Magma: Konzert Zund

The apocalyptic live box set. You’ll zeuhl yourself…

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All 11 of Magma’s studio albums have now been reissued by French label Jazz Village as gorgeously packaged, remastered vinyl albums (along with two new outings). So, finally, the convoluted evolution of the project started by visionary super drummer Christian Vander 45 years ago can now be appreciated as a cohesive, quite staggering body of work. But, as Vander says, the stage is where the magic really happens, so the final release presents twelve CDs of Magma in their live element, hot-wiring their dazzlingly complex catalogue to greater heights before five decades of Parisian home crowds.

Ten discs remaster previously released live albums and DVDs, starting with Live, recorded in June 1975 at the Taverne de L’Olympia, which includes including a climactic blowout through Köhntark, two early blueprints for 2009’s epic Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré and a savage Mëkanïk Zaïn, introduced by a Godzilla-force onslaught from then-bassist Bernard Paganotti. Three volumes of June 1980’s Retrospectiw include a malevolent churn through Theusz Hamtaahk and what’s been called the definitive Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh, before leaping to three discs capturing 2000’s 30th anniversary performance of the Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy at the Trianon, featuring the title work,* Wurdah Ïtah* (Vander’s soundtrack for 1972’s Tristan et Iseult film), and MDK.

For Magma, the stage is where the magic really happens.

The next two discs present remixed highlights of the shows at the Triton in 2005 and 2011 which formed the Mythes et Légendes DVD series, including renditions of the Riah Sahittaahk remake that launched the reissues, and recent Slag Tanz. There’s also Vander’s impassioned vocal homage to his beloved Otis Redding in Otis and a cataclysmic De Futura, featuring demonic bassist Jannick Top. The final pièce de résistance of the box set, and whole campaign, comes on two discs capturing a previously unreleased 2009 show at the Alhambra, showing the modern Magma firing on all cylinders as they blaze through 49 minutes of the now fully realised Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré and glistening chorales of Félicité Thösz.

I for one was forever changed by witnessing Magma scorch stages with overwhelming brutal ferocity over four decades ago but, on this evidence, the most recent incarnation, stoked by seismic bassist Philippe Bussonnet, is capable of hitting on deeper levels by finally reaching the higher state of ecstatic catharsis Vander has been striving for since forming the band.

It’s been a long, hard fight but he’s finally triumphed, holding aloft this ultimate battle trophy and monument to what must be the longest-running, most genuinely progressive band the world has ever seen.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!