fifty others. And the drum solo… I am often bored when listening to a drum solo, except when it is connected to a story, as in the chorus by Elvin Jones on the introduction to ‘Love Supreme’; this is exceptional! It is very difficult to make a drum solo which is not boring, to be expressive. ”Magma’s music was not composed for a drummer.”
FS: It’s a different vision to Magma, where the drums are a pillar; the epicentre of the music?
CV: I have always composed Magma’s music in an integral manner. I conceived all the parts totally, for all the instruments, while never knowing what I would play on the drum kit, since the music was not composed for a drummer at all. More often, everything was stated rhythmically. I was obliged to find some rhythms that would scan the music and to invent the drum parts at the last moment. Except for ‘Mekanïk’, which I had the chance to practise for a long time. I took the time to understand the rhythms that were constantly changing, seven beats, thirteen and a half beats… In place of trying to play I found a way to do something, which could have turned out tiresome, I discovered a sort of tempo on two beats. To begin with, people said to me that I did not know how to play any more! Personally, I found that this was the best manner to serve this piece. I have always had difficulty finding parts for the drums. One minute before recording ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ I did not know what I was going to play! I had to improvise it on the spot. At two o’clock we started the piano and the bass parts with Jannick, and finished it by four o’clock. Afterwards I did the drums, completely improvised. Word of honour! Similarly for ‘Köhntarkösz’, we rehearsed it two or three times with Jannick, and I improvised. All the interplay with the others, I did it instinctively, live! I thought it would never end! I did not even know myself how we would negotiate all the links! But I knew the whole piece perfectly, so I had no doubts! On the whole, re-listening, I do not think many fundamental improvements could have been made. Often it’s the first take that is the best.
FS: Therefore it would have been possible not to have drums in Magma?
CV: Exactly! The fans always imagine that the drums were integral to Magma. I gave what I could and I think the fans appreciated… if I had played piano, that could perhaps have been the same. I don’t know. Everyone contributed their share and it’s certain that if I was able to play in this manner, the musicians who were there were also giving what was needed.
FS: Are the drums becoming secondary?
CV: I have practised, but I cannot repeat some of the things I have already done. The fans always want these repetitions? I found where it needed a rap on the snare drum in relation to the beat, and that does not particularly interest me any more. I want to discover other things. What? Mystery!
FS: ’Ptäh’, your drum / vocal piece (from the Magma era) has never been recorded?
CV: I have several versions from concerts that could be released by AKT. I have never profited commercially from this option, it was tempting but I do not like this… vulgarity. I have tried not to tamper with the record production. I have a tape of a version of ‘Ptäh’ captured in a very reverberant hall in Douai, which gives the impression of an infernal machine. I made the synopsis of this piece, which lasts between thirty-five and forty minutes. For each chorus, I tried to create on the basis of discovering rhythm and the elements. I had weaved all the tapestry. If you can imagine, I had the intention to dress up in music, note-by-note, impulse-by-impulse. I am very faraway in this solo. One day I pulled a muscle in my arm during an abrupt movement on a cymbal. This was the maximum that I could give. I knew then that I had arrived at the end of what I could achieve with this on the vibratory level. This was the pinnacle of that chorus. I played all the concerts at the Taverne de l’Olympia (‘Hhaï / Live’ album) with this tendonitis and each strike on the drums was tearing my arm apart. I still sense this pain. ‘Ptäh’ is not really in the domain of a solo, in reality it became a composition. I like to listen to this type of chorus by some other people, like those of Art Blakey for example. It’s cool, it’s swing but I can’t play that. As with my music, it’s not the music of a drummer…
THE BATTLE DRUMS
Christian Vander was one of the first drummers to play on a metal drum kit, giving him the appearance of a warrior; with a bass drum cannon adorned with metal Zeuhl logos. “Asba offered to construct a drum kit for me,” he remembers. “I calculated the sizes and envisaged some of the casks a little longer, to obtain a more compact and profound sound. It was the first metallic kit. It inspired all of them that came afterwards. The sound was terrific. I still have it but I don’t use it any more. It’s a magnificent instrument which served me at the beginning of Magma.”
Around the same period, Vander conceived a system for positioning thirty-two drums: “Sixteen on each side without cluttering! It was a system of racks; the casks were placed like the pipes of an organ aimed towards the sky. I even devised a way to put the drums underneath me! The racks were feasible but would have cost a fortune. I approached that configuration with the cymbals. Billy Cobham did it with Octobans…
Eventually Christian Vander adopted a Gretsch kit of modest measurements (18″ bass drum, 12″ and 13″ toms, 14″ and 16″ bass toms). He has remained faithful to the American make. Similarly with Zildjian cymbals, notably the model K, towards which he is particularly affectionate. But since Magma was put to sleep, Christian has reduced his enormous set (which numbered fifteen cymbals of which four were the giant Chinese Hu-Whan’s). Three K’s and a Charleston are currently sufficient for him. “When you’ve made a phrase and have changed the timbre fifteen times, you always come back to the same thing. In reality, with two good cymbals like the Zildjian K’s, you can make a symphony. Sadly, it’s impossible today to find this type of cymbal. The new ones are frozen, varnished, undesirable, you play them and there is nothing! One cannot work the sound towards the inside, they are flat, finished. You are obliged to change your style! Young drummers listen to records where the cymbals go ‘tic-tic-tic’ because often the engineers have compressed the sound, reducing the volume and the depth of the real tone. The brat who hears this wants to find the same sound when he goes in a shop. It’s bad!” The music has therefore persuaded Vander to reduce his set: “In using tons of hardware one ends up deluding oneself. The ideal situation is to arrive at playing snare / Charleston / bass drum / cymbal for a very long while without being obliged to vary from more than one cask. It’s the music which requests a certain colour and a medium….”
Key Figures (APM 9403 AT)
I’ve had this one near the top of my play list for a couple of months now, so what can I tell you about ENSEMBLE NIMBUS? Not a lot really, they appear to be almost as enigmatic as Faust, as complex as Art Zoyd and as dark as Univers Zero… with the eccentricity of Etron Fou and Zamla Mammaz Manna too! So yes they could easily be described as a member of the second generation of RIO (Rock In Opposition, the European art-rock association). These are compositional influences only, since the sound produced by the keyboards and electric percussion that they employ is clearly modern. The vocals to a non-Scandinavian are reminiscent of Zamla. The overall amalgam is distinctive and unique, with skyrocketing guitar and violin crescendos and baleful bass clarinet and electric bass pulses, Zeuhl like the densest Univers Zero. Explosive electronic percussion bursts forth everywhere from a sharp mix making good use of the tonal depth provided by the CD format, if this was a vinyl LP the stylus would shatter! The percussionist is a link with the first generation RIO bands, in that he is Hasse Bruniusson who with Lars Hollmer was one of the leaders of Zamla Mammaz Manna. His very personal drumming with Ensemble Nimbus is a direct continuation from his exploratory work in the seventies.
Hâkan Almkvist’s Zeuhl rock guitar sound is exquisite. Some of the other musicians add their folk influences making every tune a musical voyage. As the band’s name implies, many things are happening in this burning cloud of music. There is a very strong spirit of research and yet a clear feeling that the European folk roots must be preserved. It’s one of those albums that you could play several times a day, for week after week, endlessly discovering new twists and nuances. Perhaps, like Zappa’s ‘Freak Out’ there is a feeling that everything had to be put into the album. But also, as Vander says elsewhere in this issue, a musician must put everything into it body and soul. These guys are really working hard here and deserve to be listened to, repeatedly! They will be touring Europe this year so look out for Ensemble Nimbus on their travels. This is the third album from APM Records and it is as essential as the KULTIVATOR and MYRBEIN releases.
WHERE IS JANIK TOP’S MUSIC?
All references are the original French pressings.
There are hundreds of other sessions, but only these ones have Janik’s own compositions.
HYPNOSE - Strange LP – ‘Hypnose’ (IML 04)
Compositions: ‘Thème Narcose N° 2′, ‘Thème Hypnose N° 1′, ‘Thème Hypnose N° 2′, ‘Thème Hypnose N° 3′, ‘Thème Hypnose N° 4′.
MAGMA - Zeuhl LP – ‘Köhntarkösz’ (Vertigo 6325 750) (CD Seventh Rex VIII)
Composition: ‘Ork Alarm’.
MAGMA - Zeuhl SP – ‘Mekanïk Machine’ / ‘Köhntarkösz’ (Vertigo 6061 800)
Composition: ‘Mekanïk Machine’.
SPEED LIMIT - Zeuhl jazz-rock LP – ‘Speed Limit’ (RCA Victor FPL1 0101)
Composition: ‘African Dance N° 3′ (1st version of ‘Soleil d’Ork).
JANIK TOP - Zeuhl SP – ‘Utopia Viva’ (Utopia FPL1 7332)
Compositions: ‘Utopia’ ‘Epithécanthropus Erectus II’
MAGMA - Zeuhl LP – ‘Üdü Wüdü’ (Utopia 42519) (CD Seventh Rex XII)
Compositions: ‘Soleil d’Ork’ ‘De Futura’.
MAGMA - Zeuhl live tapes (October and November 1976)
Composition: – ‘La Musique des Spheres’ (extract).
MAGMA - Zeuhl LP – ‘Inédits’ (Tapioca TP 10 001)
Compositions: ‘KMX-E XII – opus 3′, ‘KMX-B XII – opus 7′.
CECCARELLI - Jazz-rock LP – ‘Ceccarelii’ (Carla CAR 500 002)
Compositions: ‘Lifè is real only here (part 1), ‘Speed it up’. ‘What the …’, ‘Where is here’, ‘Life is real only here (Part 2)’.
PHOENIX - Rock LP – ‘Magick’ (Barclay 91 028)
- Rock SP – ‘Luna’ / ‘Monsieur Minuit’ (Barclay 62 612)
J. Top is not credited for composition on these records, but he conducts and arranges the music. I feel sure he also composed part of the music, notably ‘Monsieur Minuit’.
SPACE - Pop LP – ‘Deeper Zone’ (Vogue 508616)
- Pop SP – ‘Inner Voices’ / ‘Mixed Up’ (Vogue 101330)
Co-compositions with Roland Romanelli: ‘Deeper Zone’. ‘Inner Voices’. ‘Space Media’.
FUSION - Jazz-rock LP – ‘Fusion’ (JMS 015) (CD JMS 0 15-2)
Co-compositions with Didier Lockwood, Christian Vander and Benoît Widemann: ‘GHK Go to Miles’. ‘Overdrive’. ’767 ZK’, ‘Reliefs’.
BERNARD LAVILLIERS - Rock LP / SP – ‘Voleur de Feu’ (Barclay 829 342-1)
Co-composition with B. Lavilliers: ‘Seigneur de Guerre’ (CD Barclay 829 342-2)
ROLAND ROMANELLI - New age CD – ‘Meditations et Rêves’ (Sysmo UCD 19012)
Co-compositions with R. Romanelli: ‘Melody for a Soul’. ‘Love’s Memories’, ‘Note-Rain’. ‘Video’. ‘Child-Dream’. Futur’. ‘Adelaide’s Memory’.
PERATHONER / TOP - Sound-track CD – ‘Music Film Scoring’ (Baillemont CD 918)
Co-compositions with Serge Perathoner – ‘Le Souvenir’. ‘L’Annonce’, ‘Le Voyage’. ‘L’Attente’. ‘La Decision’ (Sound track of (Force Majeure)
Composition: ‘Ork’s Sun’ (Version of ‘Soleil d’Ork).
JMS - Jazz-rock 2CD – ‘l5ême Anniversaire’ (JMS 056-2)
Co-composition with Didier Lockwood, Christian Vander and Benoît Widemann: ‘Overdrive’ (from the album by Fusion).
VANDER TOP BLASQUIZ GARBER - Improv CD – “Sons” Document 1973 – Le Manor’ (AKT II)
Improvisation with Christian Vander, Klaus Blasquiz and René Garber: “Nëhèh (Këhr)”.
MAGMA - Zeuhl 2CD – ‘Mekanïk Zeuhl Wortz’ (KISS No. 39)
Composition: ‘De Futura’ (live version, Reims 2nd March 1976).
To Be Continued …..
Parc des Expositions
Poitiers is a long way from Paris. I know because I walked most of the distance, having failed to connect with the record company laid- On transport, for reasons that you wouldn’t believe.
“Come and see Magma at a festival in France” they had said. “They”, being A&M Records and Kaygee Publicity. It sounded an attractive prospect, conjuring up visions of lush green fields, balloons floating lazily in hot blue skies, French femmes fatales in cheesecloth dresses.
The reality was somewhat different. By the time I finally stumbled, road-weary, into Poitiers’ imaginatively named “Hotel de France”, the festival had become something less inviting than even a Roundhouse Implosion bash. As the sun beat down outside, French youth gathered together in a dark, dirty aircraft hangar of a building stuck in the middle of the Parc des Expositions.
Furthermore, due to my misplaced energies I’d missed out totally on the bottom end of the bill. But I wasn’t the only journalist who failed to get to grips with Zao (a Magma spin-off), Super-sister from Holland (featuring ex-Soft Machinist Elton Dean on alto, saxello and electric piano) and Barre Phillips, the ace American contrabassist, playing a solo set.
At around 8:30, or 20h30 as the French would have it, German group Can took the stage to a round of stoned lukewarm applause. Sound balance, initially, was probably the worst I have ever heard. To a blind listener it would have appeared that Can had remained in Cologne and were attempting to relay their set by long distance telephone: hopelessly muffled and indistinct. Matters improved gradually and by the end of the set their music had been eased into focus. Can strode off, not looking especially cheerful but were brought back by an unprecedented roar of approval from the same audience that appeared to be dozing throughout their performance. Très étrange.
Still, the enthusiasm had the required effect. Organist Irmin Schmidt tore into the encore improvisation with more aggression than his smiling face revealed, and in the process whipped off positively the best keyboard solo I’d heard in years. The best since Mike Ratledge at the London School of Economics, February 14, 1970, to be precise. Dragging great squeals and screams of white noise from his equipment he propelled the group through a hair-raising fifteen minutes, which sparked off electric moments from all concerned. Superb modern music.
Chêne Noir, an apparently much lauded mime outfit, were as tedious as Can were fascinating. All dressed up with nowhere to go, they screamed and pranced and Monty Pythoned around for two hours to little effect.
After barracking and slow hand clapping and other crowd abuse, Magma finally took their positions and began a tour de force that left audience and musicians alike winded and confused. Something was happening and I, for one, didn’t know what it was. But whatever it was, it was damn powerful. Having lost count of the number of times I’d seen Magma up to then, there can be no doubt that they were simply growing from strength to strength. The apparent philosophy being that if you cram every last ounce of energy into a performance, the listener is going to have to react to it. They always do.
Magma music had become so well defined that it was possible to follow the lines played by any of the instrumentalists as an individual performance, and the whole hung together by the most tenuous of links. The mighty Christian Vander faltered just once in the early moments and the music almost collapsed in ruins. But instead they built from here, turning near disaster into absolute triumph, soaring gloriously to unparalleled heights, and then cutting back to near inaudibility before piling on the heat again. Magnifique. A band to change the world.
Théâtre du Taur
Concert 1975 – AKT IV
In Toulouse, before a stunned audience the formation of the grand epoch “accomplished” a fiery concert, and the movements of that tornado went like this: drums from another world, imperial violin by Lockwood, bulldozer bass from Paganotti, the hypnotic keyboards of Gauthier and Widemann, voices from the abyss by Stella Vander and Klaus Blasquiz, all the instrumentation was furious and dealt directly with the fantastic compositions:
‘Köhntarkösz’ enigmatic and resplendent in a sharper version than that on ‘Hhaï / Live’, explore the fascinating paths contained herein, so intense and soaring that they seem to have been harnessed in the course of many tours.
Christian Vander’s singing at the start of ‘Hhaï is instantly recognisable, a sort of variation prefiguring perhaps OFFERING. A volcanic version to which one returns very quickly for a replay.
‘Kobaïa’ is transformed, more ample, more rock, somewhere between the Magma of the great days, and The Doors and Santana. The guitarist, Gabriel Federow primarily leading the quest. As in times past and always, one must state the obvious: this recording, released from some Vanderienne dungeon, is indispensable. Very different to the recordings at the Taverne de l’Olympia, less “classical”, less “perfect”, but hot and free, (already well run in no doubt) and more uplifting for the soul than ever!
Théâtre du Taur
Concert 1975 AKT IV (93’51″)
Unadulterated Magnificence! This double CD is indisputably the best Zeuhl album since ‘Üdü Wüdü’! Emmanuel was so overwhelmed by this treasure that he forgot to send in a review of disc two, so I could not let this one pass without telling those of you who have not yet discovered what else lurks inside the box:
‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ (Third movement of Theusz Hamtaahk, version 24-09-75). A stereo soundboard recording with no overdubs. Forget those dodgy old 10th generation cassette recordings that wore out years ago, this is the real thing. The bass storm blows you off your feet, then Klaus and Stella whip up a choral frenzy, while Christian is simply surreal. It takes a few minutes before Didier’s scorching violin and Federow’s searing guitar make themselves felt in the line-up that was just about to visit the UK for the last time. What first struck me about this recording is how sad it is that so little has been heard of the Paganotti maelstrom before this release. Please God let there be many more AKT’s to come… Strap me down, I can’t believe how mind boggling this release is compared to everything else that has been issued in the last 19 years!
In short it’s stunning. Tu veux Kobaïa?
BORDEAUX – 04-05-94
Before the event, whispers spread that Magma “Les Voix” would have a support act in Bordeaux, and when the lights dimmed, crimson smoke billowed as an ethereal voice intoned: “La musique préservée…” Responding to the sonic signal, they took magnificently to the stage. Lydia Domancich on Klawïëhr in the shadows behind Zebëhn’s grand piano. Wokëhl Zekzïon: Julie, “Zab”, Stella and Bénédicte. Alex on sax, Pierre-Michel on DX7 etc, Philippe on contrabass, and the drummers were Marc and Jean-Claude. Yes, Offering were on form again, tonight they presented another superb (yet slightly restrained) rendition of ‘Les Cygnes et les Corbeaux’. From delicate beginnings the song spread its wings and rose into a celestial chorus. The majority of this variant was “composed”; in other words, much less improvised, perhaps the definitive version took shape during the Bataclan concerts? There is still a passage preceding the final percussive climax where one can imagine the worlds bird population tumbling from the skies before Stella’s alluring lullaby.
After a short break, the tape of “Ä tü…” rolling, the stage curtains peeled back revealing Magma “Les Voix” against a cobalt background, enthroned in golden light. Addie Deat was in the ranks but not Lydia. Keyboard players Zebëhn, Jean Francois Deat and Pierre-Michel Sivadier accompanied the choral announcement of ‘Ëmëhntëht-Rê’ while the gold transmuted into emerald. The illuminations have been improved dramatically since the last time I saw Vander and Co. in a proper theatre, but it would be good to see the return of some slide projections as used in 1988. Jean-Christophe Garnet and Alex Ferrand then joined the back row, as did Jean Francois. After the lightness of ‘I Must Return’, they stepped boldly forward discovering more of the dark mysteries of ‘Zëss’. Dardelle and Sivadier began this quest with supreme menace, exuding a sinister throbbing. Christian made his dedication and then Stella led her choir in the homage. During the “Sanctus Sanctus, Jesus Jesus” section, all the house lights came on, nice touch! The next piece startled me; it was ‘Ronde de Nuit’. Then following a new transition from Sivadier ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’, with Goubert on the piano, was executed with precision. ‘Wurdah Ïtah’ allowed Christian to gesticulate to the audience in his famous manner as he sang. ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’ (the Kobaïan egg-whisker drums again, at one point Zebëhn dropped the baguette in his right hand mid-solo instantly twirling it between two fingers and back into his grasp). And in conclusion ‘Ehn Deïss’ was quite awesome. The whole ensemble were phenomenal, giving a well-rehearsed performance and talking less risks tonight, the result remains magical.
live at the Gakkan Hall – Tokyo 22-08-93
It was a very hot and humid day, typical for the Japanese summer, and it was also a memorable day for the Japanese Zeuhl music lovers.
In spite of the lack of promotion, over three hundred and fifty people gathered to see the two-hour long performance by three great Zeuhl bands, which was surprising to me. The concert took place at the public hall of the Hosei University in Tokyo, and at only 500 Yen for a ticket (less than US$5.00) the entrance price was unbelievable too.
The show started at 16:00 hrs with the performance by KOUENJI HYAKKEI as the opening act. There are four members in the group, Tatsuya Yoshida (drums) is the leader and he is supported by Aki Kubota (keyboards), Shigekazu Kuwahara (bass) and Ryuichi Masuda (guitar) (who also plays bass with RUINS). At the same time, they sang (or shouted, roared, screamed…) with all their hearts. In particular Aki’s voice deserves to be mentioned. You might already know that Yoshida’s vocal work is incredible, but her (Aki’s) voice was almost as good as his. All the songs are their own original compositions, very powerful but complicated, and using perfect Kobaïan words! It is sad to reflect that they don’t play so often (just a few times each year), but they should be counted as one of the worlds top Zeuhl groups.
After this thirty minute set, HAPPY FAMILY appeared on the stage. They are not so famous, but are one of the great Zeuhl instrumental groups in Japan at present. Happy Family are; Kenichi Morimoto (keyboards), Shigeru Makino (guitar), Tatsuya Miyano (bass) and Kenichi Nagase (drums). Sometimes they play “cover versions” of their favourite music on stage, like ‘Cometa Rossa’ or ‘Europa Minor’.
Today, their opening number was ‘Final d’Urantia’ with very powerful and speedy drums. Unfortunately, due to the mixing desk staff mishandling the volume controls, we could not hear the keyboard sound except for the last few minutes. They played two more original songs, ‘Rock and Young’ and ‘Ningen-Gyorai “Kaiten” exhibiting their approach to the hard-rock field. Happy Family’s set also lasted half an hour.
After the two support acts, MEKANÏK KOMMANDÖH (the name of Yoshida’s special project) appeared on the stage. They began with ‘De Futura’, roughly the same as the original version. The introductory part started with bass drum beating, which was very impressive. Two bassists played as good as Magma’s great players. In the middle section, Yoshida shouted, “Kobaïa, Kobaïa, KOBAÏA!”, which gave us a deep ETERNAL feeling. Their beat slows down, and rises again, finally ending up dramatically. Since we were unable to see a real Magma performing in Japan, this was the memorable moment that a Magma tune was played live on stage…
Before starting ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ (the highlight of the concert), Yoshida announced the names of the songs. Then the chorus started (same as the ‘Retrospektï?’ arrangement). Then he started to speak the Kobaïan narration, it was exactly the same as the original studio version. NULL’s roaring voice manifested the song title; it was as if a heavy metal wheel groaned.
Until the ‘Mekanïk Zaïn’ section, they followed the ‘Retrospektï?’ version. At the beginning of it, one of the twin bass guitar players, Shigekazu Kuwahara took the role that Bernard Paganotti demonstrated on 02-03-76. Adding the bass phrase of ‘De Futura’, it was bloody great! But I was anxious about the middle section, what could they do without a violin solo with which Didier Lockwood had dominated the live Retrospektï? shows? But Yoshida was very clever; he introduced his Noise music at that point. The guitarist and the bassist (Miyano) played alternately. Then the other players rejoined again, they brought us to the dramatic climax.
The closing part again followed closely to the studio version, we felt pure emotional feeling in the melody, which was faded out….
I dare to say their performance was not perfect. The technique of one of the keyboard players was poor, and its volume level was set much too high. One of female chorus (not Aki) did not sing well. NULL’s vocal was very powerful, but the PA. balance was not good, so that we could not hear his voice well. The guitarist played very well, but his style is not suitable for a Magma sound. For the next live performance by MEKANÏK Kommandöh some members might be changed… In any case, Tatsuya Yoshida, who is the main instigator of the project, expressed his strong zeuhl spirit.
Though I speak candidly about their faults, still I think these performances were epochal for the Zeuhl scene in Japan. I must emphasise that all of you should take notice of them!
Tatsuya Yoshida: Drums, Voice (from Ruins)
Shigekazu Kuwahara: Bass (from Kouenji Hyakkei)
Tatsuya Miyano: Bass (from Happy Family)
Chiriko Kubo: Keyboard (from Hetakuso)
? Kotani: Guitar (from Mustard Masturbation)
NULL: Lead Vocals (From Zenigeba)
Aki Kubota: Lead Vocal (from Kouenji Hyakkei)
Atsuko Kobori: Female Backing Vocals
Ichiro Nakajima: Percussion
Not Present on 22-08-93:
Shinji Mikawa: Backing Vocals (from Hijou Kaidan)
08-07-94 Lons-le-Saunier 09-07-94 Geneva 10-07-94 Nice 11-07-94 Nice 21-07-94 Château-Renault
(C. Vander, S. Goubert, L. Belmondo, S. Belmondo, S. Persiani, P. Dardelle, E. Borghi)
12-07-94 Nice Jazz Festival
MIMI FESTIVAL 94
09-07-94 Etang des Aulnes, St Martin de Crau, France 10-07-94 Etang des Aulnes, St Martin de Crau, France 11-07-94 Etang des Aulnes, St Martin de Crau, France 12-07-94 Etang des Aulnes, St Martin de Crau, France 13-07-94 Etang des Aulnes, St Martin de Crau, France
Christian Vander Trio
20-09-94 Montparnasse, Paris 21-09-94 Montparnasse. Paris
MEKANÏK GRAFIK – Magma Art Exhibition
Beatrice Burlet is one of the artists involved in staging an exhibition of her paintings at FNAC-FORUM at the Forum des Halles in Paris from the 13th to the 18th of June 1994. The exhibition is dedicated to paintings, drawings and sculptures from artists inspired by Christian Vander’s music.
‘Mekanïk Zeuhl Wortz’ (Kiss 39) is a double bootleg CD, with an atrocious painting on the cover!
TRISTAN ET YSEULT
From a book on the French Cinema, our chief researcher Stephan Watzinger, has noticed that the original ‘Tristan et Yseult’ movie was 80 minutes long, which would translate to video as 77 minutes duration (Stephan can explain the technical reasons for this). However the video of the film that is in current circulation amongst the network of tape collectors is less than fifty minutes long. Does anyone have a complete copy of this film?
MALAKOFF STAR SPOTTING
Apart from Klaus Blasquiz, we also spotted René Garber in the audience at the Les Voix de Magma concert in Malakoff. René had his electric sax with him, which led to some speculation that he had been hoping to join in at the end of the gig.
Further to the item on SURYA in OA! #20, there is another CD version of their album (ADDA 184). This version uses the 1987 Cornelia productions digital remix and the sleeve photo from the inner City LP release. I presume therefore that it sounds just like the Arcade release we reviewed, but the presentation is better.
MEN OF LAKE
The Italians return with a second helping of their fine progressive music, the VDGG / Crimson sort that I like to call paeleo-progressive so as to distinguish it from the insipid Pendragon / IQ variety. The English lyrics by Silvana Poli are most peculiar indeed, but leaving the libretto to one side, the music is intense. Melancholy themes interspersed with dramatic anguished guitar, backed with heavy seventies Hammond and Farfisa organs. Their new release ‘Out of Water’ (Musea FGBG 4095.AR) warms up slowly with ‘Vipers’ and ‘The Day We Met’ but reaches a zenith with ‘The Dark Little Figure’ and the instrumental passages of ‘The Prodigal Father’. Lovingly recorded at MMS studios in 1993; the next few tracks are strongly reminiscent of the best English prog bands, and with a fine bass guitarist in Marco Gadotti, this should appeal to a large market world-wide. But it’s not Zeuhl / Avant-Rock. Then a stunning theme is unveiled in ‘The Perception Of The Wind’ in which the guitarist, Rene Modena, really excels. Shame about the lyrics, but the album’s interesting nonetheless, and a pleasant trip into the past.
METABOLIST’s ‘Hansten Klork’ and other Drömrn Records gems will eventually be re-released on the World Serpent label, but there appears to be a slight delay. In the meantime guitarist / composer Malcolm Lane is still trying to find a recording deal for his work with THE LUMINARIES – a continuation in power trio formation of the Can / Magma influenced Metabolist with phenomenal bass work from Duncan Lane, backed by Alan Clarke on drums. As if that was not enough, Malcolm’s latest project for written pieces etc, is called PURE UNVARNISHED – a line-up of up to eight guitarists, two bassists with drums and so on – their next major hurdle is to find suitable venues.
The RUINS drummer, Tatsuya Yoshida is planning to visit France and the UK for concerts this June / July. The concert details were not clear, but he will play drums with Charles Hayward in the UK and with Tenko’s group DRAGON BLUE at the Mimi Festival on the 10th of July.
Marquee magazine #054 has an interview with Stella Vander, in which she talks about the possibility of Magma travelling to Japan for some gigs. Christian never liked air travel at all, but he would make an exception in this case!
On the 12th of May 94, The Patrick Gauthier Septet played a concert at the Sunset jazz club, underneath the restaurant in Châtelet, Paris. Julie Vander and Bénédicte Ragu appear to have left the group and were replaced by Himiko Paganotti and Daliah Bellaiche.
More news on Michal Pavlícek, remember I’m trying to find out all you dear readers know about his work, particularly with STROMBOLI. In 1991 he released a solo CD on the Panton label called ‘Minotaurus’ which features jazz bassist Miroslav Vitous. It’s a rather inconsistent suite of dark, electronic / multi-instrumental music written for theatre, but the high points bear a strong kinship to ’80s Peter Frohmader.
JANNICK LIVE LP?
One of our readers in the West Midlands claims to have a white label test pressing of the Jannick Top ‘Live’ album that was planned for release by EMI in 1975/76. It supposedly has different versions of pieces from the Vander/Top (i.e. Magma) ‘Üdü Wüdü’ album. We also heard of someone in Lille in possession of what looks like an official release complete with sleeve, yet I remain extremely suspicious of the actual existence of this record. Our Mole also elaborated on Chris Cutler’s story that some of the original 24 track tapes from Magma’s ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ recordings at the Manor in April 1973 still exist. You will remember from earlier issues of Ork Alarm! that when Henry Cow came to mix their first album (recorded at the Manor in Oxford just one month after Magma had left) they found part of ‘M.D.K.’ on the tapes that they had used. We now know that Bill Gilonis of Cold Storage Studios, Camberwell, London kept these masters, and that the entire first side of ‘M.D.K.’ has survived on 24 track.
SEVENTH Records have now announced that ‘Retrospektïw I et II’ will be released as a double CD after all, but the release date has been put back yet again until September 1994…. They also envisage that Patrick Gauthier’s first solo album ‘Bébé Godzilla’ will be reissued on CD shortly. Then there are plans for another Christian Vander album, which will be announced the moment they know which one it will be!
In the meantime, Seventh Records have the new Magma double CD (AKT IV). There is also a new colour poster of Magma ‘les voix’ and the Zeuhl sign brooch is now available in a silver colour.
PRESENT (C.O.D. PERFORMANCE) have had their debut CD released in Belgium by Lowlands. And Roger Trigaux also plans to re-activate PRESENT as a quartet (the duo, plus bass and drums – supplied by Daniel Denis!). Should be pretty exciting.
Audion, the new-music magazine, interviewed Richard Pinhas in April for a forthcoming issue.
JEAN PASCAL BOFFO
Musea Records have announced that they intend to issue a remixed CD of Jean Pascal Boffo’s second album ‘Carillons’ which features a drummer. That would seem to be a good place to start if you have not already discovered the genius of this ex-Troll guitarist, who also happens to be an ardent fan of Magma. Incidentally, Jean Pascal contributed some of the photographs to ‘The Tauno Keto Collection’ – but we don’t know which ones.
While on the subject of photographs, let me make something quite clear: Many of the photographs used in Ork Alarm! have been traded around the global network for many years, and when they eventually reach us there is no record of who the original photographer was. Therefore it is sometimes impossible to credit the photographer, the next fairest solution is to credit the person who donated them to OA! This arrangement explains why ‘The Tauno Keto Collection’ was credited below the covers of issues #19 and #20. It now transpires that Pierre de Ramefort actually took the photograph on the cover of #20. He informs me it is from an Offering sound-check sometime in 1985.
KLAUS BLASQUIZ INTERVIEW
And finally, here’s a little taster for the big interview coming up in our next issue. Before the tapes started rolling, Klaus Blasquiz told me about how kind the people in the UK were to Magma when they toured here in the seventies. One amusing anecdote that he recalled about the Newcastle concert was that during intermission (i.e. Vander’s half-hour solo of ‘Chorus Zebëhn’ and ‘Ptah’) the theatre management, an elderly couple, came to the dressing room with a tray of fairy cakes and cups of tea. Can you imagine! Janik, Klaus and company sitting down with their little lace doilies, tucking into tea and cakes directly after blasting the Geordies with ‘Köhntarkösz’, ‘Soï-Soï’, ‘Gamma Anterïa’ etc. Then they returned to the stage for the second half including ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ and ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’.