August 2004 (originally planned for October 2003)
Ork Alarm! # 27
An Irregular Bulletin for Zeuhl Fanatics
- Kobaïan News
- The Grand RIO Connection
- Friends & Relatives
Yeah right! Every month was it to be? Well I suppose I kept the Ork Alarm!
“irregular bulletin” tradition going. In heindsight perhaps once a
month was a tad optimistic. Many thanks for the good wishes and help you have
offered. Please feel free to contact Ork Alarm! regarding information or articles
on anything that you feel is relevant.
Concerning the subject of relevance and the decisions as to which bands should
be featured in Ork Alarm!, well that always was a grey area. From the moment
articles started appearing in the original Ork Alarm! fanzine on Univers Zero
and Art Zoyd the boundaries had started to move further away from “Zeuhl”.
Ok, Initially the fanzine concentrated on “Zeuhl” related or influenced
bands but in later issues Paul Mummery replanted the fence posts to encompass
more RIO related material as well as the occasional personal favourite. So I’ve
decided to put a stop to all my concerns Anything that is remotely considered
Zeuhl or RIO is fair game and the rest is for you to decide! To some extent,
every musical genre gets muddled and hijacked by fans of related styles of music
(Soul and R&B especially spring to mind) and it could be argued that Zeuhl
and RIO have a wider brief than ever before. The most important point though,
is whether you, the reader actually like the music recommended by the reviewer.
Does it really matter if it’s considered Zeuhl, RIO, ZIO or Reuhl as long as
the quality and originality are there? Obviously there are certain musical traits
in these genres that appeal to likeminded folk who may visit this web site and
it is understood that Ork Alarm! is not going to suddenly change musical tack.
Ork Alarm! will continue to highlight potentially desirable music and point
you towards the quality reviews that are out there in WWWland. The best that
Ork Alarm! (online) can hope to acheive is to be a gateway for your awareness.
You can’t click a mouse these days without accidentally downloading an audio
sample, so with a bit of patience and investigation there’s never been a better
time to avoid buying a bum steer.
And it may actually cost you less as well!
I doubt that it has escaped your notice, but recently the price of the US Digital
Drinkmat took a tumbler. About time too! Those bastards have been ripping us
off for far too long. And now it’s our turn to rip off the Artists. Hooray for
us! We’ll show them who’s boss. Pass me a modem and a Peer to Peer Napster substitute
and I’m sorted.
Well … Something along those lines, but it is interesting how the dynamic
changes once that bottom line starts to evaporate. Whether this price cut will
reverse the decline in CD sales and appease the masses is questionable. It assumes
that, to some degree, the consumer is stealing the artists work as a protest
to the price point and not just because of a thieving mentality.
Obviously we expect (nay demand!) that the Artist suffers for their art, but
do we really want Britney Spears busking on Liverpool Street Station? I think
not. Index linking todays rip off British CD prices against the 2 quid I paid
for my Argent LP “Hold Your Head Up” in 197? isn’t really the point.
The problem lies in the fact that the consumer has been empowered with far too
much ammunition. So, the Record and Film industry must fight back. But
how? Appealing to our good nature doesn’t seem to have worked, so it’s all hands
on deck, splice the price, drop the occasional file sharing virus (I wonder?!)
and set sail for new encoding horizons. Mind you, I quite liked Vinyl.
Bloody Scientists! Why can’t they leave things alone? OK the Cylinder was a
bitch to file and you only had to look at Shellac and your Mantovani collection
was in bits, but what was wrong with vinyl? Not many people had homemade pressing
plants in their living rooms, did they? And there was never a danger with Reel
to Reel (Can you imagine the size of the far eastern market stall knocking them
out at 20 Bahts a lump?) but then came that dreaded word … “minaturisation”.
The Compact Cassette heralded the beginning of the end. In a split second of
eternity the digital age arrived and hiss free CD recorders were just a price
point away from every tossper who thought they were a record label. And it’s
got worse! It’s all moving too fast for me. I just know that on my 80th birthday
(wood touched whilst typing!) my kids will be fitting me with the complete Seventh
Catalogue Jaw Bone Implant on MP7 so I can dribble away the hours in tune at
the rest home they’ve chosen for me.
Currently stapled into my iPod (after purchasing original product)
Patricia Dallio – “L’encre Des Voix Secrètes”
Franck Balestracci – “Existences Invisibles”
Louise Avenue – “Let’s take one more…”
Univers Zero – Rhythmix
Hatfield and the North – “Hatfield and the North”
Caravan – “For girls that grow plump in the night”
After a summer break in 2003 Magma were back in the office continuing work on their next CD, which it is assumed will be entitled K.A. The CD will contain a 49 minute long studio version of K.A. which has been the centrepiece of all recent concerts. This will be Magma’s first studio album for 20 years, “Merci” being the last, although even this had the hallmarks of early Offering stamped over it. At least that is the plan, however the gossip mongers recently claimed tha Christian Vander considers the latest performances of K.A. far superior to the core of the track that had already been recorded back in April and has therefore decided (as is his wont) to go back to the drawingboard. This was firmly denied by Seventh Records. Anyone who expected to get their hands on K.A. via chimmney mail last December should be OK for 2004′s Xmas list. The latest rumour is that Christian has been adding more layers of vocals to the mix which has complicated matters. 20 years is a long time to wait. Look on the bright side, whatever the reason for the delay an extra year is only a 5% inrease in waiting time! September is the latest ETA.
For anyone not lucky enough to have witnessed a recent Magma Concert, K.A. will mark a return to an ethic of old. The early 1970′s Magma trade mark of long orchestral like movements were always what Christian did best and for me, the QEH concert in January 2003 evoked a few memories of that era. Here’s an e-mail I sent to one of our Japanese friends a few days after the show:
“Magma – Queen Elizabeth Hall – Festival Hall – London – 30-01-2003
What can I say!
They are back to the future!
600 + fans turned up in fast deteriorating weather conditions to witness the true 2nd coming of Magma
They have done the impossible. Recreated a piece (KA) from rehearsed music from 1972 , that was going to be the next album after MDK but was shelved in deference to Köhntarkösz . (I wonder if Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells influenced proceedings) It has sat on rehearsal tapes all these years (with pieces finding their way onto “Inedits”) and has been brought to life by the new line up. It is like rediscovering Magma all over again. It is a new, but also an old magic. The power of the band reminds me of the early 70′s. They also seem to be a more relaxed, happier and balanced group than ever. Christian has relaxed, they are smiling. They know the music is powerful and majestic, yet they touch the hearts of the audience with their humility. K.A. has been improved upon since the Sunset Club Concerts. It is now a complete work in the same vein as MDK and Köhntarkösz. It was announced by Stella Vander that it is to be recorded soon as a studio piece. Köhntarkösz was dropped in favour of Zëss to open proceedings. Nothing was mentioned about recording Zëss.
There is a new member in the band, Frederick D’OELSNITZ. He’s from Southern France, and Stella heard him playing Jazz and was so impressed by him. It would appear that he is highly thought of and has slipped into the line up with ease. He seems very a really nice guy.
Somehow you must get Magma back to Japan! Just to listen to K.A. Live. 30 years ago I witnessed Magma in London. This concert, more than any before it, was like turning back the clock and rediscovering Magma all over again. How they improve upon this is the only question left to answer!”
As you can see I was bowled over, albeit lacking in basic journalistic skills, you know the ones, reporting accuracy, background research etc. But the enthusiasm was there! I can’t believe anyone left the QEH that evening feeling anything less than elated. The set list was Zëss – K.A – THEUSZ HAMTAAHK (extract) – TURKEY BALLET (probably not a definitive title). My overiding memories of the evening however were the centrestage bombardment by the two guitarists, James MacGaw and Philippe Bussonett. The two men took prominence and proceeded to mesmorise with what could only be descibed as a staggering, trance like riff that evoked memories of Mekanïk Zain or De Futura. I was exhausted at the end of this section and was convinced that both men would suffer long term repetitive strain injuries from the experience. The other amazing thing concerned the vocals. My experience of many concerts over the years (Not Magma or Offering I might add) is that the vocals are often lost in the mix and drowned out by the instruments, but here it was different. There were four main vocalists Stella, Isabelle, Antoine and Himiko yet there sounded like a dozen of them! I couldn’t quite work it out and kept checking to see if there were other band members singing. It even crossed my mind that there could be sound technicians crouching behind the set secretly complementing the main protaganists! I’m really none the wiser as after the show I was lucky enough to ask Stella about this and she told me that it was because of the arrangement and phrasing of the vocal sections. I replied “Oh!”, left it at that, jumped on my Skido and shouted Mush Mush! to the Huskies and made my way back up the M11 into a freak winter wonderland traffic jam.
This was Magma’s third recent visit to England and they do now seem to be building up quite a following. A few weeks earlier ticket sales were worryingly low and there were rumours that the promoter was having second thoughts. Much hope was placed on walk up sales on the day but when the weather turned nasty that evening, with snow actually starting to settle in the Capital, nobody really could have expected such a healthy amount of support for the band. Perhaps their previous two visits to the Southbank had paid off. The trend that seems to be shaping in the USA of a strengthening of support for Alternative Rock bands, with of course much acclaim for Magma at recent Prog Rock festivals, is being mirrored here in Europe.
Their first return was in February 2000, three months before the marvellous 30 years anniversary shows at the Trianon in Paris. Sadly I was unable to witness their comeback to these shores due to work commitments but many thanks to RIO Grandmaster Chris Cutler for allowing Ork Alarm! to publish his review of the evening.
Magma was founded in 1968. It soon became the primary vehicle for drummer Christian Vander to shape and focus his compositional skills – and his spiritual intuitions. The S word may jar, but it’s a simple fact that all manner of artists (a few recent musical westerners would include Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Olivier Messiaen) are inspired and driven by such beliefs. Vander moved very quickly through the short-lived jazz/Blood Sweat and Tears echoes of early 1970′s Magma, soon arriving at the unique and counterintuitive amalgam of Karl Orff, Igor Stravinsky, John Coltrane and James Brown that characterised his compositional work from 1971 onwards. In this review I shall consider him first as a composer, and this concert as a suite of related compositions – with Magma as an interpretative ensemble – in order not to wind up stranded on a road to nowhere; since what I don’t think we are dealing with here, even if it’s what publicists, fans and habit might want to suggest, is a band revival. This isn’t Caravan or Coliseum getting back together to play their old hits and please their fans – or to give another generation the belated frisson of seeing a legend live on stage. The question is, I suppose, whether we are seeing a band as it is, or as if it were as it was. A band we go to see because it was is so because once – long ago it was important to the time it inhabited, it was embedded in the flow of events and it influenced those events, having the power to surprise and innovate. None of this is true of a reformed repeat revival 30 years down the road. The old heroes are certainly on the stage, but the context of their being has changed. Of revivals today the context is nostalgia and familiarity. I’m not saying that there is something illegitimate about that. Nostalgia and familiarity are entangled in our desires, but they power a wheel that spins disconnected from the engine of the present. Revivals, like Benjamin’s angel of history, all face backwards,.
So, first – and most obviously – this was not the old Magma. None of the original members was present, except for Christian Vander himself, and Stella Vander – who was not in the early bands but has been a fixture since she joined in 1972. I will proceed, then, on the basis that it is the compositions and their interpretation rather than the historical authenticity of the performers that is important.
Having said that, it can still be confusing, deciding how best to approach ‘Magma’, since Vander draws so evenly on the two very different worlds of classical composition and jazz interpretation. It means that there are always two appeals to the listener: first the music itself, which beyond a liking for familiar songs or a house style – appeals through its compositional depth; and secondly, the appeal of virtuosity the power of individual expression. Striking both targets at once is not unusual. Consider Paganini, Duke Ellington, the relationship between composition and interpretation in John Zorn’s Spillane. And I would be happy to locate Vander in a cultural continuum with Beefheart, Sun Ra, Zappa or Zorn virtuoso performers all, accomplished and innovative composers and revolutionaries in their approach to music.
The three works that featured in this concert were Theusz Hamtaahk, Wurdah Ïtah and Mekanïk Destructiw Kommandöh. Three album’s worth, comprising the Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy, written as far as I can glean between 1970 and 1974. All traces of any influence from any other rock group are already absent in these works, which all nevertheless exhibit several distinct signature characteristics.
First. In the structure, the type of melodic content, the use of folk melodies and repetitions, additive rhythms and choral vocal arrangements – the influence of Karl Orff and Igor Stravinsky is paramount.
Second. Unlike just about all kinds of American popular music, especially rock derived from Blues, Vander’s compositions and his drumming are very rarely articulated through the back-beat. That is to say, emphasis seldom falls on the second and fourth beats (or on the third, when a half
time tempo is implied), but rather – where the structure is simple enough to say this – on the first, or on all beats equally. This is so profoundly European that it can be initially disconcerting for anyone brought up listening to rock and pop. After all, confronted with a band, one reflexively expects to be spoken at in some dialect of jazz or rock, so when Magma leap straight into something else, it can be disorientating. And exactly because it is neither flesh nor fish – but a true amalgam – it simultaneously attracts and repels expectation. This and other kinds of simultaneity will be a lietmotif in this review. Although he largely side-steps Rock, Vander does still draw profoundly on aspects of Jazz, Soul and Funk. Elaborated patterns of half and quarter upbeat stresses and anticipations, for instance, and contrariwise, the articulation of every beat in a succession of bars stated evenly and unstressed – a trademark of soul. The result is an independently European style, transfigured by the spirit, and some of the vocabulary, of Black American Music of the 1960s.
Third. There is an endemic tension in all these pieces between a compositional minimalism on the one hand – all three works feature long structures unfolding from a few simple elements and involve slow modular growth and deliberate repetition and, on the other emphatic punctuations: turbulent areas of elaborated compositional complexity, sudden outbursts of instrumental virtuosity, unsignalled and dramatic changes in content, tempo and dynamic. Maintaining such a balance between the tension of too little, and the release of too much, information is a hard trick to pull off, since such effects cannot be faked but depend on concentrated writing, sure execution and a genuine virtuosity. After all, if you are going to write an intellectual into your play, she had better speak like an intellectual. There is no trick that can help here. It takes genuine intellect to achieve it.
Fourth. There is the language of affective, fragmentary, but sometimes exquisite melodic material that sits at the centre of Vander’s works. This material is not organised into tunes or songs and it doesn’t relate obviously to the way the voice is used in rock or popular music. Moreover, the texts appear in an invented language, Kobaiian – so meaning does not impinge on the reception of vocal phrases as aspects of instrumentation. At the same time, the words do have the shape and sound of a language as opposed, for instance, to the bland employment of formless ‘aaah’s, and ‘ooh’s, which are always phonetically and affectively bloodless. In his use of individual and choral voices, Vander shifts between, on the one hand, the model of Les Noces (Stravinsky) and almost everything of Karl Orff’s after Carmina Burana – not only in structure and melodic content, but also semantically, since his invented language is about as comprehensible to the average listener as Orff’s medieval German and Latin – and on the other, Tamla Motown, where voices are used not only to carry top line melody but also in an accompanying instrumental or rhythmic capacity. The deep fact about voices is that they bear inalienably the grain of direct human affect: nobility, threat, humour, suffering, spirituality, in fact the whole gamut of personal appeal that one human being can make to another. Fragmented and incomprehensible, Magma’s voices shift from rhythmic punctuation to melodic statement, from anchor to ocean, delineating a centre that is perpetually attenuating, but which indefatigably returns.
Finally, by virtue of the intimacy in Vander’s work between its composition and interpretation, it must be said that the constant juxtapositions of tempi and radically differing dynamic markings are clearly compositional before they are expressive. They are in the score, as it were, not part of the interpretation. This is unusual in Rock (well, almost non-existent) though a commonplace in classical music. In Magma, both writing and band command between five and seven distinct dynamic levels (mostly in rock one can distinguish about three: loud, soft and medium) and this band is able to move abruptly and precisely between them. At the QEH concert, in common with all the Magma concerts I have witnessed, the group’s performance was an object lesson in the effective use of electric instruments to produce dynamic articulation. Where Orff needed seven acoustic grand pianos, all hammering on the low notes, to achieve a certain effect, an amplified instrument can achieve a similar level of volume and intensity alone. Magma, because they work in many ways like an orchestra – with Orff scale compositions and full dynamic control – are a model of how amplification impacts on the possibilities that mid C20 instrumental technology can offer more traditional forms of elaborated composition.
Vander and his kit were set centre stage, flanked at floor level by bass and keyboard on one side, guitar and keyboard on the other. On risers to either side, the four singers stood (two males left, two females right). The three pieces were performed in sequence with 10-minute breaks. Each was between 30 and 40 minutes long. The concert closed with an encore of completely different material, maybe 15 minutes long. The long compositions were sometimes grounded and sometimes driven by the keyboards, bass, drums and guitar working as a unit. Conventional roles were for the most part not adopted, so, for instance, bass and drums didn’t form a rhythm section with guitar leading and keyboards accenting. Orchestrations seemed rather to be constructed outward from the whole. In other words the individual parts were a function – rather than forming the basis – of the whole. Like Elvin Jones’ drum parts in fact, driven from the centre not built up from elements. The voices gave the music focus, mostly through the use of short, repeated fragments, though sometimes by way of more extrapolated melodies. Overall, the emphasis continuously shifted, so that while sometimes the instruments were heard through the frame of the voices, at others the voices held the ground while the instruments worked through or against them. Frequent changes of tempo, metre and dynamics also contributed structure and articulation to the pieces, and the interrrelation of the different elements was far from the usual figure and ground of most vocal-music-with-accompaniment, forming rather a net of sounds, seamlessly integrated, with details rising and sinking from it.
The first piece, Theusz Haamtak, seemed the least focussed and the most amorphous. It worked but failed to overcome for me the separation between watching and being absorbed. I couldn’t find the uniting thread, though the unravelling was enjoyable enough. The second piece, Wurdah Ïtah (Tristan and Iseult) was altogether crisper and more coherent. Vander visibly (and audibly) opened the performance with a wake-up/reset percussion break in the first thirty seconds. In fact, since the first minutes are identical to Theusz Haamtak, there was a curious moment when it seemed as if, dissatisfied with the first piece, the band were about to perform it again. There was much use of parallel metres (e.g. 2:3) – an ambiguity, or simultaneity, common in much African and Asian musics where a bar of 12/8, for instance, will be felt and stated simultaneously as three slower beats of value 4 and four faster beats of value 3 – with both clearly stated and syncopated. Vander uses this device, I think, to forestall closure since each stress prevents the other from forming a simple loop, effectively stretching a net of rhythmic suspension over the music. This use of two things at once, pulling different ways and opening up new ground in the excluded middle, seems to be a common thread in Vander’s work. For this composition, a second keyboard was introduced and all four singers were in play most of the time. The band seemed to have found its feet in the second part, more secure and more serene than in the first.
The third section, Mekanïk , was clearer and more transparent still. As a composition it was as seamless in its logical continuity as it was in the repeated changes of tempo and metre that at once created and undermined that continuity. Another net featured heavily here: formed from the simultaneous expression of additive rhythms (7/8, 11/8 &c) and a slow 2/4 (a device prevalent in early Stravinsky) where an insistent, slow tempo is overlain by fast cycles of melodic fragments whose rhythmic stresses do not synchronise in a simple way with the slower pulse. This means that where the on-beat is, and where the off-beat is, become a function of how one focuses one’s listening. Again, the effect is to lift the music out of simple repetition and to confront the ear with an ambiguous duplexity. The result: another species of suspension. This is a hard trick to make convincing, since it demands a certain independence of thinking on the part of the performer, or at least the ability to think one thing and do another – or to feel two things at once. In passing, it is remarkable how easy it is to throw musicians who know how to play in 7/8 off their stride by simply stating a 2/4 against it, and though one can quickly learn to feel a seven as a syncopation over seven measures of two, holding it as a 7/8 against a two is a completely different story – and it is that which is needed to maintain ambiguity and tension where an open, as opposed to closed, rhythm is the goal.
Christian Vander is one of the most technically able drummers I know. This isn’t worth much. Often, chops (as we so charmingly call technical proficiency) lead to inappropriate playing and boredom (Billy Cobham is one of many who can do that for me). In the same way, acting fireworks when you are supposed to be playing a boring bank clerk raise expression of self above expression of the drama – to the obvious detriment of the latter. On the other hand, virtuosity can also be the source of a transcendental pleasure: Casals or Gould breathe life into Bach’s silent dots, McKellern into Shakespeare’s text. The issue is how to contain and harness virtuosity, or alternatively how to operate on best and still have plenty of headroom when you need it. This is how Vander works; sometimes he sits back and plays the simplest parts, driving and maintaining tension; sometimes he doubles and gives interpretative depth to the melodic lines, especially through the use of dynamic subtleties, and sometimes he leaps out of the flow with a wake-up detail or a breathtaking flourish. It is at these moments that his technical skill is made to count since, in order to stand out in high relief, such moments have to be that much more extraordinary than the rest. When the rest is already prodigious, you need a lot of power in hand. Even seemingly simple parts may call for extremes of technical competence or stamina if they are to be played smoothly and without apparent effort – fast or sustained patterns, for instance, or those demanding unusual co-ordination. Years of Techno, drum programmes and machines have obscured such skills for us, since we are now so accustomed to hearing virtually impossible parts (or impossible virtual parts) that we can no longer always appreciate human skill when we encounter it. At this concert, however, there was no possibility of error. The wake-up material was past anything made familiar by electronic drum programming, since such subtleties of phrasing and dynamic control as these belong audibly to a different order of expression. In a sense, such music makes experts of the public, since success and failure become so much easier to understand. Technique plus compositional intelligence underwrites, I think, a kind of interpretative transparency.
Vander, as I have indicated, is a phenomenon – existentially alert, always present, slipping easily between controlling, caressing, driving and pushing beyond the music. He seemed to be comfortable, took visible chances with his playing – grimacing if he thought he’d failed or gone perhaps a little over the top. He signalled throughout, gestured, interacted with the rest of the band. It certainly looked as if he was having fun. A similar ease was vested in Stella Vander, a remarkable performer, completely at home with both the material and the spirit behind it, and in singer Isabelle Feuillebois and one of the two keyboard players. The rest of the ensemble, while excellent, seemed sometimes not so relaxed. Occasionally one noticed that they were having to work a little too hard, think a little too much, concentrate on accurate execution. Perhaps this is where the spiritual dimension starts to matter – out past the technical? If one can accept that there is a purpose at work here, which I could characterise as taking the listener out of the mundane through a combination of repetition, complexity, dazzling detail, corporeal rhythm, suspended harmony and insistent iteration of same-but-different fragments, then it is legitimate to include this dimension in a judgement. When this dimension is felt, the music acquires the quality of a kind of implacable and weightless force simultaneously distracting and concentrating the mind. This does funny things to the perceived passage of time. Both the avoidance (harmonically and rhythmically) of closure and the use of repetition – related here to Dervish music, Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, James Brown or This Heat – is pointed toward transcendence, intensification, ecstasy. There is no technical way to achieve this since it depends on the inclination and intention of the player – which does, however, have to be backed with technique. In other words it is not simply a matter of playing the music correctly, or even with fire: beyond that is the realisation of an intention which while written into the composition is always outside it. On this debatable ground and this alone I found the male singers, bassist and guitarist, while adequate, not great. I have heard the material more transcendentally realised by other interpreters, whom I suspect could more easily find what was not in the score. And, I’m sorry to have to single out the guitarist, whose job is so hard in the compositions since the parts depend so much on feel and subtlety to work. He played adequately and accurately enough, but with little sensitivity or soul. And his one long, raucous, solo seemed radically tasteless and irrelevant in the context of the evening; a common moment in an uncommon programme. Nevertheless, by any normal standards this concert was a revelation. Or an education. Or a great experience. Or rather disturbing – I heard all opinions. But no one was bored.
My feeling is that the power and originality of these compositions has not yet faded and they still have the ability to impress and to induce contemplation. They more than fill the time they occupy and they resonate long after they have passed into silence. The performance, too, made many contemporary groups seem dilettantish: if Magma had such a level of sophistication by 1973, it does seem strange that no one has followed up on it. I don’t mean on the musical style, I mean on the attention to detail and the compositional and performative intelligence. It seems to me that a whole sector of electric music – in many respects the one that exploited its potential best – has simply fallen into desuetude. Punk can’t be blamed – that at least represented a healthy opposition; perhaps it is more that a moment of autonomy has passed? Maybe it is the public that has disappeared and with it the music that public supports? I came away thinking how rare it is to see an electric group playing seriously composed music with such genuine instrumental skill, and how unusual it has become to see musical content raised above conformity and attitude. There is more than enough skill and competence around, but precious little musical ambition and even less original thinking. I like to believe that what Magma offers is relevant still: respect for its audience and disdain for fashion, commitment to a vision and engagement with a spiritual purpose. And their easy absorption of deep (rather than superficial) elements of classical, jazz and electric music, coupled with a radical understanding of where these languages and the possibilities of new technologies meet, is still remarkable, thirty years on or not.
Visit the Chris Cutler website for a rollercoaster ride through the history of the RIO (Rock in Oppostion) Movement
Whilst it is always great to hear a fan’s review of an evening, there is something very special about another great musician’s take on events. Another review of Magma from around this period comes from one of Ork Alarm!’s contributing benefactors.
In the last few years, I have been visiting concerts of French group Magma who have reformed in the late nineties, playing all over Western Europe, USA and Japan. I have been in Leverkusen and – with my girlfriend – in London, Luxemburg, Mulhouse, Burg Herzberg and Würzburg. Everytime we have been truly impressed by the band’s intensity and musicianship.
It’s strange: Magma don’t have a recent studio record they promote, yet it doesn’t seem to matter, for enough people have been waiting to see Magma perform their classical pieces again. They should not get rich from touring, yet they always get several hundred up to thousand visitors per concert who are enthusiastic about the show and the musicians.
In Leverkusen, they played Köhntarkösz , Hhai, Kobaïa and Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh. At all later dates I have seen they played the same tracks: The Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy (Theusz Hamtaahk, Wurdah Ïtah , Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh) and a moving ballad that I don’t know the name of. The trilogy is more than 25 years old, but it sounds fresh as always: out of time, out of space, unique. Nobody does what Vander does, nobody composes like him, nobody plays drums like him, nobody sings like he does.
It is frightening how he gets ever more intense over the years. He has been an incredible drummer in the seventies, and now one can notice that he has developed even greater abilities to move his body in all directions over the years. Nobody can play “against the band” like him and listen to them carefully at the same time.
The actual band consists of really good musicians, it should be one of the best line-ups Vander ever had. Now they play together in this formation for about two years, and you can hear their grown competence in playing Vanders compositions.
The one thing I was not so impressed about first (in London) were the two male vocalists. They were good at the choir parts, but when they had to improvise, things did not work that great at first. That has changed: the solo parts in Wurdah Ïtah are breathtakingly beautiful, and Antoine Paganotti, the lead singer, has developed his own stage personality. It must have been a not so easy task for him to sing the parts of Klaus Blasquiz and Christian Vander at first, and one can see how exhausted he is after each concert. It’s moving to watch him perform, and I don’t want Klaus Blasquiz back – he is not needed anymore.
The gig at the Burg Herzberg Festival was special: Magma started at 3.00 in the night! They had to do a short soundcheck in front of the festival audience which turned out to be Om Zanka! The keyboard started, with all the other instruments joining one by one, finally the male and female singers, while the mix was taking place- a magical moment. After the soundcheck was done, they started with Wurdah Ïtah . It was cold, and we could see Vander sweating out steam from his head and shoulders – he was actually steaming through his shirt for two hours! Because of the high humidity, Emmanuel Borghi had problems with his Fender Rhodes. When the gig was over, the night was already fading, and we drove home.
The next day, they played Würzburg, together with Anekdoten and Present. We missed Anekdoten because we were to tired (having arrived at 8.00 in the morning). Present played a brilliant, super-hard set and surely are one of the best Zeuhl-bands around today. Magma played as great as always, but had some major problems: First, Philippe Bussonnet broke a string of his bass during Wurdah Ïtah , and looking really frustrated, he stopped playing and unplugged his bass, but played on when Vander looked pleading at him. Finally, someone brought another bass which Bussonnet plugged in to play on. Shortly after that, Borghi’s Fender Rhodes broke down, at a moment when it was the only instrument playing. Borghi took it easy, and after a short break the band executed the rest of Wurdah Ïtah , leading into the second part of Mekanïk . The audience was enthusiastic as always, and with the yet unreleased ballad they play at every gig the concert ended.
This ballad is the only piece that has Christian Vander singing, and it is my personal highlight of Magma’s current playlist. You can see how much everyone in the band is moved when he sings, especially the male singers. Vander can’t cope too well with leaving his drumkit and standing in front of the audience: he is looking a bit ill at ease at moments when he is not singing. At the end he very shortly thanks the audience and leaves the stage.
Vander is a spiritual man. He must have spent a lot of time studying obscure people like Gurdjeff and others, yet what counts is the hours he has spent making his joints more supple, developing new compositions, thinking about musical structures, focusing his emotions on the music. He has worked hard to become the only one of his kind, to always get better at creating tension and releasing it again – in his body as well as in his music. He is 53 now, yet he has never been better, never been more intense. I hope he will be able to go on for a long time.
Like Mother like Son
Francis and Stella’s son is taking the plunge into the genetic pool and following in his parents footsteps. Seventeen year old MARCUS has Drum, Guitar and Vocal duties in his band KOURTYL. According to Stella, they play a very melodic and original kind of Rock Metal. They say their influences are bands like Incubus, Tools, A Perfect Circle, Deftones and Korn. I’m sure Stella and Francis are very proud and Stella told me that through Marcus’ involvement, she has been exposed to styles of music that previously she would have dismissed.
Pascal Moru from Soliel Zeuhl Records kindly sent me an image of an advert from Rock et Folk magazine (December 1975). It shows the planned venues for the Magma “Live” tour in France during the early months of 1976. Judging by the advert Magma were planning a trip to the USA which I assume was aborted. As you will see, this advert and our Magma on Tour pages have a few anomilies but don’t hold your breath waiting for the definitive update!
Many thanks to those of you who have already added to the Magma on Tour pages. I know it falls under the trainspotting section but in the words of Mastermind’s Magnus Magnesson “I’ve started so I’ll finish”
The Grand Rio Connection
Countdown to Zero at Nearfest
If ever you needed proof that Zeuhl and RIO were entering a new golden age especially in the USA then look no further. One of the original RIO bands Univers Zero appeared at Nearfest 2004. Here’s the prefest info direct from the promoter’s outbox.
Day One becomes Day Zero
Belgian symphonic RIO masters Univers Zero to make U.S. debut
We are extremely pleased to announce the confirmation of our Day One headliner for NEARfest 2004, the legendary Belgian symphonic Rock-in-Opposition group Univers Zero. Founded by drummer/keyboardist/master composer Daniel Denis in 1974, Univers Zero has garnered a significant worldwide cult fan base with their dark and challenging yet melodic, dynamic and emotionally stirring compositions. Cuneiform Records’ reissues of such classics as “Ceux du Dehours” and “Uzed” have brought this phenomenal “chamber prog” ensemble’s extensive output into wider notoriety. Univers Zero was re-born in the late 1990s and early 2000s with new albums exhibiting a fusion of progressive rock with emotional dark classical textures, presented with exquisite compositional skill. With a sound spectrum ranging from bleak Bartok-influenced acoustic chamber pieces to angular odd-meter symphonic rock-in-opposition, Univers Zero certainly holds a unique place in the pantheon of progressive music.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of its formation, Univers Zero will be making its first ever appearance in the United States at NEARfest 2004 as a six piece band led by Daniel Denis on drums and UZ mainstay Michael Berkmans on bassoon, accompanied by violin, keyboards, clarinet, and bass. Next summer at NEARfest, progressive music fans can enjoy the exceedingly rare treat of a live Univers Zero performance. Be sure not to miss Univers Zero’s riveting career-spanning 2-hour set concluding Day One of NEARfest 2004!
President, NEARfest 2004
July 10/11, 2004
Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania USA
Coming soon to a Browser near you
The Internet is a wonderful place to lurk, especially if you have a hobby. Not only does it supply information by the bucket load but it also povides a bond for all like minded souls. That is why you really should subscribe to the Avant-Progressive [far better now the Facebook page] list and keep abreast of the latest news on all Prog Rock, RIO and Zeuhl artists. I’m sure that there are many other avenues on the web that provide a similar mix of information but if you are looking for a one-stop daily hit of news, reviews and opinions, delivered straight to your mailbox, then look no further. Using the Yahoo portal, moderator and Wayside Records owner Steve Fenigbaum has seen his baby mailing list grow into the busiest group that I am aware of on the subject and if you are an enthusiast (which I assume you must be, otherwise why are you reading this?) you should feel right at home amongst your peers and also the occasional legend. “Giorgio Gomelsky woz ere” is written on the archive wall, no less! It was Giorgio who once informed the list that the reason that the Seventh CD of Köhntarkösz was reissued in two parts instead of in its entirety was that it was recorded in two parts in the first place. So there!
Which brings me to my point. While there are official and unofficial Web Sites for nearly all Ork Alarm! featured artists (see the links page), Univers Zero have officially been conspicuous by their absence. Magma and Art Zoyd are now both well served in WWWLand but currently there are only a few dated efforts on Univers Zero and nothing that highlights the band’s recent return to the the recording studio form. It is more important than ever before that any business has an authorised web presence so it is with deep joy that we will soon welcome an Official Univers Zero Web Site to the fold. Here’s the web master Renato Moraes:
“The site will have news, a mailing list, a short biography and VERY long one with ALL the venues and shows UZ did, all line ups, discography, never issued interviews with UZ members, etc and other show dates besides NEARFest. Probably the website will be up and running in late December early January, I hope.”
By the Wayside
Recent (ish!!) Wayside music that may (or may not!) appeal to RIO fans:
Bratko Bibic & The Madleys-Na Domacem Vrtu (In The Family Garden) $14.00
In avant-progressive/R.I.O. circles, the Slovenian (formerly Yugoslavian) composer and accordionist Bratko is well known for his membership in two very important bands: Begnagrad and Nimal. Additionally, he is a member of the Accordion Tribe with Lars Hollmer, Guy Klucevsek and others. This is his second album under his own name, but unlike the first, it’s a real group effort, rather than a mostly solo album. More importantly, The Madleys have basically transformed themselves into Begnagrad, as four of the five members of that band are in The Madleys now (Bratko, Bogo Pecnikar-clarinet/baritone sax, Nino de Gleria-bass and Ales Rendla-drums, with only the guitarist missing, and replaced by Matjaz Sekne-violin, viola, piano). The market for folk-influenced R.I.O. is quite small these days, so this is being pitched to the world music crowd, where it fits very nicely, but there are also plenty of parts that will remind you of Begnagrad. Limited availability (have you tried to export goods out of Slovenia recently?).
Gatto Marte-Leolombrico $12.00
Gatto Marte are a Italian “progressive chamber quartet”, who use violin, basson, piano & double bass. Drums and percussion are also featured on a good portion of the album as ‘guests’. This is the band’s fourth album, with all tracks recorded live in the studio, and might very well be their best yet! Tuneful-yet-twisting, and not afraid to throw in a pinch of craziness with their stateliness! Their records are definitely comparable to folks like Julverne, ZNR, Jean-Philippe Goude’s chamber works, etc., so if you are a fan of that style, you will want this. Recommended!
Kayo Dot-Choirs of the Eye $13.00
Kayo Dot used to be known as Maudlin of the Well, who were a avant-garde/classical leaning metal outfit. Wanting to move
beyond that, they changed their name and direction and became Kayo Dot. This lists 10 musicians on guitars, cello, flute/clarinet/alto sax/Hammond organ/Fender Rhodes, French horn, trombone, violin/viola, trumpet, bass and drums. A lot of
this is generally quiet and gothic with explosive riffing to shock your system. This was a very strange listen, but really well done
and something that I need to hear more than just the once as I write this… “…their newest recording, over a year in the making,
takes them into an adventurous new world where heavy rock and classical music meet ritual. Magical and compelling music from
a young band breaking new ground in the rock world.” [Tzadik]
Right up your Street
If you haven’t already picked up the Franck Balestracci – “Existences Invisibles” on Carbon 7 Records then shame on you! It’s “brilliant”! (see Ork Alarm # 26) However it isn’t exactly RIO or rather more to the point, it isn’t like Univers Zero RIO (by the way, If someone could let me know what “RIO” is then that would be nice )
Much more in keeping with the “Classical Chamber Rock” style that UZ embrace and also “Brilliant” (don’t you just love these indepth reviews!?) is Louise Avenue’s “Let’s take one more…”. Featuring two familiar names from the Belgian scene Dirk DESCHEEMAEKER and Jean-Luc PLOUVIER, Louise Avenue brew up a complicated concoction of time signatures that will be very hard for UZ fans to turn down. New layers are revealed with each audition and after a few plays enough familiarity sets in to be able to “follow” the music. As with much of what we choose to listen to, the enjoyment you’ll get out of this CD will be in proportion to the time spent listening to it!?
Another very interesting item from Carbon 7 Records is the third offering from Pierre VERVLOESEM entitled “Grosso Modo” which, regardless of accurately assessing which genre it slots into is a real must for Bass Guitar fans.
I’ve had a while now to get to grips with the latest Patricia Dallio CD “L’encre Des Voix Secrètes” and before I tell you that it is also “Brilliant” you must understand that, for me, the sun always shines brightly from Patricia’s piano stool. This music should appeal to fans of Art Zoyd who have followed and appreciated their recent works. Patricia Dallio has linked her talents to the Sound Track ensemble. A conglomerate of artists offering their trade as a possible compliment to visual works of art. (see Ork alarm 26). Possibly as a consequence of this involvement or perhaps due to coincidence, this CD, like many of Patricia’s and Art Zoyd’s, lends itself neatly to the world of “Film Sound Track” music. This music will not be to everyone’s taste. Many Magma / Zeuhl fans would be forgiven for questioning whether this style is “musically valid” at all. On first analysis this outing seems much closer to the Avant-Garde world than Patricia’s first CD “Procession”. However after further inspection “L’encre Des Voix Secrètes” shows it’s full colours. The minimal use of rhythm and melody is evident and leaves the listener desperate for more musical “crumbs” but you are given seem to take on extra significance.
I’ve always hoped that tracks from the “Procession” CD will one day make a great sound track for the film of my all time favourite Sci-Fi book “The Many Colored land” by Julian May. Likewise I’m sure “L’encre Des Voix Secrètes” would make an ideal backdrop to many a future horror film. Many of the tracks conjure up sinister dark images, one in particular is marvellously disturbing! I’m not sure I’d recommend this CD as an introduction to Patricia Dallio but as long as the listener had an AZ open mind then perhaps it wouldn’t really matter. Dallio can certainly be descibed as an “acquired taste”. But then I suppose you could say the same about any of the musicians featured in Ork Alarm! Recommended, but as usual with this style of music, only repeated plays will offer up a reward.
Friends and Relatives
A Growing Umbrella?
Rhythms and Melodies Revisited
Complimenting the excellent analysis by Chris Cutler of Magma’s recent 2003 London Concert, are updated versions of “Zeuhl Rhythms” (originally in OA #25) and “Zeuhl Harmonies” (originally in OA #22). Both have been slightly revised by the original author and try to give an insight into what makes Zeuhl Music tick.
Kent twinned with Kobaïa
There was much talk recently on the Avant-Progressive list about the similarities and differences between Canterbury and Zeuhl Music. One of the few things that postings agreed upon was the humour often exhibited in Canterbury as opposed to the dark, serious overtones of Zeuhl. Obviously it’s tough to crack a joke in Kobaïan and keep the Bass rhythm steaming, but of course once you start trying to compare bands and genres you are leaving yourself open to critisism. A few things struck me after reading the threads on this subject about my own personal tastes.
I’m sure that for many listeners, one small attraction of Classical music is not just its complexity but also the lack of need for vocal comprehension by the listener. Likewise, the composer also has a freedom to express an idea using instruments alone. Obviously the title of the piece gives some indication to the composer’s intents and aspirations but I doubt that the listener need know this in order to enjoy the music? So let’s take the composer out of the equation and concentrate on the listener! When it comes to Opera, I’ll bet there are a percentage of enthusiasts who haven’t a clue what the words mean, and frankly, they’re not that bothered! For them, it’s the musical content that is all important and therefore the “feeling” that is invoked within them may or may not be at all governed by the lyrics.
When it comes to modern day popular music, the vast majority of customers require lyrics in order to appreciate their music, and for much of the mature adult population those lyrics must not fall under the category “Banal”. However, whilst the occasional set of lyrics can stimulate my mind, I’m not really interested by how much of a poet Bob Dylan or Dolly Parton is. For me, and I assume a large percentage of Ork Alarm! readers will concur, the musical content is just too predictable and boring.
So, Although I really love the Canterbury Band, Caravan, the lyrics “Standing on a golf course, dressed in PVC, I chanced upon a golf girl, selling cups of tea” didn’t exactly rattle my cage anywhere near as much as their music. On the other hand a direct translation of Kobaïan into English of some of Magma’s finest ditties may well not leave the Poet Laureate quaking in his boots. However, there may well be some sort of connection between the Zeuhl and Canterbury genres, and that by either singing in a made up language or by using humourous vocals the artists are channeling the listener far more towards the music itself rather than any litererary message.
Total bollocks I know! Discuss in not more than your own words.
Here’s another thing. I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Hatfield and the North recently (especially the brilliant self titled “Hatfield and the North” LP) and I seem to find more in common with this Canterbury band and Magma than I do with say Magma and Happy Family or Shub Niggurath. I know nothing about the theory of music, my only claim to musical fame is that I am able to appreciate the styles of music covered within this website. I’m not sure what qualification that gives me but it makes me feel good anyway! I know that, Happy Family or Shub are considered more Zeuhl related than say National Health, but I’m not so sure. I’ve recently been communicating with Guy Segers from Carbon 7 records. I asked him to recommend Artists from his label that would flow in a Zeuhl or RIO vein. Here are a few words of wisdom from the ex Univers Zero bassist that perhaps back up my point .
“I’ll have to think about how to approach this, because what I produce has a musical link, but it isn’t really a Zeuhl or RIO catalogue. Nevertheless, this could help to steer people in some other musical directions. For example, Vander playing Magma or John Coltrane. Coltrane couldn’t be seen as a Zeuhl or RIO musician, but no one would argue that he has nothing in common with us. On the other hand, we feel complete strangers to some bands or artists often related to us. It’s a bit like two people talking in a different language, but about the same thing, while two other people are talking the same language, same accent even, but having two completely different topics of conversation. Stravinsky and Captain Beefheart are having the same conversation, wheras Peter Hammill and Phil Collins are not!”
I can’t explain why Hatfield and the North seem to invoke similar feelings for me to parts of Magma’s music. The same era perhaps? the same era of instruments?? I wonder if they listened to each other’s music? There are many moments where the structure of the compositions conjure up Zeuhl feelings. Look! It’s probably just me! I’m not a musician or an experienced critic and I’m sure we all get different experiences and emotions from our brush with Zeuhl, RIO and Canterbury, so I suppose the only certain thing you can say is that their music is very different from the normal crud the public is force fed and we should be thankful that they have the talent to be able to create original masterpieces. You could argue that In some ways Zeuhl and RIO fall loosely under the Modern Classical umbrella. Often we find references to Russian composers like Bartok, Stravinsky and Orff as having influenced our heros. So, I wonder how Köhntarkösz , Ceux du Dehors and Nosferatu will be viewed 200 years from now?
Canterbury expert Aymeric Leroy is a name that will be familiar to many of you. If for whatever reason you have never encountered the Canterbury scene then check out this Calyx as a great reference point. Should your earlobes have been tempted by my rambling, then perhaps you would be interested in Aymeric’s recommendations to me on an immediate must have Canterbury Top Ten.
“As for a “Top Ten” of Canterbury music… Of course, if you like Hatfield’s first album, you’ve got to get the second (& generally considered best) “The Rotters’ Club”. Then the complete works of National Health (as a double CD, or, individually, “s/t” and “Of Queues And Cures”, the latter having a very similar line-up to Hatfield). I’d also recommend Soft Machine’s “Volume Two”, “Third” and “4″. Soft Head’s “Rogue Element”. Caravan’s “In The Land Of Grey And Pink”. Gilgamesh’s “Another Fine Tune”. Hugh Hopper’s “Hopper Tunity Box”. Matching Mole’s “s/t”. Richard Sinclair’s “RSVP”…”
Also thanks to Aymeric for his review of a recent concert by Magma.
“I had the pleasure of seeing Magma twice last week – once in Nancy where they were joined by Klaus Blasquiz, Bernard Paganotti and Didier Lockwood for a very special show. Last Saturday I saw them in the suburbs of Paris – somehow it was a kind of substandard show, although we had the pleasant surprise of hearing them play “Kobaïa “, which they hadn’t done for some time I think.”
I’m just back from Nancy where I attended the Christian Vander night at the Nancy Jazz Pulsations festival.
I had a great time!!
The bonus for this evening was the presence of ex-Magma alumni Klaus Blasquiz, Bernard Paganotti and Didier Lockwood.
There were opening sets by Jaga Jazzist (a very good electro-jazz big band), Pacific Trio (with the pianist and drummer from Offering). Then Offering took the stage playing two long numbers, including a very intense “Another Day”. Compared to the Triton shows in May Pierre Marcault played percussion instead of Francois Causse.
Now, to the Magma show… It consisted of three pieces – “Ka”, “De Futura” and “Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh “.
“Ka” : played as usual with an extended “Moog” solo in the “Gamma Anteria” section, at which point Blasquiz appeared for the first time, on the side of the stage, rattling a tambourine, and then disappearing again. Then when the vocals resumed he surprisingly came back and took center stage. He was lead vocalist from that point on, showing he’d obviously re-acquainted himself with this rather complicated piece.
“De Futura” : this was announced by a little synthesizer drone… Bernard Paganotti shared bass duties with Philippe Bussonnet. He has lost none of his chops and edge. The bit where the bass lines get faster and faster was really awesome, both bass players looking at each other’s fretboards in obvious mutual admiration and respect! Blasquiz was also lead vocalist on this, although Antoine Paganotti also did a fair big of singing, mostly unison though. Great to hear this piece played live for the first time since the first Magma reformation gigs ca. 1996-97. I don’t know if Paganotti ever performed “De Futura” on a regular basis at the time? I shouldn’t think so…
“Mekanïk …” : Lockwood joined the band for this, but until his solo spot he played mostly inaudible lines on a transparent red electric violin. When the time came to play his solo, he went backstage and came back with an acoustic violin, which sounded really great. Blasquiz was alone, center stage, most of the time, with the other singers (Julie Vander and Claude Lamamy were added for this piece) standing on platforms on the right side of the stage. The 4-man horn section from the Trianon 2000 shows was present again – a total of 18 musicians on stage!! Obviously, a high point was the bass solo section. Bussonnet took a solo first, then Paganotti took one – amazing, really wild… the rest of the band looked on from the side of the stage in obvious amazement… Then the familiar bass riff was launched, and Vander, Borghi and Lockwood joined in. Lockwood’s solo was great, ending in total madness. I’m sure Lockwood hasn’t reached this level of excitement and intensity in his playing for years – must have made him feel nostalgic!!
Sadly, by the time MDK ended it was close to 2.30am, so our calls for an encore went unanswered. With over four hours of great music, no-one could really complain though.
News from the Muse
Musea Records have been in existence for at least 250 years now an in that time they have issued and reissued many Zeuhl related discs. It’s a huge Web Site with a vast catalogue and if a newcomer to the Zeuhl scene tried to wade through it with a view to finding recommendations, it would be a rewarding but time comsuming operation. So never fear good Ork Alarm! disciple, Alain Robert from Musea Records has come to the rescue. Here is his “Potted Zeuhl Guide” to the Musea catalogue:
GW 3101 François “FATON” CAHEN Great Winds CD
GW 3102 François “FATON” CAHEN”La Fièvre Monte CD
GW 3107 ETHNIC DUO SAME CD
FGBG 4005 ENNEADE SAME (Musea Compilation) CD
FGBG 4039 ZAO Kawana CD
FGBG 4043 Daniel DENIS Sirius And The Ghosts CD
FGBG 4058 WEIDORJE SAME CD
FGBG 4067 ZAO Shekina CD
FGBG 4081 ZAO Z=7L CD
FGBG 4086 UNIVERIA ZEKT The Unnamables CD
FGBG 4087 PUISSANCE 13+2 SAME (Musea Live) CD
FGBG 4088 ZABU My Coffin’s Ready CD
FGBG 4092 Daniel DENIS Les Eaux Troubles CD
FGBG 4125 ZAO Akhenathon CD
FGBG 4130 ZAO Osiris CD
FGBG 4145 Yochk’o SEFFER NEFFESH MUSIC Ghilgoul CD 1978
FGBG 4146 ZAO Typareth CD 1977
FGBG 4184 Yochk’o SEFFER Chromophonie I/Chromophonie II CD
FGBG 4197 VOLKOR SAME CD
FGBG 4238 Benoît WIDEMANN Stress ! CD
FGBG 4271 Benoît WIDEMANN Tsunami CD
FGBG 4149 XAAL Seconde Ere CD
FGBG 4155 Jean-Paul PRAT Masal CD
FGBG 4261 RAHMANN SAME CD
FGBG 4299 RUNAWAY TOTEM Andromeda CD
FGBG 4316 GESTALT Gomorrha Vs. Khan CD
FGBG 4409 MUSIQUE NOISE Fulmines Integralis CD
GA 8622 PRESENT C.O.D. Performance CD
CD’s at your Service
Likewise, Andy Garibaldi from the UK based CD Services [long departed] has been very kind in allowing Ork Alarm! to publish his reviews of all Ork Alarm! related stock items for your perusal. It’s a long list of titles but well worth a butchers. I doubt if any but the most committed fan of this genre have heard of all of these titles. Andy is a massive Magma fan and used to write the occasional article for the original Ork Alarm! His knowledge of the genre cannot be far short of bordering on second to none. Which is another way of saying that I haven’t a clue how knowledgeable he is relative to other knowledgeable people, but that he is more knowledgeable than I am.
Magma are unique! They have spawned quite a few offshoots and there are many groups out there now who have been heavily influenced by them and have taken theconcept of “Zeuhl” music into a wholly new dimension. This catalogue celebrates all of that with a set of music, most of which should appeal to a Magma audience.
ABSOLUTE ZERO: Crashing Icons CD £12.99
With just four long tracks in sixty-three minutes, this would be the perfect album for the Musea label to stand alongside classics such as Xaal, Triple Zero or the home of Ohm and similar, for here is a band that will surely blow you clean away. Fundamentally a core trio of keyboards/vocals/perc, drums/perc and bass/perc, with a couple of guests on tracks 2 and four, this whole thing has the feel of seventies Magma to a tee, only most of it is instrumental and, bizarrely, some of it is even more far-out. Musically they all bask in the glories that the music affords, with each member coming out proud, although rarely any ‘solo’ space. The electric bass work throughout is nothing short of phenomenal while the masse ranks of percussives provide one hell of a strong backing. The keyboards perform almost a subsidiary role at times acting more like textural and melodic back-up than being out front, but this is one band that knows exactly where its at and how they’re going to get there. There’s a shared musical ground with the likes of modern bands such as Nebelnest, while yet other sections remind you of Hugh Hopper’s more contemporary works, and THAT bass just scorches over the ruins of a mighty musical empire. With its complexities, layers, arrangements, developments and more, this is – and meant in a good way – an album that feels like you’ve listened to it all by half way through track two, in that they seem to fit more ideas into a couple of tracks than most similar bands strive to see on several albums. It’s thought provoking, absorbing, excellently constructed and sounds just fine. A winner.
ADD N TO X: Little Black Holes In The Sun CD Single £4.49
Just a single 11 minute track which I first came across when it was about one third the way through the weird and wild promo video on MTV and all I could do was stand there aghast, wondering what the hell this wild electronic music was that would be played on MTV. In the light of day on CD, this is one amazing single with rolling, tough drum and percussive rhythms over which a huge array of synthesizers throb, buzz, dive, roll, whine and squeal as the rhythms power forward and the whole thing adds up to some sort of modern day thunder not witnessed since the heady experimantal electronic days of the early ’70′s, and just one sensational single with a final 3 minute blast of Magma-like bass, Can-like drums and almost mind-numbing, phased, elctronic textures that are so thunderous they’ll wake the dead. Can’t wait to check out the album.
AD VITAM: Ad Vitam CD £13.99
Magma fans listen up – this one’s for you. Like Eskaton without the bass, Magma without the fire, this is an album of female vocals and piano, acoustic bass plus occasional drums and guitar, that could actually be some lost Offering album but without the self-indulgences that some of the Offering material could be prone to having. The vocals in particular are just amazing, the mood of the album totally atmospheric, the compositions emotive and full of feeling, and anyone into really great, atmospheric Magma will lap up this album like there’s no tomorrow. This is an album that should have apermanant place in your collection alongside the Magma/Eskaton albums, and is one that I, as a fan of both bands, have taken to heart and will be playing a great deal in the coming year – 100% gem status and no mistake.
AIN-SOPH: Kshatriya CD £13.99
For the first 7 minutes of ‘Kshatriya’ it’s just ethereal female vocal and electric piano/synth creating a relaxed, heavenly but faintly disturbing mood, then, at 7 mins 29 secs, in comes a scorching, screeching wall of electronic noise that erupts briefly, dies away leaving the voice, synth and a simple drum rhythm, before this pattern is repeated during the track. Track three is basically metronomic machinelike percussion beats and chant-style male vocal plus a hint of background electronics. Track four is a short burst of electronics that swirl and burn in a furnace of sound. The long track five is a choral female vocal over gentle synth, chiming electronics/keyboards, very simplistic, very heavenly. This gradually gives way to a more disturbing scenario where distant, almost Magma-style, chanting and soaring female chorus flow over a dense, shifting, undulating multi-layered sound pattern of electronics and gentle keyboard rhythm, which eventually dies away and so ends a most extraordinary CD.
R.ANGUS: Ethnoloopography CD£14.99
Imagine part of Urban Sax combining with Art Zoyd accompanied by a set of tribal drummers playing Zeuhl (Magma) music and you’re close to this outstanding 69 minutes of incredible music that is basically one track split into 37 sections but without any breaks for maximum enjoyment of its musical twists and turns as it flows headlong into oblivion. Superb!!
ARCHAIA: S/T CD£13.99
Revealing their allegiances right from the start (the album is on the ‘Soliel Zeuhl’ label), this is a Magma-influenced album, AND it hails from 1977. Anyone knowing Magma from the mid-’70′s will get on with this album. However, that said, and typical of the inventive French, they still magae to make the music sound fresh and different rather than just a clone job. In this case the main events are a throbbing, pounding electric bass that somehow sounds almost electronic in parts, while the guitar takes the lion’s share of the leads but with a sort of fuzz style sound that makes it growl and howl rather than your normal biting guitar attack. Allied to some swirling, almost Heldon-like synth leads and backdrops, the music is quite organic. But the main thing is the drums – or lack of them, actually. Yes, it’s a virtually drumerless album and THAT makes it special. The production and playing are excellent, the vocals, in the Kobaïa n style both lyrically and in terms of sound, construction, harmonies and arrangement, are what you’d expect, and indeed deserve. Overall, this album improves with play – get over the initial surprise first, then give it a couple more plays and you’ll find an extraordinary album unfolding, one that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.
ART ZOYD: Berlin/Mariage Du Ciel…../Nosferatu CD £12.49ach
ART ZOYD: Espaces Inquiets-Phase 4/Musique Pour L’odyssee Dbl CD £19.99each
ART ZOYD: FaustCD£13.49
ART ZOYD: Marathonnerre Vol 1/ Marathonerre Vol 2 CD £13.49 each
Filled with the spirit of musical pioneering and exploratory adventure in a vein started by Magma, this lot took Zeuhl, fusion, jazz, classical and avant-garde, added their own unique stylings and compositional qualities to produce a set of albums that are positively jaw-dropping interms of the sheer scope, power and dynamics in evidence as the drums, bass, string instrumentnts, keyboards and beyond make their presnce felt on such a wide musical canvas, it’ll take several listens just to get your head together.
ART ZOYD: Marathonerre Vol 1 CD £13.49 Marathonerre Vol 2 CD £13.49 Nosferatu CD£13.49
With any Art Zoyd titles being harder and harder to find these days, the opportunity to get these back in for stock was leapt at. The “Marathonerre” CD’s are the first and second parts of music from the stage production. The first volume was one of the most ethereal and multi-layered, multi-textured CD’s they ever did, up to “Haxan”, with little use of drums and rhythms but plenty of soundscapes from the variety of string, keyboard and percussive instruments being played. With short and long tracks, and a strong thematic flow to the album, this remains a fine statement from the band and nearly all instrumental. The second CD is also instrumental, but a little heavier and more forceful in places with greater emphasis on the drums on these tracks, but still totally engaging. “Nosferatu” consists of two main suites sub-divided into sections and is pretty similar in terms of its dark moods and atmospherics to the other two albums. Sometimes it strays into the more avant-contemporary Zoyd instrumental trademarks as whirlpools of percussives, keys, string and wind instruments create an almost Ligeti style surge of sound. Overall, totally unique music that couldn’t have come from any other band.
ART ZOYD-J.A.DEANE-JEFF GREINKE: S/T CD £12.99
Shared CD and all tracks exclusive to this release with 3 artists in similar musical vein and mood at the cuttting edge of Magma-Industrial-Ambient influenced instrumental music.
ART ZOYD: Haxan CD £12.99
Prepare for a shock – yep, Art Zoyd have come over all electronic. At least the opening track seems to indicate that, when a 30-minute epic is unleashed. Consisting predominantly of huge layers, sheets, rhythms (in parts) and soundscapes fromthe synths and electronics, aided at various intervals by drums/perc, plus what sounds like a bass violin undercurrent. It varies from quite threatening but overtly spacey passages of just synth/perc soundsscapes which are positively haunting but totally engaging, to passages that sound like sheet metal textures or racing synth rhythms. But the overall feel is of silent intensity, engulfing elecrtronic mists flowing around the central part of the track. Ultimately, the track cannot contain itself and erupts into storm force pasages of drums/perc/electronics/violin and more for 5 incendiary minutes before falling back to a droning soundscape of violins and synths, underalid by bird songs and far distant drums, ending one of their best ever works to date, composed by G. Hourbette. The other 6 tracks on this 72 minute CD vary from 2 to 18 minutes in length and are all T. Zaboitzeff compositions. Again, built around a massive range of sound patterns and rhythms, this time with a more varied and richer instrumentation from the quartet, incl samples, the Zoyd machine springs to life on track 2 with 7 mins of copmplete accessibility as sax, drums, rumbling bass, perc blast, samples, synths and more, all combine to glorious effect on a track with so much going on. The gigantic 17+ min track 6 is even more varied, constantly changing course and shape, more like the Zoyd of old, but still a totally organic, emotional, thoroughly addictive set of music, destined for many years of frsh and repeated plays.
ART ZOYD: Ubique CD£12.99
Fully orchestrated epic work from the jazz-Zeuhl band, complete now with ex-Gong percussionist Mireille Bauer, and full of the trademark dark eerie passages, plenty of full-sounding strong fusion and work from a line-up of guitars, drums, perc, four keyboard players, electronics and orchestra, all incredibly grand, strong, symphonic, dark, complex, accessible and quite breathtaking.
BEL CANTO: Magic BoxCD £13.99
On their most organic work to date, this Norwegian duo blends a variety of Asian and Indian sounds together with ’90′s rhythms and tasty percussion work. Featured guests on the album are Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and electric bassist Jah Wobble.
BLAST:Stringy Rugs CD £12.99
A jazz-fusion album choc full of complex arrangements featuring a lead array of saxophones, various wind/brass instruments, electric guitar backed by solid bass and drums. The compositions are highly charged and complex, hearkening back to early Euro-fusion pioneers such as Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, etc. If you like the ’70′s teutonic, Henry Cow, Zappa, Windo end of things, this is most definitely for you.
BLINK TWICE: Other Locations CD £12.99
8 tracks in 72 minutes from one of the new names in a field that mixes Euro chamber-rock, synth music and post-rock, all wrapped up in a gothic genre. Track one is all heavy chords from drums, keyboards and electronics which slowly lead into a river of string-like synths. These then take up a lone position in the mix before the , now higher register, piano notes re-enter. Over all of this, a delicate piano refrain joins the synth flow and thundering undercurrent to crate a classic slice of dark music that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Art Zoyd album.At just over 10 mins it changes completely to a foreground of gentle organ followed by hammering drums with crashing piano chords right at the bottom end of the mix, surrounded by layers of richly textured synths. The drums and electronics take centre stage to breathtaking effect as the construction is built up all around a pattern which continues to over 14 minutes, whereupon it fades. Track 2 has a similar structure as it opens with an extension of the previous passages, adds more electronic bass sounds, various clattering electronic drum rhythms, and slowly builds layer upon layer of electronic, synth and percussive effects to create a mind-bending set of soundscapes with a vaguely middle eastern feel, fading to end on 3 minutes of pure space music. Track 3 is introduced by brief electronic grinding sounds ushering in a very symphonic lead line over a synth drone backup, all very dark and gothic, a feel that pervades a lot of the music on this album. Throughout the CD there are many and varied combinations and sonic constructions with rumbling electronics, cosmic synths, solid drums, space effects, electronic drums, keyboard textures and more, to crate tracks that are effectively dark, mesmerising and quite hypnotic, yet compulsive listening. with drum rhythms like the early works of O Yuki Conjugate, with the album as a whole coming over as a cross between OYC and Art Zoyd, only without the avant-garde elements, but full of electronic and percussive soundscapes, excellently produced and mixed, the flowing, ethereal and ‘out there’ passages balancing the more intense gothic and percussive ones.
BONDAGE FRUIT: Selected CD £13.99
A compilation from three, now well deleted albums. The first four tracks take the first 25 or so minutes and feature a mix of steaming early ’70′s style Krautrock rhythms allied to a mix of ’70′s and ’90′s King Crimson-esque guitar and bass intensity, over which bursts of heavenly lyric-free female vocals are heard to soar, in a bit like late ’70′s Magma. With some surging lead guitar solos and riffs amid rapid-fire drum work plus the superb vocal and solid bass foundations, these are all superb tracks. Finally you get to track five, at 25 minutes, the longest cut on the album, featuring the, by now, trademark accelerated, almost stumbling-to-get-over-each-other, drum rhythms alongside low-down, electric bass pounding, a mix of storming electric guitars and high-flying electric violin leads and duels, blazing a trail into territories worthy of the finest early ’70′s Mahavishnu Orchestra, only steadier, heavier and a whole lot less jazzy or frenetic, with a more (Kraut) rock sensibility – wild, exciting, consistent and totally psychedelic – a sensational end to a superb album.
BONDAGE FRUIT: IV CD£12.99
Jeez – what a racket. As you know, if yuo’ve been paying attention, I loved the previous album which consisted of the best moments from their first three, and remains a head-bending mix of psych, prog, contemporary Euro-influenced stuff and more, all in a highly charged brew of extreme potency.
Now, for this brand new album, they’ve added an extra ingredient or two – and it make for a much more challenging experience, I can tell you. I’m not actually sure if, on the evidence of the opening track, all the musicians were in the studio at the same time, as they all appear to be playing a different version of the track – yes, it’s THAT sort of album. The guitars go off soaring away at one tangent while the drummer flails around like an octupus on heat with the bass department rumbling away underneath quite contented, as the extra guitars fly off in the ohter direction. It’s intense, not exactly easy on the ear and a fair old set of instrumentals, guaranteed to explode the brains of anyone but the most adventurous listeners. When they all manage to come together and head oin the same direction, it reaches the giddy heights of the previous album, and the subdued bits are really neat, but, as I said, this is challenging stuff that breaks all the rules, and largely makes it work. Approach with caution.
FRANCOIS FATON CAHEN: Great Winds CD £12.99
Former Magma keyboards man with jazz-flavoured instrumental album full of melody and plenty of spiralling instrumental dexterity form the musicians who include legendary jazz veterans Miroslav Vitous on bass and Jack Dejohnette on drums, plus percussionist Michel Seguin and anyone into the whole French fusion scene will have a liking for this, for sure, and even Weather Report fans would do well to investigate it.
CARON/ECAY/LOCKWOOD: S/T CD13.99
CATHERINE/ESCOUDE/LOCKWOOD: Trio CD £13.99
More jazz than rock type of albums featuring ex-Magma violinist in a variety of settings, largely acoustic.
JEAN-LUC CHEVALIER: Hommage A Jaco CD £13.99
Rarely on these catalogues do we salute the bassists in this world, a matter I hope to rectify down the line. For now, here’s someone else saluting one of the all-time greats of the bass guitar, Jaco Pastorius. On this CD ex-Magma bassist and guitarist Chevalier, together with drummer, fender pianist and trumpeter, play 2 tracks of 26 and 31 mins in length that are steaming examples of real jazz-fusion with the emphasis on jazz. The bass work is exemplary throughout, as you’d expect, and the tracks have depth and excitement as well as technical expertise. I actually found myself enjoying it but you really only get the maximum effect as long as you like trumpet as the main lead, although everyone has their moments on what is a splendid piece of music, definitely one for Miles Davis and some Magma fans, not forgetting Pastorius people as well.
JEAN-LUC CHEVALIER: Km 5 A Bangui CD£13.99
Ex-Magma guitarist with inst album of bluesy and acoustic jazz styles complete with horn/guitar leads.
CRO MAGNON: Bull CD£13.99
For all you Art Zoyd/Univers Zero fans, more the latter, fed up waiting for new music, here is a splendid new CD from a band in very similar instrumental territories, playing music founded on violins, bass guitar, saxophones and guitar/kybds/sampler, with added inst textures from the occasional use of cello, trumpet horn and perc on certain tracks. If you’re into music in that area, you will certainly not be disappointed by this.
PATRICIA DALLIO:Champs De Mars/Procession CD £12.99each
PATRICIA DALLIO:La Ronce N’est Pas Le Pire CD £13.99
PATRICIA DALLIO:D’ou Vient L’eau Des Puits CD £12.99
Solo CD’s from Art Zoyd keyboard/synth musician. ‘Ronce’ has elements of Art Zoyd but far more wide- ranging in scope and sound with a sonic nucleus of keyboard and synth work sometimes strange and dark, sometimes spacey and vast over and around which layers of exquisite music from areas as diverse as world and folk music to more contemporary offerings. ‘Champs’ possesses more of a classical feel and has more of a flow to the keyboard-dominated compositions, still with the adventurous excursions from the Zoyd days but less intense yet still with an edge. ‘D’ou’ is more of a concept album, if anything a tad more odd than before covering a wide range of musical styles.
DANIEL DENIS: Les Eaux Troubles/ Sirius And The Ghost Each CD £12.99
Ex-Univers zero drummer’s solo CD’s and ‘Sirius’ was the first with tracks ranging from complex to percussively with much of the lead work from sax and clarinet with background musical textures and layers provided by kybds and cello recalling the dark and ethereal Gothic fusion of U.Zero/A.Zoyd.
SOPHIA DOMANCICH TRIO:L’annee Des Treize Lunes CD £13.99
If you only ever buy one album of piano/bass/drums, this is the one. It’s jazz, it’s relaxed, it’s spellbinding music, great to enjoy, great as background listening, simply just great music. No self-indulgences or avant-garde bits, this is a trio working together in perfect unison, kept tight but allowed to flow.
DUN: Eros CD £
From the late ’70′s comes a long-forgotten album of instrumental French fusion. Using th estandard line-up, which in French terms at the time, meant steaming guitar work, lightning guitar work, wild synths and ultra-strength pounding electric bass, this has got an added ingredient in the form of flute work that blends in perfectly with the band in general, all set to produce new and original compositions, from relaxed to frenetic, but always riveting, with slight traces of Magma, Turning Point, Ozrics and beyond. Overall, it’s real gem of an album for fusion fans who are yet to come to terms with anything after about ’81, right now.
ENSEMBLE NIMBUS: Key FiguresCD£15.99
Canterbury-esque fusion with hints of Magma, Art Zoyd and Univers Zero with a menacing musical atmosphere, some soaring electric guitar work and driving rhythms from electric percussion.
ESKATON:4 Visions CD£15.99
Absolutely essential listening for all Magma fans, this is one brilliant album. Essentially Eskaton took the idea of Magma and played around with it, emerging with a sound that featured some well solid and thunderous electric bass work along with arrangements that were straight out of the Magma school of music. But they actually improved on it, in a sense, by having the lead vocals sung by two brilliant female vocalists and thus, in one stroke, making the whole Magma sound instantly more accessible and adding a sense of light to the power and dynamics that were emanating from the musical backing. The vocals went the whole range from powerful operatic to tender, but always with a beautiful quality throughout the 5 lengthy tracks. Instrumentally, all the Magma trademarks are present, with that awesome bass, excellent drumming, that trademark use of electric piano chords that hang suspended or drive a piece on, plus some scorching electric guitar work and, differently, a steaming set of synth leads to enhance the sounds still further. This remains not only THE definitive statement from the band, but a truly sensational set of music in anyone’s books and one that has stood the test of time as much if not more than most of the Magma output.
ETHER: Music For Air Raids CD£12.99
Or even ‘Music For/From/By the Factory Floor’ because this is one helluva racket, full of massive lurching gantries of electronic sound patterns shifting uneasily across the expanse of some giant other-worldly warehouse where the machines are in full flow and the rumble is deafening. While electronics take the lion’s sharef the layers, there’s one amazing electric bass guitarist in the soup trying desperately to get out, making himself heard above the cauldron of sound. Yet it’s not all like this as the machines do get to take a breather and calm returns to the area as lush electronic fog and steaming, hissing textures rise up only for the machines suddenly to strike back as electronics, drums, percussion, bass and what sounds occasionally like some seriously caustic guitar bursts, scorch into life and create a wild and wicked fusion of Art Zoyd, Magma and King Cimson playing together in Dante’s ‘Inferno’, but without a sax, piano or voice in sight, just an explosive brew of the aforementioned instruments – seriously challenging, oddly normal and totally addictive – once into this, theres no way you’re coming out until it ends, matey, and by then you’re probably deaf as a post, out of breath and jaw a lot nearer the floor than it was when you started – be amazed…..be very amazed.
MICHEL ETTORI:Higher LifeCD£13.99
10 instrumental tracks from ex-Weidorje guitarist Ettori, ex-Heldon bassist Didier Batard and ex-Widorje
and Heldon synths/kybds musician Patrick Gauthier. Together they make an exotic music that includes rhythms from the solid bass work and a range of musical settings revolving primarily around Ettori’s acoustic guitar work with a contemplative and ethereal quality but a supreme sense of dynamics and melody.
THE GOLDEN AGE: CD-ROM £18.99
A Multimedia CD featuring 40 minutes of music, 25 minutes of audio/video music from the Euro-rock archives, enhanced with CD-ROM technology – a complete Audio/Visual experience.
Described as ‘A History of Music from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Eastern Europe, Japan, South America and points beyond’, this item, three years in the making, is one of the most indispensable multi-media releases in the Euro-rock/synth and beyond fields of music. For anyone not around in the ’70′s/’80′s, Eurock was the name of the first ever magazine, started by one of Euro/Kraut-rock’s leading visionaries, Archie Patterson, devoted exclusively to serious listening cult music away from the mainstream and which was to go on to take the world by storm and influence countless hundreds of bands down the years. This CD-ROM contains the entire contents of all 47 issues of the magazine. But there’s more….so much more.
The Music: Since 1980, Japanese master musician Hiro Kawahara has been exploring the realms of electronic and progressive music (not prog-rock) releasing albums as leader of the groups Osiris, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, and more recently, Heretic. His new album, featured exclusively on ‘The Golden Age’, contains 40 minutes of music recorded between 1980 and 1999. A dense Zen electronic tone poem, it echoes the work of such luminaries as Kitaro, Steve Roach & Robert Fripp, yet has a distinct quality that puts it in a category all its own.
The Video: ‘The Golden Age’ features 25 minutes of 16-bit, digitized audio/video by Amon Duul 2, Popol Vuh & Urban Sax, again all exclusive to this multi-media extravaganza.
The Magazine: ‘The Golden Age’ contains 1100 articles, 300 rare photos, 1200 reviews, 350 discographies, a complete index. In addition, there is a brand new issue of Eurock magazine. It contains recent articles and interviews featuring some of Europe’s original journalists and musicians who created the scene, including Manuel Gottsching, Klaus Schulze, Christian Vander, David Elliott, Mani Neumeier, K D Muller, Andy Garibaldi and loads more.
An absolutely amazing item, just as, if not even more, indispensable than the Freemans’ ‘Cosmic Egg’ book, this is something special that mere words cannot begin to describe and the most enjoyable and unique CD-ROM you’ll come across.
5UU’s:Point Of Views CD £14.49
Typically R.I.O. oriented Henry Cow style inticacies as the quirky fusion movemnt reappears.
PETER FROHMADER: Cultes Des Goules CD £12.99
Subtitled ‘Ballet Of Death’ , this is an epic work from Frohmader on synths, fretless bass, 8-string bass, 12-string guitar, percussion, choirs, electronics and sounds, aided by guests on alto sax, flute, violin and female vocal. It’s a vast, multi-layered album recorded in 1981 with such an astonishing variety of soundscapes, complexities and huge-sounding themes, it’s the sort of thing you’ll need to hear three or four times just to take it all in. There are elements, strong ones at that, of classic seventies instrumental Magma, with bass work to die for, while elsewhere the combinations of synths, bass and percussion are solid throughout, and range from stark to full-on power, but the production is so clean, crisp and clear, you hear every single facet of the music. With just two long flowing, generally dark, tracks, almost as one, this is an astonishing display of compositional and playing skills from one of the most unsung greats of twenty plus years of Krautrock music.
PETER FROHMADER: Kanaan Live 1975 CD £13.99
For anyone that still pines for the good old Krautrock days of the seventies with long extended tracks from trios of keyboards/fender rhodes, bass and drums with plenty of solid work from the musicians and a feel you just don’t get from modern musicians, then look no further than this treasure trove of delights from the Frohmader archives. Led by the immense electric bass work of the main man, this live album lasts seventy six minutes across six main long tracks and a couple of bonus short ones, with plenty of great soloing and ensemble playing.
FUSION: Paris ’80 CD £12.99
Ages back, Magma drummer Christian Vander, formed a jazz-rock group to act outside of Magma, and called it the Alien Quartet. It had a kind of floating line-up but played loads of concerts. But the first recorded evidence came when the band had stabilised into the four Magma musicians Vander (drums), Top (bass), Lockwood (violin) and Widemann (keys/synth), with the studio album that came out under the group name Fusion. Featuring a splendid twenty minute track, ‘GHK Go To Miles’, it remains one of the finest jazz-rock albums of all time. Now, for the first time, an excellent quality live album from that band has been released and it is every bit as riveting. In addition to an amazing 28 minute version of the ‘GHK’ track (note: it says 12 mins on the sleeve but it is 28 mins!!!), there are two further tracks from the album as well as two previously unreleased cover versions of tracks by Jan Hammer & Alan Holdsworth. The playing throughout from the ensemble is nothing short of mind-blowing and, as an all-instrumental fusion music CD, it ranks as one of the best around.
PATRICK GAUTHIER: Bebegodzilla/Sur Les Flots Verticaux CD £13.99 each
One of France’s premier synth/keyboard musicians with 2 supremely inventive solo albums where one is influenced by the fusion elements of Magma and infused with elements of Heldon while the second enters the whole spirit of Magma and turns it into a joyous celebration and a unique musical trip. First, ‘Bebegodzilla’ features a fine selection of fusion tunes with the accent onaccessibility and lots of layers featuring a whole host of guest musicians including Richard Pinhas, Paganotti, C.Vander, ex-Heldonites Auger, Batard, Bellaiche, plus Ettori, Widemann, and more. It is a great selection of compositions with some fine ensemble playing, plus respectable and dynamic playing from the guest artists with Gauthier’s exquisite keyboard work seeing it all along. ‘Flots’ however features a more stable nucleus of musicians including Stella and Julie Vander plus B.Ragu on vocals, Antoine Paganotti on drums and various bassists. In the tradition of Offering it features a fine section of choral, predominantly female vocals floating to the heavens, sometimes real words, sometimes wordless, under which an inventive and intricately poweful rhythm section propels the tracks along with Gauthier as the lead soloist, predominantly on piano. What separates this from Offering, however, is that there is a tightness and purpose towards expressing the music in a shorter space and not overdoing things making for a cohesive and totally enjoyable set of compositions that really work as elements of Zeuhl, jazz, prog and fusion unite for a varied selection of enjoyable compositions which improve with each hearing and is one CD to which you will return.
PATRICK GAUTHIER:Le MorseCD£13.99
Brand new CD and featuring Stella Vander in the line-up. Musically we hear 7 tracks and over 42 minutes of consistent excellence with all the familiar passing references from Magma and previous Gauthier work but all within new settings as a tight and dynamic set of tracks unfold, varied and consistent with some great vocal and instrumental work from keyboards, drums, perc, sax and more.
SIMON GOUBERT:Couleurs De Peaux/Haiti/L’encierro CD £13.99 each
Jazz-rock based CD’s featuring Christian Vander, Michael Grailler, Emmanuel Borghi and others from the Magma/Offering camp. The first 2 releases are OK but the latest ‘L’encierro’ is absolutely exquisite and one of the best ever jazz albums to come out of Seventh. The playing is superb, the compositions excellent, the dynamics perfect snd the production first rate. From the up tempo tracks to the ballads, this is as neara perfect jazz album as you’ll get this side of melodic Coltrane. Throughout the piano and sax work is wicked, the rhythm section holding it together and driving it all supremely well. It’s nothing ground-breaking or innovative, just a wonderful set of music. A gem.
GROUND ZERO:Consume Red CD£12.99
First part of a 3-part concept entitled ‘Project Consume’. Just under an hour long, it is ‘a work that is spiritually uplifting and terrifying as a single squalling blast from an ancient sounding horn is overlaid with a steadily building sound collage of sampled noise static, guitar overload, instrumental anarchy and a drum duo who hammer home a beat that is subtly constructed yet relentless in its attack’.
GROUND ZERO:Plays Standards CD£16.99
Their finest album to date with a smoking collection of fusion-based instrumentals with steaming sax, thunderous electric bass, crashing drums and hot guitar work through the odd disparate collection of avant-garde tinkling, some fiery ensemble work where the sax threatens to explode as the rhythm section pounds away all around the central lead. The variation throughout is immense, the playing dynamite, the moods varied and the music absolutely fantastic if you like it on the truly wild and loose side. The extra use of loads of samples give it extra depth and character whether bizarre, fiery, scorching guitars, thunderous bass or squealing sax – this is an album that will blow your brains out.
HAPPY FAMILY:S/T CD£13.99
Not quite so close but as with the Cul De Sac review earlier on (just check it out to see where I’m coming from) this is an instrumental CD put out by a Japanese quartet of electric bass, electric guitar synths/kybds and drums. Believe me when I tell you that this too is an instrumental CD that, if I played it to you and told you that it was a new album by an ex-Magma bassist, you would have absolutely no reason to disbelieve me and would be howling with delight and doing even more leaping around the room on hearing the churning electric guitars, the thunderous electric basses, the crashing drum work and the soaring keyboard work. From start to finish this is an absolutely amazing instrumental album with some of the finest bass, drums and guitar work you’ll hear in years and whether you’re a fan of Magma, powerful King Crimson or any point in between, this is an utterly essential album for your collection and will be one that you play over and over and over again. This is stunning; the bass player even plays in a Japanese Magma covers band callled ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh ‘ while the guitarist plays part time in death metal bands and loves classical music!!! This embodies all that makes Magma and Weidorje and the like so classic in one totally instrumental CD.
HAPPY FAMILY:Toscco CD£13.49
Ultra-heavy instrumental jazz-rock, the likes of which you rarely hear these days, and a brilliant new
album from this Japanese quartet of electric guitars, electric bass, keyboards and drums. With 54 mins and 9 tracks, it features some of the most explosive yet melodic/cohesive fusion music around with some thunderous electric bass work in fine Magma traditions, scorching electric guitar leads with keyboards filling out the sound and drums steamrollering through on waves of solid rhythmic foundations. From the odd relaxed spot to positively skull-crushing, this is a solid album and highly recommended to all fusion fans who like it powerful and not overpowering with some barnstorming work from all the musicians concerned on a roaring gem of a second album.
HEROIN: Showing A Luminous Ball Of fireCD £10-99 Ltd Offer £6.99
Technically long-deleted, but we chanced upon a few copies, so this will be your very last chance to grab this, AND at a price that’s quite unbelievable. Here’s our original review, so read on…..
You always know that you’ve hit on a classic when the office staff run out screaming when you’ve started reviewing a certain CD and this is a monster of a release. Utilising the unusual line-up of vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, samples and drum programming, this is one of the most brilliant examples of structured, perfectly produced and completely over-the-top walls of sound that I have heard. But don’t let that mislead you because the awesome effect is created by both a battle between and an amalgamation of the massive bass guitar sound and the scorching electric guitar sludge both of which fire off at a pace and with a sense of dynamics that makes you wide-eyed with amazement. Let me take trac 3 as a great example. It opens with a sampled voice over bubling water and from the depths rises a screaming feedback-laden electric guitar whose whine becomes ever louder and more piercing. The voice dies away, and a sudden cymbal beat heralds the arrival of the massive skull-crunching bass guitar fuzzed-to-hell as the feedback dies away and another even more powerful layer of the intense bass guitar hellscape is added and then the guitar subtly (if I can use that term in this maelstrom) joins in as layer upon layer of crashing drums, scorching feedback-drenched guitar, a stemroller wall of bass guitars and layers of thundering electric guitars combine to create the most glorious wall of dense sound that I have ever heard making the likes of Magma and Merzbow seem tame by comparison; and that’s only one track!! But the even better part about this CD is that it is not a one-dimensional wall of sound but trmendously varied within its chosen musical framework. From layers of wailing voices and electronics style swirls mixed with chugging stabs of fuzz bass and thundering rhyhtms through stemroller power electric guitars that tear through the fibre of your very soul over rhythms that would wake the dead to more dynamic and clean sounding but no less powerful sections where the sampled voices fall overone another while a lone electric guitar screams awa y in the background, this is one of the best, satisfying and unique CD’s I have come across in a long while. It really is a classic release and I urge you all to buy it and then maybe we’ll get a follow-up. AWESOME STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!
ANNA HOMLER:Homler/Waegeman/Fait CD£13.99
Performance artist and vocalist extraordinary with a new album featuring musical accompaniment from violin, kybds, sas, electric guitar, mandolin, sampler over rhythms from drums/percussion and extra textural additions on certain tracks fromguitars, harmonica, sax and percussion plus extra vocals. Musically we’re in a territory inhabited by a more accessible Meredith Monk and a wide range of songs and vocal-led soundscapes with probably subconscious influences from Can, Glass and Magma but without the bombastic qualities and with a wide range of moods from ethereal to far-out but never annoying and always fascinating and a great CD designed for repeated exploration.
ANNA HOMLER:Do Ya Sa Di Do CD £13.95
An earlier release with Homler’s gorgeous and mystical vocals soaring in exploratory fashion over sparse instrumentation, allowing the new vocabulary and vocal range free rein to ride and flow through the airwaves.
HONEYELK:En Q’uete D’un Monde Meilleur CD £12.99
Reissue of old LP wih new title just to confuse matters but musically we’re in Magma territory with the familiar ‘Kobaïa n’ vocals, the strength of the instrumental atrrangements all recalling the days of the first 2 albums with the sax and clarinet work featured strongly in aaddition tothe rhythm back-up and the textural structures. Including, 4 extra tracks, it’s actually no mere copyist album but still hangs on in today’s climate.
JEAN-MARC JAFET:Agora CD £13.99
Bassist for Offering with his debut album and it is an exquisitely composed and played set of relaxed and full-sounding fusion compositions almost typically ‘Parisienne’ in parts and varies from the sort of thing you’d hear in cafes or late night jazz clubs or perfect to drive with. Featuring piano/synths, guitars, drums, bass, percussion, trombone and occasional appearances from trumpet, sax, accordeon/synths, this is a set of varied musical paces and settings, always with plenty on which to focus as regards lead sections and ensemble work and just a great set of tunes.
DIDIER LOCKWOOD:Out Of The Blue/Live At The Olympia hall/1234/Phoenix ’90/DLG/New York Rendezvous/Didier Lockwood Group CD £13.99 each
Apart from ‘DLG’ and ‘Phoenix’ which share line-ups, each CD represents and different line-up and a different style in the instrumental career of this superb violinist. For fusion fans the ‘Group’ album is the place to start with some superb Jeff Beck-style guitar work from Jean Michel Kajdan, along with a great rhythm section of Marc and Rust plus Francis Lockwood on kybds and synths. Not far behind are the 2 mentioned at the beginning which are slightly less powerful but no less interesting again with a similar instrumental line-up. ’1234′ is a much more varied album with a wide variety of styles from World to Jazz and beyond while ‘New York’ is more USA style jazz-rock. The other 2 are full of great playing with the nod in favour of more jazz than rock. But really, not a bad one among them.
FRANCIS LOCKWOOD:Home Sweet Home CD £13.99
Now this is a far, far better album than I expected full of exquisite melodies and tunes from this talented keyboard player featuring piano to the fore.
LOCKWOOD/TOP/VANDER/WIDEMANN:Fusion CD £13.99
Awesome jazz-rock supergroup with each musician on top form, collectively and solo. The album relies predominantly on group performance as opposed to a showcase for solo work and benefits from that, particularly as each mudsician is given a chance to shine during the varied passages but in ways that enhance the dynamics of the track, flow naturally and heighten the enjoyment. The 20 min ‘Miles goes to GHX’ is the centrpiece of the album and is one of the best dynamic slowly building, smouldering and subtly thunderous tracks you’ll ever hear with soaring violin, thunderous yet restrained drum work, awesome bass guitar and great synth colorations with the pace ranging from rhythmic ethereal to realatively powerhouse but not a wasted or boring second on this totally enthralling musical trip. A stunning album.
MAGMA: Spiritual DBLCD £8.99
I had the idea for this, I compiled it, I advised on it, I did the sleevenotes – hell, I did everything except play the thing…………….seriously, no word of a lie. Well, I didn’t manufacture it and I didn’t design the cover, but – hey! – you’re being picky now. Anyway, the idea the label had was to do a Magma compilation and I was selected to put it together as a double CD – it was then that they dropped the bomb that the only albums I could use were the three Charly label ones – and the whole lot of those could fit onto a double CD anyway, the result being – errrr – three albums on 2 CD’s – hardly a compilation!! So, I came up with the great idea of playing around with all the tracks concerned and putting them in what I regarded as a much more dynamic running order that, for me, made one hell of a lot of sense as an album for people not into the band, and gave an extra impact to the material when placed into this order, for existing fans of the band. But, I gathered, the band didn’t take particularly well to someone sodding about with their music in this manner, and the CD was dropped. Next thing I know, it’s back on and the rep for the distribution company sells it in, release dates come and go, I give up of ever seeing the thing, until one day – and – bingo!! – in it walks through our hallowed portals – completely sodded about with by someone in my absence, so that two key tracks, about 45 minutes of music, are now completely missing. Say what!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeh – someone’s left out the half hour live version of ‘Köhntarkösz ‘ and the original studio magnificence of the 18 minute track that is the mighty ‘De Futura’. That said, it’s still absolutely incredible stuff, even though I say it myself, no small tribute to the fact that the band are unique, the material is unique, and absolutely addictive, the tracks are generally short-mid length, and the whole thing serves as the very best appetiser for anyone who’s not heard the band before and who doesn’t want to be plunged in, head-first at the deep end. This band are amazing – there’s not a bad track here – and you have to own this album!
MAGMA: Simples Mini-CD £7.99
From the archive comes this 5-track CD of rare singles, on CD for thr first time, and from the early ’70′s and, arguably, finest and most creative period of the band’s career, with the tracks having all the hallmarks of the classic Magma sound of the time, all impossibly rare on vinyl and now transferred to everlasting digital.
MAGMA: Kompila CD £6.49
For those who’ve never tried the amazing and unique musical world of Magma before now, this budget priced album gathers together a lot of the band’s best moments on album, but presents them a s a series of 22 extracts from the longer works, often different extracts from the same work, highlighting the awesome musicianship and strong vocals. The album is a fantastic distillation of all the group’s best facets and is essential listening for anyone who’s never really sampled the music before now.
MAGMA: Inedits CD £13.99
Long awaited CD issue of the set of previously unreleased live tracks from Magma line-ups never before on album and from the classic erly days. As a set of historical and musically valid recordings, every one is a classic, with the opening track being the stand-out exhibiting all the hallmarks of piano, bass, drum and vocal work that make the group so thoroughly brilliant.
MAGMA: Concert 1971-Bruxelles Théâtre 140 DBL CD £23.99
The exact opposite to the album below, this is the early line-up captured raw and alive. The mix is superb, the quality a tad down on normal but nothing to moan about, the mix is amazing and the energy given out would melt icebergs. The wind/brass trio allied to Francois Cahen’s exquisite piano work, Moze’s pounding electric bass, Vander’s breathtaking drum work and the dual vocal attack all adds up to a particularly brilliant CD that truly harnesses the band and remains a unique amalgam of jazz, rock, operatic and the unknown, definitely in a unique musical universe.
MAGMA: Magma-Kobaïa / Live/Retrospektiw 1+2/Bobino Concert 1981 Paris / Théâtre Du Taur 1975 DBL CD’s £23.99 each
MAGMA: 1001C / Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh / Mekanïk Kommandöh / Wurdah Ïtah / Köhntarkösz / Udu Wüdü Attahk / Merci /Mythes Et Legendes / Retrospektiw Vol 3 / Les Voix De Magma/Neheh/Inedits CD £13.99each
Magma is the brainchild of Christian Vander, a drummer, composer, vocalist, arranger and musical visionary as unique to music as Zappa or Coltrane or any of the innovative musicians of the past and present. It is impossible for Magma music to have widespread recognition as, without malice and entirely factual, it is too dificult for most people to take in. Magma music is founded in Jazz but created by a musician with a vision of a music form the likes of which had not been heard before and rarely heard since. To begin with, the vocals were in a made-up language called Kobaïa n, the music, although based in jazz, was predominantly vocal and its lack of electronics at a time when the world was discovering Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze on one hand and Amon Duul 2 and Ash Ra Tempel on the other gave it less of a chance to be hailed as innovative by the media and fans of the time. All that along with its Wagnerian operatic qualities and hugely dense and powerful soundscapes made it a cult form at the time, something from which it has never really escaped. You feel that Magma’s music is waiting in the wings to be discovered by a new Julian Cope figure and hailed as a long-forgotten work of genius, as he has recently done to the field of so-called Krautrock and it is very arguable as to which of the French and German music scenes was the most musically innovative. It is the Germans’ use of electronics that gave them the nod but it was the amazing music of Magma, Heldon, Gong, Urban Sax, many of the artists from the whole scene of ‘Le Rock Francais’ and beyond which is truly mind-bending stuff. But I digress. Early Magma (1st dbl/1001/Wurdah) was characterised by the huge, powerful, delicate and harmonically layered vocals over a mind-altering vocal range with a sound not witneseed on any previously rock-music oriented outing along with some of the most dynamic and explosive yet tightly controlled drum work ever heard and then the amazing trademark of ultra-powerful electric bass guitar work a feature that exploded to maximum effect on the tour-de-force CD that remains their finest hour, the remarkable ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh ‘ (‘Mekanïk Kommandöh ‘ being a radically different version of the same concept piece utilising a full choir and a different line-up of musicians for the most part.) Of the later works, the live doubles from 1975 showcase the band at their peak and each represents the band at full flight from different angles, the one called just ‘Live’ being the more accesible of the 2 and one of the best places for the budding Magma fan to begin. After this, ‘Attahk’ was the last great studio album and is again a great place to begin with its combination of power and tranquility. ‘Udu Wüdü ‘ was the last stand for remarkable Magma bassist Janik Top and it is his bass guitar work on ‘De Futura’ which towers over the rest of the album, never had bass been used so effectively as a lead instrument bludgeoning everything in its path. ‘Merci’ is the song album, sung in Kobaïa n, English and French (not at the same time!!!) and is, for Magma, commercial but each song is beautiful and exquisite and this remains their most underrated album. ‘Bobino’ represented the perfect balance of the 2 faces of Magma as the old met the new head-on and Magma came kicking and screaming (almost literally) into the ’80′s with magnificent renditions of ‘Retrovision’ and ‘Hhai’ plus the ‘Ourgon-Gorgo’ bass-guitar duel standing next to the remarkably profound and heartfelt tribute song to the late great Otis Redding, a song that really works and got the group several TV appearances in France at the time but it is the 30 min track ‘Zëss ‘ that saw Magma take a new turn and prove that they were ready to take the group forward with a vengeance as more angelic but no less powerful vocals soared over the long intro which led into the central structure of the composition as C. Vander narrates over a red hot backing section until at the 10 min mark the pace hots up and Vander’s voice soars high into the heavens, changing shape at the 16 min mark into a new direction yet again and featuring, unusually, a storming electric guitar solo over the rampaging rhythm/piano/brass section. At the 21 min mark the females take centre stage with an undulating vocal passage over the still scorching instrumental background and then the pace intensifies even further, leads into a short synth solo before a slightly more subdued vocal leads into a passage that develops to form the final approaching climax as the piece wells up and explodes to the end, leaving you totally breathless. ‘Les Voix’ features a line-up based around sparse instrumentation and a multi-voiced choir that takes centre stage and represents the most amazingly powerful multi-vocal performance of Magma compositions yet witnessed although it is arguable as to how much the actual mechanics of the performance have replaced some of the heart of the music played. The ‘Retro’ CD’s were recorded at the legendary series of 3 concerts where each night 3 line-ups of Magma from 1970, 1974 and 1979 played sets, culminating in an awesome 30-person, 40 min version of the mighty ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh ‘ a feat never equalled or witnessed before or since. This is captured to great effect on the double CD but even this fails to repeat the totally awesome performance and suffers from having had the rough edges taken away for the sake of clarity. You had to be there (I was!!!). So, with apologies for the ones I’ve not covered; that’s Magma for you. You’re probably not too much wiser but they’re a difficult band to pin down in the space I’ve got here but take a dive ‘coz once you find one you like’ you’re hooked, believe me and that’s the start of a whole new musical addiction.
MAGMA: Mekanïk Kommandöh CD £12.99
MAGMA: Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh CD £12.99
In January 1973, the Magma line-up of the time recorded a new, near 40-minute opus called ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh ‘ with the help of a full choir, at a French studio, and the piece represented the third part of the storyline trilogy that their leader, drummer and vocalist Christain Vander had begun on previous albums. For this track the band displayed a less stripped-down sound than on the previous “Tristan Et Iseult” album, but not the wind/brass section featured on the first. Here a line-up of bass-keyboards, drums, bass clarinet and three main vocalists, launched a track that simply stomped all over previous works and sounded every bit the ‘grand opus’ that would become the mainstay of their concerts and a track that would ultimately sum up everything about the band that makes them so unique. The storming rhythms, the Stravinsky-esque choruses, the rampaging bass, the dynamics of building to great heights and dropping down before climbing even higher, and their by now trademark vocals sung in the language of Kobaïa n, a real language with real words and lyrics, complete with the stark but effective almost backing line-up of keys and clarinet with bass and drums the mainstay around which it all revolves, all go to make up a quite massive track of epic proportions, to get them noticed.
It certainly did that, in conjunction with their powerful concerts of the time that would be highly praised in the music press, and major label A & M signed the band. In tried and trusted Magma traditions, the line-up that had recorded the album was changed a tad, and a new band assembled by Vander, this time featuring, now legendary electric bassist Jannik Top, guitarist Claude Olmos, and giving clarinettist Garber a partner in the form of the reinstated Teddy Lasry on brass and flute, who with Christian & Stella Vander, Klaus Blasquiz, Jean-Luc Manderlier from before, were ensconced into the Manor Studios in Oxford, and subsequently re-recorded the track, that was subsequently issued as the “M.D.K.” album (the “M.K.” album not actually seeing the light of day until over twenty years later). Here, the first thing you notice is that the gloves are off – any previous restraint or subtlety is reduced, and the band really go for it, throwing in the whole nine yards to produce a climactic slice of Magma magic, the likes of which have rarely been equalled let alone bettered by most other bands. This is music on such a massive scale, it blows the roof off. The bass thunders, the drums crunch, the guitar swirls while the brass and wind rage all the time the mighty vocalists tower over the proceedings, rarely letting up and holding your attention like a rabbit-in-the-headlights for all of the near 40 minutes, almost religious, experience. A slice of timeless musical history, the likes of which no other band has ever produced.
MAGMA: BBC 1974 Londres CD £13.99
Now available, here is the truly legendary Top Gear Session from the John Peel programme in 1974, an hour of prime Magma in all its glory with two half-hour pieces that were played on the same show and took up half of it at the time. Musically we have the thunderous bass of Jannik Top, the awesome drumming of Vander, Blasquiz on lead vocals plus a shortened line-up consisting of just Micky Gariller, Claude Olmos and Gerard Bikialo. For Magma fans, it’s indispensable, but for anyone thinking of dipping their toe into the weird and wonderful world of this unique band, this is one of the beter places to start.
MAGMA: Live CD £8.99
The excellent quality album, from 1975, known previously as “Hhhai Live” that has a history of double LP – single CD – double CD now resurfaces as a single CD on the original Charly label, reissued with a couple of noticeable additions. First, while it lacks the couple of bonus tracks that are on the Seventh label double CD issue (still available if yuo want it), the sound on this one is really just as good, and even though it doesn’t say ‘remaster’ or anything, there’s clearly been a bit of studio tweaking. The further evidence for this, and one of the best reasons for buying the CD, outside of the fact that, musically, it’s one fine, fine album, is that, for the first time on CD, there’s no fade between the two parts of the epic track, ‘Kohntark’, a thirty one minute piece that can now be enjoyed right through with no gap and no song separation. In addition to that, it’s currently one of the cheapest and most enjoyable/accessible ways of getting into the world of a truly great and original band, if you’ve never thought of trying their music before. From the atmosphere of ‘Hhai’ to the almighty, 18 minute, bass-driven power of ‘Mekaniik Zain’, the combination of vocals, violin, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums is simply riveting from start to finish.
MAGMA:Concert 1976-Opera De Reims 3CD SET £23.99
Make no mistake-this is a great CD. The sound is so clean. Whoever produced this, however, is a total genius- never have Magma sounded so powerful without being muddy or over- polished from the live sound on stage to the resultant CD sound. It’s split over 3 CD’s so that the long tracks do not have to be split in the middle so top marks for thinking of that one. Musically, we are immediately treated to a monstrous live version of the anthemic ‘De Futura’, that actually really lasts about 32 mins as it segues into the following track from its allotted 25 min length and the electric bass of Paganotti positively roars and growls through the end section, all of which leads to a brilliant slice of work from violin, piano, bass and drums, themed around Magma music but essentially an improvisation, flowing to excellent effect.
You are subsequently treated, on CD 2, to 33 min versions of ‘Köhntarkösz ‘ and ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’, ending, on CD3 with a mighty 42 min version of ‘Mekanïk ‘. Line-up wise, apart from the Vanders, Paga and Blasquiz, we have Lockwood on violin, both Gauthier and Widemann on keyboards plus, most interestingly, Gabriel Federow on electric guitar. Overall, it’s brilliant.
MAGMA: Londres BBC 1974 CD £12.99
MAGMA: Théâtre Du Taur 1975 DBLCD £19.99
MAGMA: Concert 1976-Opera De Reims Triple CD £19.99
MAGMA: Concert-Bobino 1981 DBLCD £19.99
MAGMA: Concert 1992 Douarnenez-Les Voix CD £12.99
Five absolutely essential listening live albums that do the band justice and then some. From ’74, the BBC album features both of the half hour tracks that the band would record for the, then two hour, nightly ‘Top Gear’ Radio One programme presented by John Peel, the live studio session taking up half the show, something no other band ever did at in the seventies. For the first time, we get to hear the previously unrecorded, as such, ‘Theusz Hamtaaahk’ and the “Köhntarkösz ” title track performed by a slimmed-down line-up that featured Vander-Top-Blasquiz-Olmos and two keyboardists, Bikialo & Grailler, the version of this piece actually ending up sounding way better than the original album track, in this form.
The band put out a live album that followed “Köhntarkösz ” as a document of the concerts but, good though it was (and still is), it lacked the massive punch and power that was the band in concert. This factor was corrected by the release of the ’75 album where the then new, and arguably most famous, line-up featuring Christian/Stella Vander & Blasquiz, now included Didier Lockwood on soaring violin, Benoit Widemann on keyboards, Bernard Paganotti on electric bass, Gabriel Federow on guitar, and, for this album unlike the previous one, future Heldon keyboards man, Patrick Gauthier. With the ‘Köhntarkösz ‘ track given another reading complete with the two shorter and sublime ‘Hhai’ and ‘Kobaïa ‘ tracks, the picture is completed with a storming version of ‘M.D.K.’ to end a simply stunning live album and possibly a more valuable document of the band at the time.
A year later and, surprise surprise, the same line-up still exists, but a mammoth concert in Reims, documented on this CD with just five lengthy tracks across three CD’s, revealed a band now at the peak of their performance, confident, assured and very, very strong. Starting with a towering bass-driven live rendition of ‘De Futura’, than band go into orbit and never come back down, right to the end where you find possibly the heaviest ever recorded version of ‘M.D.K’ released to date, as the bass is right at the front of the mix, the sound is crystal clear and the band as a whole hit top gear, here the dynamics just spot on, resulting in one of their finest live albums so far.
Forward five years to 1981 and a completely new line-up assembled by the two Vanders, alone from before, marked the transition from power to passion, of sorts, with a concert that would see out the last of the old and bring in a lot of the new. Here a new sensibility reveals the band delivering tracks that rely much more on dynamics, subtleties, a fuller sound, melodies and a generally more mainstream (for Magma) approach to the new compositions. So, you get the first half of the concert in the later ‘old’ style, complete with some great bass work from the two guitarists, while the second half of the set and CD 2 is most notable for two contrasts – the commercial songs of ‘Otis’ and ‘Who’s My Love’, very much a guding hand of newcomer Guy Khalifa in conjunction with Vander, while the thirty minute epic that is the new composition ‘Zëss ‘, reveals the beginnings of what would become the style that was Offering, only here electric, the composition building and driving throughout as the vocalists hit the spot on what has to be seen as the standout track on the album. It’s a bit of a shock to hear the three ‘songs’ on CD2 but with the remarkable beauty that is ‘Otis’, a tribute to Vander’s hero (alongside Coltrane), Otis Redding, this is a much underrated album.
Finally, for here, forward a long way to ’92. We’ve had the years of the acoustic Offering project, and Magma are on the comeback trail with assorted projects, one of which is represented here on this simply incredible album. Instrumentally, we have dual keyboardists, bass and drums, a final legacy of the Offering albums, but there are nine (count ‘em) vocalists, hence the title, and this is a Magma album that hearkens back in many ways to the “Tristan Et Iseult” style of things, but with a towering vocal performance from all concerned that is positively electrifying. Compositions, just four, include a magical interpretation of ‘Zëss ‘, here sounding more like a real Magma track of old, even though relatively new for the life of the band, plus a fifteen minute extract from the ‘Wurdah Ïtah ‘ composition just mentioned, and two other tracks, with the Offering influence firmly felt but way less ‘indulgent’ and more like the Magma you know and love. Fantastic.
MAGMA: Bobino 1981 Concert VIDEO £18.99
First ever official Magma video release and features the whole concert filmed professionally with great sound and in PAL-VHS colour. Superb!
MAGMA: Floe Essi CD Single £3.99
Hell’s teeth – it really is Magma – no, I don’t mean the acoustic band Offering or the commercial band of the early ’80′s – no, we’re talking REAL MAGMA!!!!!!! Recorded in 1998 and sounding more like some lost take from the ’75-era band, complete with wicked bassist, Christian Vander on drums and vocals, that trademark piano sound that marked the early-mid ’70′s line-ups and the whole style and feel of the tracks plus excellent female vocals from the two lead singers, vocals in Kobaïa n and – bingo – you have the return of the real and unadulterated Magma with nearly 9 minutes of music, the first results of which are, after hearing it once and disbelieving what you are hearing, that you put it on again right away – and again – and again. I would never have thought it, but Magma have gone back to their roots. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.
MAGMA: Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogie 3CD BOX SET £29.99
First off, it’s a live triple cD recorded on their 30th anniversary concerts in Paris in 2000. Secondly, the sound quality is perfect – absolutely perfect. Packaged in a solid box with the logo and name on the front in gold writing, complete with each of the three CD’s housed in their own fold-out digi-packs, plus a booklet of photos and – get this – a complete lyric booklet in Kobaïa n, allowing you to follow it all and join in. But it’s the musical content you want to know about. Disc 1 features the line-up of Stella Vander (vocal, keyboards, Fender piano), Isabelle Feuillebois (vocal), Antoine Paganotti (vocal, Fender piano), Jean-Christophe Gamet (vocal), James Mac Gaw (electric guitar), Emmanuel Borghi (Fender piano), Philippe Bussonnet (electric bass) and Christian Vander (drums), a line-up that proceeds to play the whole of movement one, ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ itself and produce one of the most storming, darkest versions of the piece that you’ll hear, with some remarkable ensemble work from Fender, bass and drums, but vocally a richness of voices getting it spot on. Vander keeps to drums and the composition positively thunders. Superb. Each of the three CD’s consists of just one track, and CD 2 gives us ‘Wurdah Ïtah ‘, the second movement where the band are joined by Julie Vander (vocals) and Claude Lamamy (vocals) while Mac Gaw moves to Fender piano and vocals, Stella substitutes percussion for the Fender and keyboards and Paganotti drops the Fender also, for a rendition that climbs even higher than before. As on the whole set, Christian Vander keeps to drums, a fact that will amaze many, but with a composition featuring seven vocalists, and a line-up of just two Fender pianos, electric bass, drums and percussion, you can see why Christian Vander leads from the drums, and the result is vintage Magma the likes of which you won’t have heard in such a pure form since 1971, as the band cruises through a track that simply no other band in the world could be capable of creating and delivering with such feeling, power and passion. Breathtaking. It will come as no surprise to learn that the final movement and the third CD is given over to the mighty ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh ‘, and for this, the first disc line-up is joined by a brass section of Benoit Gaudiche & Yannick Neveu on trumpets and Fred Burgazzi & Ronan Simon on trombones. A fourtenn piece band then proceeds to blow the roof off, as the towering spectacle and auditory experience that is this massive opus explodes into life, with all its twists and turns rarely sounding so fresh, alive and energetic, sinuous passages interweaving with absolute dynamite. Unbelievable. Overall, this is the sound of a band who have remained unique for thirty years, and on the strength of this, may just hang around for another thirty, but either way, this is a musical landmark that you just have to own and enjoy for years to come.
MIRIODOR: Rencontres CD £13.49
Long-awaited CD issue of the first album complete with 30 minutes of previously unreleased bonus music. Here we are in Art Zoyd territory only much more melodic and accessible as the mighty tracks unfold with the awesome instrumental combinations whipping up a storm as the rhythm section powers out while the lead duties are full of textural layers from violin, synths, clarinet, kybds, guitars, sax, bass, electric guitar and stick. For those who like the idea of Art Zoyd and the like but find it a touch too jazzy, dark or difficult, this is the one for you.
MIRIODOR: Jongleries Elastiques CD £13.49
This is a sort of chamber fusion rather than jazz rock, in the vein of Art Zoyd and Univers Zero, only less free and intricate, more full-sounding, melodic, less harsh and abrasive but unafraid to explore new musical avenues. With a core line-up of piano/synths, drums/perc, guitars/bass and sax, embellishments come from trombone, violin, flute and trumpet. Eighteen tracks from 1 to over 7 mins unfold, revealing a range of musical formats and settings that not only defy category, but are essentially jazzy and unique. Definitely a band album showcasing many individual voices along the way, this is a most complex set of music which will take many plays just to discover everything that’s going on.
MIRIDOR: S/T/Third Warning CD £13.49 each
Canadian cross of Art Zoyd, Univers Zero and Soft Machine on complex instrumental excursions.
MEREDITH MONK: Atlas DBLCD £22.99
MEREDITH MONK: Book Of Days/Do You Be/Dolmen Music/Facing North/TurtleDreams CD £13.99 each
Nothing to do with Magma but a Glass-influenced vocalist with a more extraordinary range and style than even Christian Vander and we reckon that anyone into a more stark and contemporary brand of Vander’s more intense vocal styles should get off on this with its range from the delicately insistent to soaring, powerful passages that take your breath away. Start with ‘Dolmen’ and progress.
NEBELNEST: Nova Express CD£13.99
Second album from the group who seem to be doing their level best to avoid being pigeon-holed, for this is both a straight-ahead and complex album that embodies, fusion, prog, rock, Krautrock and more, with the quartet of guitars-bass-drums-keys giving the material a right seeing-to. The arrangements are interlocked to such a degree that you wonder how the musicians are going to play themselves out of the spiralling black hole into which a lot of it seems to be heading, but as the intensity rises, the adrenaline levels increase and breaking point is neared, then it either dies down and puts on the brakes or explodes into a myriad of musical starbursts, from wicked Magma-like bass through cruising keyboard runs, aeons of mellotrons and guitar work that eats its way, acid-like, through everything it touches, the whole kept together and driven on by tough drum work from the back. Overall, across mostly lengthy compositions, this is an instrumental band that likes to challenge, while still keeping it all firmly on the level and avoiding straying into areas that are inaccessible or avant-garde.
NEKROPOLIS: Live CD £14.99
Essentially an electric guitar-bass-drums trio cooking up a hurricane brew of largely instrumental music of a force that would certainly appeal to fans of ’90′s King Crimson, early ’70′s Guru Guru and early-mid ’70′s vocal-free Magma. On the first 37 minutes the trio whips up a storm with brain-mincing electric bass/stick work, huge sounding drum rhythms and scorching electric guitar work. Overall, totally mind-blowing. Not only that but you also get an extra 20 minutes as 2 bonus live tracks but the recordings are not much above bootleg standard although the feel and power is still all there.
NEKROPOLIS: Musik Aus Den Schattenreich CD £14.99
12 track album from German musician Peterr Frohmader, this time returning to his best styles of work on electricx bass guitars, electric guitars and electronics. Yes, it’s every bit as dark, doomy, gloomy and unnerving as you’d expect. 58 minutes of overpowerring depair, complete with 5 bonus tracks, and you’ve rarely heard a whole ton of bass guitars, electronics, drums and electric guitars sound this cataclysmic and forceful. Still quite superb and timeless, if unrelenting and relentless. Thank the lord there’s only 58 minutes of it.
NIL: Nil CD £12.99
Featuring Jannick Top on electric bass on 3 tracks, this is the CD issue of the only album from htis obscure French ’70′s group featuring some soaring sax but predominantly stinging electric guitar work and plenty of bass and drums work with occasional added piano and extra guitars. Mostly instrumental with 2 semi-vocal tracks this is quirky Magma-influenced ’70′s French fusion with plenty of extra tracks not on the original album.
OFFERING: Offering 1+2/Offering 3+4/A Fiieh CD £13.99 each
More inspired than ever by the spirit of John Coltrane, Christian Vander put together this follow-up group to what was in effect a disssolved Magma in the form of a totally acoustic group featuring himself on vocals and piano and percussion, Stella vander on vocals plus Khalifa on vocals, ppiano and Simon Joubert on pianos, P.Marcault on drums, J.Marc Jafet on bass plus occasional brass coloration. Musically the first album was centred around traditional Magma structures with the dynamic bass and drum work but this time the piano was the pivotal lead instrument full of the ringing tones that became the trademark of Offering music. But it is in the vocal department that Offering took centre stage as, at first Christian and later Stella took a commanding lead role over the proceedings and showed off their enormous and exquisite voval ranges, with Christian showing just what a unique and powerful vocalist he had become while Stella really blossomed out to become a central part of the Offering structure and revealing, similarly to Gili Smyth in Gong, how much of a central cog and a vital part of the Magma/Offering sound she had and was still occupying as her angelic and dynamic vocals soared over the musical backgrounds composed and arranged by Christian. ‘Offering 1/2′ is very much Christian’s showcase as a tremendous set of vocal performances are heard often over nothing more than a backing of that gorgeous high flying ringing piano notes and chords plus delicate bass and percussion, especially brilliant on the 18 min ‘Joia’ a highlight of the 70 min CD. This CD remains my absolute favourite of the trilogy to date. On the next volume we find the jazz element beginning to take more of a central role as, presumably, the effects of Vander’s jazz trio work at the time were beginning to show through on Offering’s work. That and things veering dangerously on occasion to self-indulgence and overdoing a good idea meant that this CD was very good, excellent in many parts but failed to reach the consistent heights of the first CD. Finally ‘A Ffieh’ which, when good, was amazing, but in places was the height of over-indulgence. But, bearing in mind that even an erratic Christian Vander is a remarkable musician and composer and arranger, all of these are worth having and the part-time or new fan should progress
OFFERING: Paris Théâtre Dejazet 1987 Double CD £23.99
Ten years ago, the Euro-rock world thought Magma’s Christian Vander had gone bonkers when he virtually got rid of Magma and swapped it for a new all-acoustic group called Offering but playing music that was still in the Magma spirit. These first fruits of that idea were recorded and now see the light of day on CD, and it is immediately obvious what a truly original idea this was, and even better that it sounded fantastic to most Magma fans. Not entirely acoustic, the line-ups vary from a full expnaded band on kybds, bass, drums, perc and vocals, to literally just piano basa nd vocals. With a fantastic 47 minute rendition of Vander’s ‘Another Day’, plus a selection of brilliantly played and produced compositions, this is essential for Magma fans and a great intro to the unique music of Offering.
ONE SHOT: S/T CD£12.99
Instrumental album from the current Magma band without the Vander people and it’s a superb album of fusion music with some red hot lead guitar work in conjunction with a sterling performance from the guys on synths/keys, electric bass and drums. It’s all melodic, exciting, intricate, powerful and dynamic, in fact everything you could want out of a rock solid album of French jazz-rock
ONE SHOT: Vendredi 13 CD£12.99
Unlucky for some……Friday 13th, that is…………but not for the punters who buy this, because this is one phenomenal fusion music album that just evokes the whole spirit of what made, and to an extent still makes, French jazz-rock such a force to be reckoned with. From what is/was (never easy to keep up) the core of the current Magma band, this is a six-track, sixty-three minute album with some of the fienst electric bass work outside of a Magma album and certainly some of the best on any fusion album you care to name. A quartet of keyboards, electric guitar, electric bass and drums, the feel of the opener is pure instrumental Weidorje, with electric piano, red hot guitar, solid drums and that massive electric bass work, all positively cruising through the opening six minute composition. With the composer credits almost evenly split between Fender Rhodes/synth man Emmanuel Borghi and bassist Philippe Bussonnet, this is one essential album for all fusion/Magma and associated fans out there.
BERNARD PAGANOTTI: Paga CD £16.99
One copy only of this debut solo album recorded by the ex-Magma/Weidorje electric bassist and it very much continues along the same powerful lines as the Weidorje project only tighter and sharper with some incredible bass work on a set of songs and instrumentals that mark one of his finest solo albums.
PARZIVAL: Anachema Maranacha CD £12.99
Gothic symphonic meets medieval industrial with a vocalist that sounds like he gargles with razor blades soaked in gin, it’s that low down. The feel is one of classical industrial music with huge drums, vast slices of reeds and synths, massive orchestral blasts and an almost evil aura about it, in many ways like a meeting of Art Zoyd, Magma and Mortiis deep in a 15th century black hole. Original, full-sounding, mysterious and bizarre classical gothic industrial with rock tendencies and a decidedly dark RIO band influence in there too.
A pulverising non-stop express ride of scorching dual electric guitars, symphonic turntable work, thunderous drums and solid electric bass, with echoes of instrumental Magma, Coltrane, heavy metal guitar, thrash-dub, symphonic industrial. 60 mins of full-sounding. multi-layered sonic mayhem that is brilliantly structured and composed, featuring some awesome instrumental textures, mostly rhythmic, highly powerful and a sheer delight.
JEAN-PAUL PRAT-MASAL: CD £12.99
Unfortunate name (for English) but don’t worry ‘coz this is a perfect album. When I got the CD off the label, I was pleased to see that the original 2-part LP was now linked as one 40+ minute track. Not onlt that but there is an extra 30+ minutes of previously unreleased music making for well over 70 minutes of awesome music. When I put it on I realised I had forgotten just what a sensational, powerful, explosive, dynamic, scorching, high-flying and expansive piece that is the 42 min title track..It opens with a thunderous ‘Magma-style’ electric bass, followed by massed ranks of saxes and more to create an absolutely huge soundscape over a staggeringly solid drum backbone, all of which soars higher and higher before breaking down to just piano, percussion and flute before the piece begins to build and intensify once more, this time slower but no less powerful with the incredible electric bass and enormous drum passages driving it all on in steamroller fashion with synths and saxes acting as extra textural soundscapes on top, climbing ever higher as the drums and bass hammer out an absolutely monumental foundation. Then, out of nowhere, in comes a red hot electric guitar, really on fire, which solos to furnace heat intensity as the power builds, with the listener by now totally in awe of and absolutely bowled over by the ensuing intensity.. Suddenly, it drops, then accelerates, the musicians all come in snd forge ahead, this time the main players firing on all cylinders over a choppier but no less powerful rhythm structure….. and we’re only 10 minutes into the track. With a line-up numbering 14 musicians including 3 electric guitarists, 3 keyboard players, 2 sax players, a brass section trio plus flute, thunderous electric bass, all propelled and held together by Mr Prat on drums, this is a masterpiece essential for all Magma fans and anyone into the finest fusion music around of which this is unique, avoides any clichees and is one of the top 5 albums ever in its genre. Of the 4 unreleased tracks, the 15 min track 2 features just saxes, 2 electric guitarists, drums, kybds, bass and trumpet and is an utter gem of a track with the rich, multi-layered sax work soaring over and alongside the stinging and swirling electric guitars all driven by the amalgam of piano, drums and bass with a fantastic melodic presence throughout. The 9 min track 3 is similar only mor relaxed, subtly powerful, a definite Magma feel and beautifully played. The 5 min track 4 is just kybds, sax, guitar and bass, a serene and relaxed piece that flows smoothly and hangs in the air, dynamic and powerful. Finally the 3 min track 3 features the albums only vocals, a sort of wordless Magma-style chant over the instrumental textures. Overall, can’t be faulted and you can’t do better than that.
PRESENT: Triskaidekaphobie/Le Poison Qui Rend Fou CD £14.99
Here the guitars of Univers Zero, previously used more as textural devices within the confines of the group, become lethal weapons in the hands of Roger Trigaux as the mighty and scorching music on the first album of the 2 is dominated by the incredibly dynamic and powerful electric guitar thunder and it is the keyboards which add the textures while the rhythm section storms away underneath. The second album was altogether more eerie and brooding with a more equal mix of the guitars and keyboards on some very angular compositions.
PRESENT: Live CD £13.49
Now a solid quartet of dual electric guitars, bass guitar and drums, Present deliver their first and almost entirely instrumental live album recorded in December 1995. Featuring just 4 tracks in 52 minutes, some incendiary guitar work from atmospheric and layered chords and effects, to all-out attack, and when those guitar let loose, they’re totally on fire. The odd brief vocal section even fits in, sounding like a cross between Tom Waits and Capt Beefheart, like a nuclear force Magic Band, but unafraid to mellow out when the atmosphere demands. Overall, the accent is on dynamics and intensity. Track 2 strays firmly into Magma territory, with nearly all the 7 mins instrumental, as the guitars follow separate paths and occasionally join forces for the central riff, while the bass and drums thunder onwards. The 11 min track 3 picks up the power and intensity levels via some monster electric bass work, underpinned by tight drum patterns, over all of which a set of extraordinary guitar lines spray in all directions with purpose and melodic sensibility, full of variation and dynamics with a neatly moody and dynamic spacey central section, almost like a mellow Ash Ra Tempel guitar assault. Finally, the immense 22+ min track 4 on which the guitars and rhythm section start deceptively quietly, flowing gently on to the 8 min point when the rhythms kick in and the guitars begin to soar and intensify, before returning to the atmospheric layers. It then strides powerfully on to the 12 min point, and this pattern continues through to the end of a truly red hot track.
PRESENT: Certitudes CD £13.49
The new quintet featuring Roger Trigaux on guitar, kybds and vocals, Daniel Denis on drums, perc and vocals, Alain Rochette on kybds, Reg Trigaux on guitar and vocals plus Guy Segers on bass. First off, the vocals sound more like something out of the more melodic Magma camp and, apart from the first track, there aren’t that many anyway. Instrumentally, on the first new album of studio material for a long while, we are into a sort of nuclear driven Magma with piano sounding like the player’s wearing lead-lined gloves. massive work from the rhythm section, some red hot and steaming guitar work from the 2 guitarists, overall giving the sound a huge and expansive quality that is full-sounding, powerful, intricate and just superb – music that sucks you in and spits you out at the end but you keep going back for more, on a seriously brilliant and the best album they’ve done to date. Awesome.
PRESENT: C.O.D. Performance CD £14.99
PRESENT: No 6 CD £14.99
The joke being, so I gather, that there is no track six – oh well; s’pose it means something to someone. This mob have been living in the shadow of their better known and musically linked predecessors, Art Zoyd/Univers Zero, for far too long now, but if any album is going to put them ahead of the rest, it’s this one. You’ve not heard so many angular compositions in your life as on this album – the combined forces of piano-electric guitar-drums-bass-mellotron-second drums-cello surge through a set of two long and two short tracks with energy, dynamics, passion and power. The essence of Art Zoyd in particular hangs around like incense as the instruments veer off at tangents or chart some incredibly complex arrangements. All in all, one of their finest to date.
PRESENT: High Infidelity CD £12.99
Honestly, can you possibly imagine what might happen if you took the best bits of Magma, Art Zoyd & Univers Zero, put it all into one gigantic melting pot and then were able to hear the results. Well, imagine no longer, for this is that album – and it’s sensational. 99% instrumental, it features an extended line-up of dual lead guitars (yes, guitars!!! – and smoking at that……), piano/keyboards/organ/mellotron, drums/perc, electric bass (and this guy is one awesome bassist), cello, alto & tenor sax, trumpet/flugelhorn with guest from cello and accordion. The first track is a twenty-seven minute powerhouse with the guitars and bass leading the way but the whole band delivering the goods in an absolutely spellbinding display of musical virtuosity, full-on, storm-force sound and a production that is so clear, so strong, you can shut your eyes and imagine the band playing in the same room. The result isn’t a mess or sprawling or disparate, it’s structured, carefully composed and the twenty-seven minutes passes so quickly, all you want to do when it’s finished is go through it all again, an experience not to be missed. Also, far from sounding like a re-run of the aforementioned bands, the music is totally original, utterly absorbing and, while never straying too far from its Magma styled roots, it introduce a fresh new approach. Worth it for the opener alone. However, the near eleven minute track two immediately hooks you in a wave of cello, drums, electric bass and guitar, adding the rest as it goes and building into a majestic maelstrom that will just astound you as the horns, that thunderous bass, mellotron and drums power their way forward almost like some amazing hybrid of early King Crimson, later King Crimson and seventies Magma – simply jaw-dropping. The final nine minute track sees the guitars back into action as leads, being mysteriously in the background on the previous track, with a display that is mind-blowing in its mix of intensity and crystalline purity, the bass still sounding so mighty, the drums set on stun and the rest of the band playing as though their lives depended on it, as the piece climbs ever higher and builds to one incredible finale. As ghreat as an album gets in this musical sphere, perfection has finally been achieved – how on earth they, or anyone else for that matter, are going top this, should be worth the wait.
RASCAL REPORTERS: Happy Accidents CD £14.99
CD issue of the original album from 1988 plus a massive 35 minutes of previously unisssued ‘bonus’
music including the epic 25 min track ‘Stabbing At Air’. Musically, it’s instrumental, complex and challenging with a wide variety of time changes, textures, musical combinations, instrument amalgams and general air of the creative musician at work. With a breathtaking array of keyboard, stringed and wind instruments at their disposal plus drums and percussion, this is sure one complicated album, there sort of thing you need a degree in music just to approach. For those needing musical reference points, I suppose ‘King Kong’ era Mothers, Henry Cow, Nice and early jazz Softs wouldn’t be too wrong.
RHESUS O: S/T CD £12.99
It may have Magma members in the line-up but, musically, it’s absolutely essential for anyone into Soft Machine, particularly the ‘Third’ and ‘Fifth’ style line-ups. There are well tasty organ, piano and sax leads, plus added edge from sparingly but effectively used electric guitar over a bed of fuzz electric bass and solid, cohesive drums. It could be a long lost Softs album, it’s that good, and is essential for fans of Softs and early ’70′s French fusion.
RUNAWAY TOTEM: Zed CD £14.99
A symphonic, Magma-style with screeching guitar riffs/leads, a huge sound, occasional throaty operatic vocals and a very intense brand of Euro-music on just two 20+ minute tracks.
RUNAWAY TOTEM: Trimegisto CD £13.99
This was recommended by the Italians as Magma style and I see what they mean but it comes over predominantly as operatic, bass-heavy slice of Zeuhl-influenced progressive rock with a strong keyboard presence and some soaring guitar work. The bass work that features a lot on top of the mix is excellent and as an instrumental CD this would be totally stunning. But the vocals are in Italian and just don’t work. The range is female and male and an attempt to ‘do Magma’ and they even appear to try and sing in Kobaïa n at one point on track 7 but it fails by a long way to evoke the richness and the overwhelming spirituality that is real Magma. Where it works, it’s good but where it doesn’t it’s shocking. Instrumentally a brilliant album, so get the vocals off and let’s have the real album!!!!!
SALARYMAN: S/T CD £12.99
Every so often you miss something important – it is released, reviewed, promoted, and somehow you miss it. When you finally catch up with it, you wonder how on earth you’ve managed to live a normal life without it. That all applies to this CD which is just IMMENSE. Lumped in with the psot-rock fraternity such as Tortoise, Fuxa, Bardo Pond, etc, this proceeds to stomp all over them in a steaming cauldron of electronics, samples, kybds, furious, swirling bass guitars, drums that sound like they’re coming through the walls and electric guitars that are just wild. This is just fantastic, all-instrumental music that bears absolutely no relation to anything else, bar perhaps a meeting of Bardo Pond and Jannik Top-era Magma, only heavier with more guitars and textures and rampaging rhythms. Overall, this smokes like no other CD you’ll hear, is absolutely, mind-bendingly riveting from start to finish and has got to be one of the greatest albums around right now – don’t make my mistake and miss out – get it and get it now.
YOCHK’O SEFFER: Pitchipoy CD £12.99
Ex-Magma sax player, with ex-Magma bassist Dominic Bertram, ex-Zao cohort, drummer Jean-My Truong, plus second bassist, keyboards and ‘sculptophones’, whatever they are. Anyway, it’s a remarkably excellent and accessible instrumental jazz-rock album, obviously with his own influences, plus those of his old groups, with a particular nod towards the first two Magma albums showing through on a few tracks (just listen to track one for an example of this). For me, the remarkable and best part about the album is the feel in that it immediately sounds ‘French’ and also has many echoes of the classic fusion banads out of France in the ’870′s/’80′s, whille stil sounding veery fresh, organic and ranging from complex full-sounding pieces that wander drive all over the place, to more tarnquil delights, A much better album than I would have expected and shows he ‘s still got it.
YOCHK’O SEFFER:Ghilgoul/Chromophonie 1+2 CD £13.99 each
Ex-Magma sax player with 2 albums that reveal a mix of Magma, Zao, Hungarian roots and exploratory music styles.
SHUB NIGGURATH: Les Morts Vont Vites CD £12.99
Have been decribed as the next best thing to Magma, and on the evidence of this welcome reissue of their first LP onto CD, you can see why this is, as the electric bass, drums and keyboards hammer away. Over all of this a rich operatic female vocal weaves some high-flying webs of vocal delights, as the line-up of drums, electric bass, guitars, piano/organ/harmonium and trombone gather strength, and begin their ascent to dizzy heights. The album opens at a slower if slightly heavier pace to ’70′s Magma, but the instrumental riches soon start to glow as the guitar scorches from the mix, the bass and drums sounding just awesome underneath, and the sound is full to bursting, the vocals only taking a smal;l part of the 16+ minute track. With every track in this vein and an absolute winner , this is one of the most worthy albums of Magma-influenced music around in the last 10 years. Superb, and it’s a pic disc CD too..
SHUB NIGGURATH: C’etaient De Tres CD £13.99
From the awesome depths of a world influenced by a sonic whirlpool of Magma, King Crimson and beyond comes this powerhouse CD full of thunderous electric bass, a rhythm section that heralds the end of the earth is nigh and some amazing guitar work along with the high flying vocals that rampage through the centre of the musical storm.
PIERRE MICHEL SIVADIER: D’amour Fou D’amour CD £13.99
New one on Magma’s Seventh label featuring Stella Vander on vocals + instrumentation of kybds, bass, drums and flute. Trevor at Harmonia Mundi said we’d dig this so we bought one. It’s not very good, Trevor-what are you on?????? If you’rr not into French ballads, albeit with a decent musical backing and features (and it’s not ALL vocal), it’s Ok but if not, it sucks!! For collectors only and I only hope Trevor will be good enough to have this one back at some date. At least he likes it!!
SOTOS: S/T CD £12.99
FANTASTIC!!! Four tracks across 68 minutes, all instrumental, and it’s like a cross between a ’73/’74-era King Crimson, without Fripp, and ‘De Futura’ style instrumental Magma, with a slight touch of Art Zoyd in there too and , on the last track, even a touch of the end of the opening section of Floyd’s ;Saucerful Of Secrets with slide guitars and drums blazing. Despite the fact that the lin-up features, electric guitar, electric bass, drums, violin and violincello, the majority of the lead work goes to the violins and bass, whcih are all well upfront in the mix, but the whole ensemble play a blinder of an album, with richly structured, rock solid, complex and driving instrumentals that just leave you breathless at the sheer magic of it all. Thsi is one thunderous and decidedly unique, totally accessible album that anyone into the mid-’70′s
STAR PERIOD STAR: Jet Propulsion Mystery Summer CD-R £12.99
If it wasn’t for the presence of some (not many) vocals, this would be THE most incredible album around. The tracks are played largely by a trio of electric guitar, drums and electric bass, on songs that surge ahead and take no prisoners. The electric bass work is absolutely outstanding and at times you’d swear you were in the middle of some Magma/Crimso offshoot, were it not for the direct rock nature of the music that you’re hearing. A lot of the music is instrumental and, as a result, a lot of it is just superb. A mix of contemporary indie-rock to which there is more than a touch of Euro-rock fever, with some scorching guitar work and thunderous bass, underpinned by equally fine drumming, this will blow you away. Hell – you even get to think that the few vocals that are heard really do actually fit in there amidst the storm of music that leaps out at you – easily the best thing they’ve ever done, and I’d say that, if the next one is all instrumental, it will be SENSATIONAL. As it is, this is huge and worth your time, especially for fans of modern Crimso, but don’t take that comparison too literally.
SIMON STEENSLAND: Led Circus CD £13.99
From the ground-breaking first steps, you almost get the feeling that the likes of Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Henry Cow and members thereof, al prefer to plough safe musical furrows these days. Those out there who long for the time when RIO music was challenging, new, fresh and vital, yet still organic and structured, will all go wild over this new one from Scandinavian RIO should-have-been, Simon Steensland. Using elements from all the aforementioned acts, plus touches of Magma, fusion style Gong and Samla, this is quite a powerful album with great musical range using percussion rhythms, angular rhythms, stuttering Beefheartian electric guitar lines, deep electric bass and some bizarre synth fills, while guitars and synth solos/duos ignite and spark all over the place. There is so much happening in the mix, that many tracks pass by with you only having been aware of small portions of the sounds’ constituent elements without actually losing sight of the whole effect of the music, which ranges from mighty to ethereal. Even with Zeuhl-influenced vocals in parts, it remains a quite unique hybrid of much that has gone before yet has a vitality and sense of adventure rarely heard in this style of music today.
S-T-S: Paris ’98 CD£12.99
’98, I hear you cry? Yes, ’98. The story is that in ’97, our favourite ex-Magma bassist Jannick Top, returned to the world of jazz-rock, culminating in some live dates in ’98 whereupon he unleashed a brand new, near hour-long, composition onto the audiences, called ‘Spirales’, and it is a performance of that composition which is the feature of this CD. Played by the three musicians Seva, Top & Salmieri, on alto-sax, electric bass and drums, complete with guest electric guitarist Matthias Desmier, this is both a superb piece of music and performance, with each musician delivering a stand-out set as the ensemble, essentially Top’s own answer to Vander’s Fusion outfit, although not intentionally I suspect, play a blinder. The moods range from typically languid, smoky French jazz to full-on bass-driven power, and the whole feel of the thing can only have come from one country’s musicians. Melodic throughout, still solid, with some stunning electric bass work as you’d suspect, this is a seriously impressive CD for Magma and French fusion fans alike.
LAURENT THIBAULT:Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rever Tout Le Temps CD £12.99
From legendary Magma producer comes this CD of exotic, multi-textured music that exhibits influences from National Health, Magma, early ’70′s French music, Gong and more. Opens with a beautifully celestial wordless vocal from ‘Northette’ Amanda Parsons over a delicate musical setting before bass and drums and male vocal enters and the piece spirals out into the heavens. A short reprise of the main theme from piano and then flute leads the marching composition back into the land of the dynamic before a delightfully tranquil guitar/flute/el piano section weaves its spell to the end. Track 2 begins with a strummed electric bass over cymbals, delicate drum work and keyboardsa s the piece slowly builds and intensifies with guitars and then more wordless female vocals as the track hots up its pace and then… it dies into guitar alone as bass and crashing drums join in with soaring sax taking centre stage over the crashing but tight rhythm section and the pir=ece drives off in a new direction. This combination of the exotic and the unexpected and the dynamically wide range of group interplay and musical textures makes up the rest of what is a sound musical experience.
FRANCOIS THOLLOT: Ceux D’en Face CD £12.99
The world of French fusion never stands still and just as you might have entertained the thought that even the French scene had done it all, along comes a guy playing music in the realms of One Shot, Art Zoyd, etc – the old Zeuhl influences showing through strongly – with the remarkable thing being that all the instruments (electric bass, drums, electric guitar and piano) are played by Thollot himself, while the even more remarkable thing is just how well it all sounds, how cohesive it all is and how this fiery brand of instrumental fusion works a treat. With plenty of Magma-influenced (Top/Paganotti-eras particularly) electric bass work, some scorching guitar work, but the real difference here is the use of piano as co-lead, both in a melodic manner and a somewhat angular way so that somehow it all fits with the guitar bass and drums to create a set of tracks that are at the same time original, unique sounding and yet supercharged fusion as only the French can play it.
TIME CONTROL: S/T CD £12.99
Very much inspired by and reflective of early ’70′s Can, a plentiful sound thanks to the electronics and fx that accompany the rhythms, echoing everything from ‘Monster Movie’ to ‘Future Days’, on a largely instrumental gem of an album.
TRANS AM: You Can Always Get What You Want CD £12.99
All tracks, bar one, emanating from previously hideously obscure Japanese versions of Trans Am albums. For those that are in the know, the first thing to say is that if you are blown away by Heldon’s music in general with a more ’90′s feel, or the occasional heavy electric bass-guitar-drums interludes that would crop up in the live and recorded performances of Magma, then this instrumental outing just has to set you on fire. With an added ’90′s post-rock-meets-techno sensibility, this is a collection of 13 tracks that are all sensational, occasionally more reflective with added electronics to contrast with the intensity of the majority of the album, but mostly really solid, some phenomenal bass work, and highly charged melodies allied to seriously consistent structures. Overall, though, it’s varied, sometimes bizarre, sometimes guitar-led, sometimes electronic-led, but inventive and fantastic throughout.
TRIO VANDER: Jour Apres Jour/65 CD £13.99 each
Christian Vander’s jazz project involving himself on drums along with a bassist and pianist and featuring long compositions with plenty of solo space as well as ensemble -playing, all performed with the absence of egos but evoking the Coltrane spirit and with all the dynamics and strength of playing that belies its image of ‘real jazz’ allowing even fusion fans to enjoy it. My advice is to start with the ’65′ album which is the more accessible on first hearing.
TRIPLE ZERO: Crypto Sensus CD £12.99
Explosive – you won’t come down for a month once you’ve heard this. It’s a phenomenal album from the ex-bassist/guitarist and drummer of French Magma-influenced band Shub Niggurath, plus a guy on electronics and synths. The music is instrumental and will probably wake the dead. But, far from difficult or unlistenable or avant-garde, this is absolutely accessible, totally instant and amazingly mind-blowing. The words muscular, powerful, fiery, intense cannot even do justice to this immense-sounding album. It’s like the best instrumental parts of vintage Magma/Can mixed with the burning heart of ’70′s and ’90′s King Crimson but even this tasty appetite-whetter cannot sum up the music on this CD. The bass playing, guitar-work and drumming are the most jaw-dropping things I’ve heard on an album of this nature for many years, and the electronics just cover the mix to perfection, behind, around and in front of the nuclear holocaust that is the guitar/drum intensity. The compositions are totally structured and it is this sense of direction and purpose that adds to the enjoyment, so you never at any time feel you’re dealing with something that’s out of control or aimless. Overall, for fans of the aforementioned groups and anyone who likes electric bass, drums and guitar right at the forefront of things, this is one incredibly well delivered and superbly produced album, possibly one of the top 5 of the year, already.
ULAN BATOR: Vegetale CD £12.99
You can see why Heldon’s Richard Pinhas rated this lot so highly – they don’t sound like Heldon…..or King Crimson……or Magma…..but they are a natural, inventive and magnificent successive link in this musical chain, dominated by some breathtaking work from the trio of electric guitars, electric bass and drums. Musically it’s very strong and potent but incredibly tight, totally accesssible and yet with a fluidity to it that is simply amazing. The huge electric bass thunders through the proceddings, while the electric guitar work does have elements of Crimso/Heldon, the latter particularly so in track six. The arrangements are individual, hinting at the past but looking to the future, while the dynamics of light and shade in the music, only serve to heighten the tension and have the adrenaline pumping when that finally breaks and the band let rip. But overall, it’s a wickedly delicious brew of music that fans of all the aforementioend artists really should get into and experience, because with every play this improves its enjoyment quotient by factors of ten – fantastic.
ULAN BATOR: 2 Degrees CD £14.49
Post-modern Euro-rock in a land occupied by the dying remnants of Faust, Oval, Chrome and Sonic Youth but with the pieces picked up and reconstructed by this innovative French band.
UNIVERIA ZEKT: The Unnameables CD £12.99
Legendary album recorded in the early ’70′s and is a completely original Magma album but recorded under a different name as it didn’t form part of the actual concept that was running through the Magma albums at the time. Featuring Vander, Blasquiz, Lasry and more this is an outstanding album and a little more varied than the Magma product from the same time.
UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA: Rituale Alieno CD £13.99
The album opens with drums, operatic female vocal and a haunting song ensues, giving the feel of gothic mixed with Zeuhl music, just a short track but sublime. Thgen comes an instrumental epic at twenty-one minutes that powers its way through the best Art Zoyd/Present/Shub Niggurath/Magma style passages with some fantastic work from the multi-tracked female and male vocals, lots of instrumental space for the ranks of synths, keys and wild electric guitar, and th rhythm section driving everything forth complete with undulating bass guitar work and crunching drums, the presence of the synths giving an added flow to proceedings, while the guitar bursts into life out the back. A splendid piece without a wasted part in it, and one for fans of the aforementioned groups. There follow four long tracks that take in a mind-boggling variety of layers, textures, soundscapes and themes, all full-sounding, semi-instrumental with great work from all the musicans and possibly more fusion-oriented and certainly more accessible than the previous musical comparisons will have led you to believe, as the synths, bass, drums and guitar, plus lead female and back-up male vocal, will have you in awe of some spectacular music.
UNIVERS ZERO: 1313/Ceux Du Dehors/Heatwave/Heresie/Uzed CD £13.49 each
Generally the group shows influences from classical (Stravinsky), fusion (Magma) and rock with intense percussion, heavy drum work, powerful bass guitar, making for a huge sounding rhythm section as bassoon, piano and more weave anguished melodic spells and crashing/thunderous lead lines. ‘Heatwave’ is the tour-de-force here with its more Magma/rock leanings on a set of storming compositions as the power rhythm section is towered over by a mass blast of dual kybds/synth, scorching electric guitar, a sax/clarinet/bassoon back layer and more making for total overload. The others represent a darker, more anguished side of the group with a denser, more intense and sonically rich sound.
UNIVERS ZERO: The Hard Quest CD £13.49
Influences abound here on their most accessible album to date, from ’70′s-era Help label UK fusion through relaxed, jazzy ’80′s Magma, early darker incarnations of the band themselves, several classical composers I couldn’t name in a million years, Mike Oldfield (honest), gothic symphonic, hints of Art Zoyd as they used to be – all just some of the things that cross your mind when riveted to this spellbinding combination of bass, drums, violin, clarinet, keyboards, percussion, bassoon and oboe which form the nucleus and heart of the music on this album. From melodic through dark to spectacularly angular, this features eleven tracks of sheer musical genius with a unique, almost orchestral/symphonic sound, not overly medieval, yet with an eerie yet accessible charm among its rich textures and spiky signatures – a new life beckons.
UNIVERS ZERO: Rhythmix CD £13.99
Ah, that difficult tenth album syndrome. Difficult to review that is. I mean, where do you start with an album like this if you’ve only got a few lines to convey its glories and majestic triumphs. First, you tell everyone that it is a kind of ensemble chamber fusion music with a definite touch of the Zeuhl about it, particularly with two bassists in the band, and while the opening track may sound like a mind-melt of Samla Mamma Mannas and Weidorje, a good atmosphere nevertheless, as you travel further into the crevices of the album, you’ll finf a myriad musical universes and textures abounding, where oboe, English Horn, cello, bassooon, flute, piccolo, drums, percussion, keyboards, harmonium, clarinet, trumpet, acoutic guitar, marimba, glockenspiel, accordion (briefly) and the aforementioned bassists all intermingle in various conglomerations to produce a flowing, sometimes dark, more melodic than you would expect and certainly wide-ranging assortment of tracks. Largely free of any musical or difficult listening excesses, this is a good way to come of age – roll on number eleven.
UPSILON ACRUX: The Lost Pirates Of Upsilon CD £13.99
If I said that this CD fused together elements of King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler, would you be horrified or ecstatic? Well, only one way to find out…..and I did just that by getting absolutely brain-fried on this extraordinary meeting of minds from a chorus of guitars, electric bass, drums, saxophones and other touches from other instruments. In essence this is the sort of music that is what most normal people would call ‘challenging’ (and then some, in my case) but people who like things like Tony Conrad, the aforementioned artists and anything in a similar vein, will go ape over. It’s contemporary, it’s melodic, it’s a racket, it’s ensemble playing at its most fiery, it’s technically amazing, immaculately produced and guaranteed to kill at 50 paces. Wire readers will have a field day, speaking of which……
URFAUST & GARY LUCAS:Prazska Strasidla CD£13.49
Incredible prog psych concept recorded in the Czxech republic in vein of Can/Gong/Magma- so says ther promo blurb but can’t add to that as we’ve not heard it yet.
CHRISTIAN VANDER: Les Voyages de Christoph Columbes CD £13.99
A somewhat self-indulgent concept album featuring just synths and voice and is the weird musical equivalent of what Zappa did with the synclavier. Only for the ultimate collectors.
CHRISTIAN VANDER: A Tout Les Enfants CD+Book £16.99
Jeezus!! Look, forget this is a so-called ‘childrens’ album and you, amazingly, enter a Vander and Vander CD that, to my great surprise, actually is excellent. As a mellow vocals-piano based album it not only works but it’s even got that Vander edge to it in many places. The fact that the vocals are in French actually enhance the procedings and, overall, it comes across as a (for me) darker version of the Stella Vander album although I do think they actually intended to create the opposite effect. Maybe if you understand the French it makes akll the difference and turns it into a weaker album??Anyway, as far as the songs go it’s worth having and will stand and even beckon repeated listening and probably ranks as much of a welcome surprise as ‘Voyages’ was an unwelcome one.
CHRISTIAN VANDER QUARTET: Au Sunset CD £14.49
Five new tracks from the instrumental jazz outfit formed by Magma’s Christian Vander featuring co-conspirator Emmanuel Borghi on piano, plus bass and sax players, with four long and pne shorter tracks of smoothly flowing jazz that’s absolutely spot on when it comes to the inventive meeting the smoky riches of Parisian nightclub jazz. More consistent than previous albums – and they were good – this is a must for jazz fans.
STELLA VANDER: D’epreuves D’amour CD £13.99
Debut solo album by Stella and features Christian Vander as performer and co-composer of several tracks. This is a delicate and dynamic CD of beautiful songs with the feel of Offering but less intense although firmly under the control of Stella Vander who is on top form throughout with a wide ranging and exquisite vocal performance on a quite hypnotic album.
VANDERTOP: Best On Tour ’76 CD£12.99
More recordings from the short-lived ’76 Magma tour, under the name Vandertop, but not duplicating the source material on the previous album, so that in this case you get the two marathon 20+ minute epics, ‘De Futura’ and ‘Musique Des Spheres’ from different locations than before, plus two shorter tracks, ‘Troller Tanz’ and ‘Mekanïk Zain’. Musically it’s vintage Magma at work with smoking renditions of the compositions and another essential, excellent quality, live album to add to the archive collection.
V/A: Enneade CD £12.99
A quite stunning tribute to Magma featuring Magma, ex-Magma and Magma-influenced musicins ands
groups on a magnificent set of compositions exclusive to this CD and including Troll (echoes 0of ‘De Futura’), Xalph, Paganotti (similar to Weidorje), Seffer (echoes of Zao), Eskaton (Magma style with electronic rhythms), F.Cahen, Shub Niggurath (hugely powerful goth stle Magma), Eiderstellaire, Univers Zero and more. It is essential for all Magma fans as a tribute and a complete work of great music in its own right.
V/A: Puissance 13 + 2 CD £12.99
A live album most notable for the inclusion of an early version of Magma’s ‘Mekanïk ‘ that is only available on this CD which also acts as a perfect guide to some of the more strange and interesting of the early ’70′s wave of ‘Le Rock Francais’.
V/A: 30 Years Of Musical Insurrection In France 1969-1997
A mighty collection detailing the musical history of the French underground. Disc one features music from 1969-1977, disc 2 from 1977 to 1990 and disc 3 from 1991-1997. No one CD is perfect, but if you’ve a flair for the more bizarre yet totally fresh and original music that has come out of France over the years, this will be a positive blessing. The music itself crosses everything from Krautrock-influences, psychedelic, electronic, avant-garde and jazz through all combinations of the stated styles and much more besides. Ther are quite a lot of groups whose music I was not at all familar with and that led to several interesting discoveries, while the groups I knew and loved had a combiantion of previously released and rare material, including Heldon’s previous alter-ego Schizo appearing on CD for the firdt time, plus great if short tracks from Urban Sax, Red Noise, Ame Son, Gong, Lard Free, Mahogany Brain, Heldon, Video Adventures, Pascal Comelade, Clair Obscur, Ulanbator, Cape Fear, Jean-Francois Pauvros and loads more. In essence, old music that sounds positively contemporary of which most was well ahead of its time.
PIERRE VERVLOESEM: Grosso Modo CD £13.99
The bassist in this band does not and did not play for Magma……………the fact that he really should have or should be playing for Magma is indisputable, for the electric bass work on this album is nothing short of immense. That said, it’s not even his album, for the guy in the title is actually the electric guitarist – and HE glows even hotter than the bass player. Yes folks, welcome to a wonderfully muscular, mighty, steaming juggernaut of a French fusion music album, an album where drums, bass, guitar and keyboards really deliver the goods, from twisting turning passages to full-on power, comparisons ranging from raging Quiet Sun through to searing Present/Art Zoyd, red hot fusion all the way. It’s a dynamic album for all that, so that while the power remains the central focus, the band know when to take it down, build and then explode. The playing on here by all the members is exemplary and the feel and depth of expression is a joy to hear as they ascend to giddy heights with some remarkable performances, but in the end the ensemble proves greater than the sum of its parts, and that makes for one stunning album, not to be missed, if you like wicked bass, drums and guitar work in particular.
VOLKOR: S/T CD £13.99
This is actually 2 old LP’s on one CD and features an album called ‘Jazz-Rock’ originally performed by Didier Lockwood, Francis Lockwood, Bunny Brunel, Patrick Gauthier and Kirt Rust, the last 2 going on to form the Magma offshoot Weidorje, while Violinist Didier Lockwood was in Magma and keyboards player Francis Lockwood went on to do a pretty good solo album called Debbi’ and the whole of that album is also featured on this disc. The Jazz-Rock’ album from 1976 has worn very well and consists of an excellent set of instrumentals featuring some stirring, powerful and dynamic work from violin, electric bass, keyboards, synth and drums, while the ‘Debbi’ album was more melodic and relaxed but still full of some neat instrumentals also featuring Didier Lockwood on 2 tracks, plus appeaances on various tracks by Kirt Rust, Jean-Michel Kajdan on electric guitar and bass, Steve Shehan and others. So, along with copiously detailed booklet notes about each album, this is over 65 mins of excellent ’70′s French jazz-rock/fusion.
WEIDORJE: Weidorje CD £12.99
After leaving Magma the first thing bassist Paganotti recorded was the only album by his group Weidorje
(after a title he composed on ‘Udu Wüdü ‘ by Magma), and it was a killer. Opening with tinkling synth by Gauthier under which brief stabs of Paganotti’s bass guitar are heard, the piece then shifts ito gear as the drums and bass enter along with wordless chanting vocals and the Guillard’s sax/trumpet textural colorations beefing up the soundscape before the whole thing subsides allowing the thunderous electric bass to take centre stage over a crashing drum rhythm while all hell breaks out in the vocal and sax departments as the piece threatens to explode out of the heavens, but then subsides again allowing bass, drums and synth to surge along an unstoppable path building as it goes gradually entering the main theme again and taking a veritable storm of music right over the edge. After this come a couple of 12 and 7 min Gauthier compositions that revolve around ensemble palying but with the keyboards generally taking centre stage or leading the way but with every musician contributing toa set of stirring instrumentals. Finally, a bonus CD track in the form of a live version of guitarist Michel Ettori’s ‘Kolinda’ and this time the emphasis is on a more dynamic and varied musical approach, again mainly ensemble based but with more highs and lows. A stunning CD of group interplay for fusion and Magma fans.
WELCOME: Bienvenue CD £13.99
Debut album from Christian Vander’s new project and featuring Simon Goubert and Christian Vander on drums, Michael Zenino and Philippe Dardelle on acoustic basses, Jean Michel Couchet and Yannick Rieu on saxophones and Emmanuel Borghi and Micheal Grailler on pianos. 4 tracks written by Vander, Coltrane, Grailler and Borghi individually. Track one is a 26 min Grailler track and is what you’d expect from this lot-plenty of blowing and tight structures, but with a sense of purpose and a fluidity preventing it all from being too ‘noisy’ or falling apart as it goes. For straight jazz, a great track that twists and turns as it goes. Even better is track 2 featuring some stunning sax work. The 13 min track 3 opens with 4 mins of drums before piano eneters and the music swirls along until a languid sax line enters and the piece becomes well atmospheric, tumbling along slowly in fine fashion, with another 3-4 mins of drums just prior to the end sax-led section. Finally, Vander’s 11 min track starts relaxed and gradually builds intensity but never blows up, a marvelous exercise in dynamics that threatens to break out but stays true to its atmosphere. A surprisingly excellent jazz CD.
BENOIT WIDEMANN: Stress CD £12.99
The debut solo album from the Magma synth msuician, and it’s sounding just as good as it did back then, being a predominatly synth-based album, full of strong melodies, forceful rhythms and flowing atmospherics, all with a hint of fusion and more melodic, a far cry from the clichees of the German crowd. Using a battery of synths and keyboards, Widemann has come up with an album that has moments of classical splendour, touches of good early Wakeman, plenty of instrumental hints of Magma (but don’t be afraid of that comparison), tons of melodic/rhythmic qualities, bits of fusion and an overall prog/fusion feel to much of the music. With guest appearances from fellow Magma musicians Patrick Gauthier, Guy Delacroix, Jean–Pierre Fouquey and Clement Bailly, this is a fine instrumental album that is more than worthy of your attention.
BENOIT WIDEMANN: Tsunami CD £12.99
Second album now on CD with no bonus tracks (they could have actually fitted both onto one CD I think) buit anyway, it’s a more fusion-roiented album than the first which had a touch more of the Wakemans to it. Featuring some first rate melodic, typically French jazz-rock mixed with some more Magma oriented runs and rhythms, this is a consistently good instrumental album highlighting some gret synths/kbds work from the ex-Magma musician and including guest appearnaces from French drummer Andre Ceccarelli and Verto guitarist Grasset.
XAAL:Seconde Ere CD £12.99
Begins with flowing synth lines, rumbling bass, orientsl synth, then in comes a skull-crunching bass guitar
and drums, just like the start of Magma’s ‘De Futura’. The bass and drums then surge up to the top of the mix, again and again the lone synth there at the back; then it calms down briefly, erupts once more with, by now, thunderous bass guitar work on top of the drums and synth, as the whole thing leaps into overdrive, briefly dies away to reveal a choral synth and then all hell breaks loose as the bass runs wild, over the top of which a sax and trumpet blast through, yet all the time it is the vintage ’76 style Magma-like bass and drums which dominate the full-sounding mix. At 6 mins, it decelerates to just tranquil electric guitars and percussion, switches to just electric bass, adds a violin/oboe-like synth lead line, the percussion enters, drops away, rolling drums intensify, the bass emerges once more and a soaring electric guitar flies in from nowhere over the massive bass and drum backing, rises to a furious crescendo and stops. 9 mins of total genius. Track 2 (yes, we’re only on track 2) is equally amazing as the electric guitars, bass and drums whip up a frenzy again, very Magma/Weidorje in feel, and with that fusion sound so prevalent among that crew. The electric bass storms through while the drums collide and power over the background, scorching electric guitar soars over the top and all 3 instruments come crashing together for an explosive finale. Track 3 puts the bass and drums back into normal yet still powerful rhythm mode while, at first sax, and then electric guitar solo furiously to great breathtaking effect on 10 mins of magnificent music. Track 4 starts with harmonic, flowing guitar synth, thunderous bass and tasteful drums until normal guitar scorches in, a huge guitar layer erupts over the bass and drums. Then a return to the bass and drums alone, electric bass now getting up a head of steam before Gottsching-like electric guitar storms all over the mix and the combination of clipped electric guitar, monumental bass and ever-intensifying drums storms through to the extraordinarily climactic rampant trio fusion finale. Finally,a symphony of synths brings in track 5 as that massive electric bass, explosive drums and swirling electric guitar crash through the synth backdrop to crazed effect, again very Weidorje, and the track just storms into action as the guitar synth and guitar fly all over the awesome electric bass and drums backing, with the track going ever higher eventually ending on a fade at 6m21.
This, as you will have gathered, is an essential purchase for Magma and fusion fans alike and is a monster acxhievment in this genre. Essential listening.
YETI: Yeti CD£12.99
Right from the opening bars of this 4 track, near forty-seven minute album, you are thinking Magma or Weidorje, because of the bone-crunching drumming, the pounding muscular electric bass work and the Widemann/Gauthier-like synth work, all of which to combine to create an opener that just blows your mind for over nine minutes. The band are purely instrumental, consist of electric bass, electric guitar, synths/keys and drums, and this is one of the best heavy instrumental albums to come from a band not directly related to Magma or the French fusion scene, in a long, long time. Throughout the album, the emphasis is on dynamics, strength, fluidity of playing and solidity of ensemble work, so that you are holding your breath in sheer amazement throughout much of the album on first hearing. The electric bass work is simply awesome, and anyone into the thirty year long line of remarkable French bassists would do well to get this album. But the drummer whips up a storm too, the synths and guitars are red hot, while the tracks themselves are pure gargantuan, incredibly well played, produced, composed and arranged. For fans of this type of music, it’s a dream album and one that I’d strongly advise you to get hold of right here and right now – it’s phenomenal.
THIERRY ZABOITZEFF: Dr Zab And His robotic Strings Orchestra CD £12.99
Strange and eclectic solo album from Art Zoyd musician.
THIERRY ZABOITZEFF: Heartbeat CD £12.99
Easily his best solo album to date, complete with plenty of ‘Merci’ style Magma-isms as well as a lot of flowing instrumental work from a line-up of synths, choirs, guitars, bass and drums in the main, with some Vander-esque vocals along the way. Overall, it is a splendid album of cohesive, largely rhythmic and very strong compositions that make fascinating listening, are never harsh or difficult, and really have you hooked throughout on a gem of an album from the Art Zoyd musician.
THIERRY ZABOITZEFF: Alice CD £13.49 India CD £13.49
Two albums of all new music from the ex-Art Zoyd musician and they are two sets of music that accompanied the corresponding shows from which the music is taken. Each album lasts approximately 6o minutes and features a variety of acoustic and elctric/electronic instrumental pieces with fourteen tracks and sixteen tracks respectively ranging from ethereal space electronics and choral layers through melodic tunes and flowing pastoral fusion to occasional Vander-style songs and more eerie interludes. Generally well accessible, full of mood and atmosphere, extremely varied on a musical level yet with a thematic consistency that runs throughout the CD’s, you don’t have to be into ‘difficult’ music to get something out of these.
ZABOITZEFF & CREW: Miniaturen CD£11.99
Subtitled “Zoydian suite in three movements”, this is a continuous seventy-three minute CD that mixes Magma, Art Zoyd, opera, jazz, fusion and rock in quite unimaginable combinations, the work of a decidedly eccentric genius, that, just as you’re getting into it, goes off at a complete tangent. If you have a taste for the adventurous, as a confirmed Magma fan, get your teeth into this.
ZAO: Kawana CD£13.99 Ltd offer CD£12.99
Legendary French fusion band featuring 3 ex-Magma musicians playing an intricate and dynamic set of tracks led by kybds, sax and violin with a solid rhythmic backing, essential for those more into the Canterbury and jazz-rock end of the spectum.
ZAO: Akhenaton/Kawana/Osiris/Shekina/Z=7L CD £12.99 each
Classic French fusion group created around the central axis of Francois Cahen’s keyboard work and Yochk’o Seffer’s sax work featuring also bass and drums plus odd few textural additions on what are solid and rhythmic and melodic but always with a hint of the unusual and taking some unexpected turns in the music making for maximum attention-grabbing stuff. ‘Akhenaton’ is a brand new reunion album and is just as stunning as the others. ‘Osiris’ features a bonus previously unreleased 12 min track and is the best of the rest featuring haunting flute, gentle bass, light kybd textures, Hopper-style bass, scorching sax work and solid support from kyboards and drums.
Jean Pascal Boffo
Although a distant relative to the world of Zeuhl, Jean Pascal Boffo is nonetheless a top notch guitarist and was a firm favourite of the originator of the Ork Alarm! fanzine Paul Mummery. Jean Pascal Boffo’s roots have more in common with ledgendary French band ANGE but on occasions he has been guilty of the odd Zeuhl sounding track.
Here is a round up from Musea:
Jean-Pascal BOFFO was the first artist signed by MUSEA when they started in 1985. The solo career of this guitarist from Eastern France created a beautiful discography that shows a rarely equaled diversity and brilliance.
After starting in 1974 within the progressive rock band LARSEN, he joined drummer Michel ALTMAYER within MANDRAGORE two years later, and thirty six months before founding the trio RED. MANDRAGORE then became GEHEB-RE and then TROLL.
Jean-Pascal BOFFO recorded with this last line-up and MAGMA’s brass section in 1981, and then got together with the jazz band OURANIA. “Jeux de Nains”, issued three years later in 1986, is the first step on a path that had no wrong moves, and under his own name: this record presents an intimate progressive rock based on delicate guitars and keyboard loops in a style close to the first albums by Steve HACKETT, or “The Geese and the Ghost” by Anthony PHILLIPS.
“Carillons” includes other influences (MAGMA, WEIDORJE…) and proves to be both more orchestrated and more electric. On “Rituel”, BOFFO develops a highly symphonic style influenced by RAVEL and DEBUSSY, with the help of classical musicians: pure art! Then on “Nomades”, he shows a complete style renewal with a line-up that sees saxes and double bass on top of his guitars and the drums, and which goes towards an ethnic-fusion with Arabic sounds. Then, he managed to do a perfect synthesis of his evolution, and blended with success progressive rock, jazz and ethnic music in tracks that are each truly intense and personal, and those could easily compete with the masters of this ethno-fusion (John McLAUGHLIN, Mike STERN, Pat METHENY): melodies and emotions blended in a music that showed a rare quality, a perfect structure, great arrangements, orchestrations and melodies.
His new album “Vu du Ciel” is a really successful blend of the styles that he has explored until now. This step includes all of his musical knowledge, with a luxury production (a star shaped cover) that is truly magnificent! During the year 2000, “Parfum D’etoile” showed a complete U-turn as far as style was concerned. Jean-Pascal BOFFO finally decided to integrate classical instruments in his music, and got then a blend that has to be discovered! There, you also find vocals for the first time (Caroline CROZAT gives us a taste of her vocal possibilities, both in French and in English), as well as some known and revisited compositions. Finally, and as a further step, “Invizible” was chosen by Serge LEVAILLAN for the soundtrack of his radio show on a prestigious French channel “Sous les Etoiles Exactement”.
Alif Air is his latest project and the new band started a small tour last October.
or the desire to use one’s wings for good…
Alifère : (French) Zoology. : The beast with wings
AlifAir : with fifteen melodic segments, the melanfollic band enters virgin lands devoted to a lightly philosophical and contemplative ballad. AlifAir becomes the time of a journey, our progression, a throbbing walk tinged with suggestive bells, slow but certain, superficial and on the right chords of these 4 reed pipes players – like pop modest anti heroes.
Jean-Pascal Boffo behind his wandering guitar proposes the first steps in modified jungles bursting with effects and measures then Aurore comes in and the singing takes over for the rest of the trip. With a misty sur-realistic prose, her texts are like a large cupboard peppered with meaning where one keeps on discovering a vast number of new drawers that are lost deep down in a false bottom. She manages to shatter each word, to build it back into her prism. Her philosophy of the last moments is expressed in plain language but is printed in a timeless distortion.
Everything in AlifAir is a story of paradoxes; a restraint and nevertheless a primal need to convey a disenchanted energy, a frail rewriting, note after note, word after word, of their environment and an undoubted propensity for the discrepancy. The sweet madness and the quest of the unspoken – the non walk.
We can guess the seventies, taste the English pop from the last 10 years and feel the taste of song… AlifAir is unveiled.
A new plan by Jean-Pascal Boffo, a guitar player who has stood out in Decamps et fils (illuminated rehash of the band Ange), this AlifAir has endless charm, a racy charm thanks to the diaphanous voice and vocal slenderness of the frail Aurore Reichert. We also come across the accomplice Hervé Rouyer, drummer of Ange, who is able to perfectly adapt his playing with all sorts of beats to the sugary and melodic laments of this strange combo from the cold Lorraine.
Can we say “progressive” to give a definition of this tuneful music? This music which snakes its way into your head like the behaviour of a lizard looking for the sunshine. Yes and no. Undoubtedly a question of easiness for Alifair reminds us of Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, ethereal singers whose mysteries of seduction act insidiously and in a certain extent reminds us as well of King Crimpson for the undulating stratures of Jean-Pascal Boffo’s music. This album brings its part of dream without uncalling effusion while winding between strange songs and sustained threnodies.
The band Alif Air was formed during the summer of 2001 and the album “Mélanfolie” (14 titles Maya 009, Muséa Publishing) was published during summer 2002. Jean-Louis Foulquier’s and Didier Vanod’s “coup de cœur” were heard on the first national radio station, France Inter, in Autumn 2001 and the band has since performed on stage (Jorane’s first part, regional gigs, duo show cases). A video taken from their concerts realised in September 2002 on the song “Heavy dream” appears on Virgin Megastores playlist, which is available from Virgin Megastores in France.
Further to this, Alif Air performed 3 songs live on the aforementioned national radio station, France Inter, in September 2002 (“Sous les étoiles exactement”) and has been finalist in a contest of French-speaking expression called “Spectaculaire” (=spectacular) held during January 2003 in La Maroquinerie (Paris). To add to this already rich list they have recently played position closed at the Trinitaires in Metz, Lorraine for which a DVD is in preparation. Moreover, a new video on the song “Petit homme” will be produced by October 2003.
Influences : from afar = Bjork, Bashung, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, King Crimson.
Aurore sings her poems giving declensions of her interiority on the rhymed sounds of Jean Pascal (guitar), Hervé (drums), Séraphin (keyboards) and Fred (bass) and thus looks for meaning in the word, meaning in the note for AlifAir is flying in search of the experience. At the beginning’s edge this band is buckling down to what follows, questing for the rebus, the enigma of what course of action to take and to forget every single aim. AlifAir’s music draws its inspiration in large gusts (of pop, rock, jazz, electro…) and longs for one thing – to fly away…maybe with you!
Aurore Reichert 22 studies philosophy at the university of Metz. The call of music came several years ago for her as she sang, wrote, composed/played the bass, the guitar and the drums with her father and friends in a band called T’ai. In October 2000, while recording with this band in studio Amper, she met Jean-Pascal Boffo who asked her later for collaboration on several titles, which was the birth of AlifAir’s.
Jean-Pascal Boffo has strummed away on his guitar since 1974. Passenger of Mandragore, Troll, Decamps et fils (Ange) while evolving at the same time in his solo career consisting of 7 albums between 1986 and 2001 (Muséa Publishing) and a song as generic for the first national French radio station, France Inter, “Sous les étoiles exactement”. Further to this all the parts he has played as a guitar player, arranger or sound engineer on other albums would be too long to list!
Hervé Rouyer has been beating the drums for an eternity! This journey started with 10 years on the road with Salomé (soul rhythm ‘n blues), since 1994 playing with Decamps et fils and then Ange. He now plays with ‘Le petit Jézu, La puissance tout en douceur’ and has also been very influential and creative on Jean-Pascal Boffo’s albums since 1993.
Séraphin Palméri provides the band with keyboards and other eclectic sounds as he has already done brightly with Pierre Hanot, Fabrice Ach (bass player and back singer for Anguun), Sawuri, Jimmy Oihid and Travel. Born in 1963 he trained in piano at the American School of Modern Music in Paris and is also a master of computing. These skills have been harnessed to create specialised CD-ROM’s, to produce a solo album “Aphorismes”, while being a piano teacher and the co-creator of a pre-mastering studio close to Metz (studio son’Art).
Fred Kempf is 31 years old and has spent almost half his life playing the bass! He now tastes AlifAir’s sweet melodies after he has known ecstasy with his former band “Spittles” (3 energetic and crazy CD’s/CD-ROM’s).
24 tracks console + 2 multi-effects + 5 backlines on 4 separated circuits.
Drum kit : bass drum, snare drum, 3 tom drums, cymbal charlestons, 4 cymbals (8 mics)
Keyboards : 1 Korg Trinity (2 DI boxes), 1 laptop computer (Mac) + a mini-master keyboard (2 DI boxes)
Bass : 1 DI box
Guitars : 1 electro-accoustic guitar (2 DI boxes), 1 electric guitar (to be plugged with the multi effects – 2 DI Boxes), a Roland SP 808 ex Sequencer + an Alesis Air Fx effects (2DI boxes)Vocals : 2 mics SM 58 Shure (1 to be plugged with the multi effects), Boss GT5 (1 DI box)