Magma for me, are still one of my favorite bands for nearly 13 years after my Mom bought me the Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock era 5-CD box set whilst I was in College along with the ProgArchives website also. Magma is a band whether you get it or you don’t. Magma always were often overlooked in the history of the Progressive genre and again they’re this mixture between Opera, Avant-Garde, Jazz, and Rock rolled into a big gigantic smoothie.
That and the 2-CD reissue of Magma Live/Hhai which was recorded on June 1st and the 5th of 1975 at the Taverne De L’Olympia in Paris showing them at their finest. The band at the time released their fifth studio album entitled, Kohntarkosz in 1974. During the autumn of that year, Bassist Jannick Top departed the band along with some of the members. So it was up to Christian Vander to find some new blood to fill in the shoes of Magma.
After long rehearsals, Vander knew right away the magic and mysterious vibrations he brought, it was time to do a live album. When you listen to Magma Live, you can feel their presence. It’s not just Christian himself, but the band coming together as one. And you can imagine yourself at the concert just in awe of how they brought the harsh tones, menacing vibes, powerful structures, and operatic arrangements thanks to Christian’s vocals.
The first disc begins with the 2-part suite of Kohntark. With the cry of “HAMATAI!” and the blaring crescendo between Didier Lockwood’s violin and Christian’s drumming that sounds like a gigantic cannon blast waiting to happen at the right moment that is expected to happen. Paganotti’s bass keeps the tempo following the fuzztone sound that is dooming.
He follows Vander wherever he goes and during the approach or reaching the fast sections of the piece, he follows him wherever he goes. On Part 2, it brings the audience’s approval as the temperature level goes up. It goes into a frenzy, but with an intensive vibe on the last six minutes of the piece. Federow and Lockwood show their nod to both John McLaughlin and Jean-Luc Ponty a-la Mahavishnu Orchestra style ending before the crowd cheers and applause erupt.
On the second disc, Hhai starts with this soulful sound on the Rhodes that feels at times like a ballad. And it’s Christian not just singing Kobaian, but the roots of the Soul/R&B flows in his vocals as he gives his nod to the sound of both Motown and Otis Redding. And then, the instruments come pushing the door down as they go into this dashing race towards the finish line.
As I’ve mentioned before it’s the nod the sound of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Magma know their Jazz Fusion very well. When you listen to the first track on the second disc, you can tell they’ve done their homework very well. It’s this essence of the Mahavishnu’s debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame.
Lihns is a real treat. The listener is walking into a maze thanks to the Organ and the Bass. With the Clock ticking, Magma sets up the clues for them to see where they will head into. It’s almost as if they’ve done a score to one of the episodes for the 1992 classic, Batman: The Animated Series. The Rhodes creates these walkthroughs on their inspirations.
With call-and-response between Christian, Klaus, and Stella, you could tell there’s some snippets of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh. While the last two tracks on the second disc contains the excerpts of piece incuding Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik, the 18-minute piece, Mekanik Zain contains the two pieces Nebehr Gudahtt and Mekanik Kommandoh. This is where they bring the Taverne to a standstill as Klaus and Stella come together with Christian as they bring, a big gigantic push.
It is a great version of the excerpts on the second disc as Didier follows the melodic line on the vocal arrangements with his violin. And in a full speed run, he keeps up the pace as Christian follows suit of making sure he’s in the lead. It ends with the audience clapping and chanting for another encore.
So if you want to be prepared to put your toes in the water of Magma’s music, then close your eyes and imagine yourself being at those two shows at the Taverne in June of 1975 and seeing Magma at their best.