Magma - Wurdah Itah (Remastered) album review

Magma legacy gains livid archival gold

Magma - Wurdah Itah album artwork

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Wurdah Ïtah was reissued as recently as 2015 during Jazz Village’s catalogue reissue campaign, but now it’s back, on Magma’s own label, with the monumental addition of January 1972’s original demo version, exhumed from Christian Vander’s vaults. At that time, Magma had released only two feet-finding albums in France and, as Vander says in his notes, were bursting “to release our pent-up energy” after a series of volcanic live performances. So manager Giorgio Gomelsky booked a studio and Vander enlisted three Magma members, including stentorian singer Klaus Blasquiz, to try out a work in progress called Wurdah Ïtah. As Vander says in his notes, “We’re in a trance… a gang of raving music-driven raving lunatics have struck their studio like lightning!”

Vander returned to the 25-minute track and expanded it into a full work when commissioned to provide the soundtrack to Yvan Lagrange’s Tristan et Iseult movie in April 1974. It was then released under his name as a solo project, still sung in his self-invented Kobaïan language. By now, Magma had released 1973’s breakthrough Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh and when the soundtrack reappeared on Magma’s label in 1989, retitled Wurdah Ïtah, it was revealed to be the second movement of the epic Theus Hamtaahk (Time Of Hatred) trilogy, Vander’s ecological space opera concerning doomed Earth and idyllic planet Kobaia. (Confusingly, MDK was actually the third part and the title movement itself has never made it beyond live albums.)

Wurdah Ïtah (Dead Earth in Kobaiian) still stands as a mesmerising record of Magma’s classic early line-up, enlivened by demonic bassist Jannick Top, with Vander handling both piano and his thermonuclear drums. Devotees will know every crevice, but it’s that demo that provides this reissue’s thrills as Vander’s piano pummelling replaces his drums under possessed vocal incantations and impassioned soliloquies. As Vander says, “It remains an essential document to understand the origin of Wurdah Ïtah and to feel our frenzy at the time.”

Once again, mind-blowing.

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!