Magma: Slag Tanz

Amid all the reissues, a jaw-dropping new mini-album.

TODO alt text

While Jazz Village’s monthly Magma reissue campaign continues on its unstoppable path, leader and master drummer Christian Vander seems bent on conducting a parallel offensive to show how his unearthly visions and current stellar line-up are burning just as intensely as ever.

After 2012’s Félicité Thösz (reissued on vinyl in January) arrived like a starburst bolt from the heavens with its transcendental harmonies and soul-soothing beauty, last year’s Rïah Sahïltaahk saw the band revisiting and hotwiring a track off 1970’s second album. Now Slag Tanz sees Magma piling into the kind of cataclysmic onslaught that made their name – mercilessly intense, supernaturally complex and delivered with the kind of telepathic sizzle that elevated Vander’s beloved ecstatic jazz.

Slag Tanz is a new work, coming in eight parts that add up to this 23-minute mini-album. But after the last chord of the funereal finale has faded into deep space, it feels more like a whole sexed-up cerebral bulldozer of a double album has just wreaked havoc on the central nervous system and pillaged any passing erogenous zones to pulp in the process.

Magma fans have been getting excited about what the cover sticker calls their “jazz metal symphony” since 2009 when, like most new tracks Vander introduces, it started appearing in live sets as a much shorter work in progress. It steadily grew until he considered it fit to be recorded, which took place over 12 months, starting in September 2013.

The piece is built around Philippe Bussonet’s malevolent cliffhanger bassline and a massive, ominous doom-chord, which is hung, drawn and quartered by the band (which also includes vibraphonist Benoît Alziary, guitarist James Mac Gaw and pianist Jérémie Ternoy). It becomes a rampant, shape-shifting onslaught invoking the behemoth power of early works like _Mëkanïk Dëstruktï`w Kömmandöh_.

A state of high tension is sustained through lethal dynamics until, by Dumblae Le Silence des Mondes (lyrics appear in French along with the usual Kobaïan), the intensity starts to bubble as Vander and Bussonet dogfight, singers Stella Vander, Isabelle Feuillebois and Herve Aknin let fly in frenzied unison and the whole ensemble fire the tumultuous title section up to the kind of seismic climax that makes Magma like no other group in the world.

On the reissue front, after January’s Félicité Thösz, February saw 1984’s jazz-funk excursion Merci, March is getting 1978’s Attahk, and the fearsome Üdü `Wüdü lands in April. Incredibly, yet more very big guns are lying in wait for later in the year.