This 2-CD set contains of Magma going into overdrive at the Marquee Club in London on March 17, 1974. The band were promoting their third studio release, Mekanik Destrutkiw Kommandoh and were two months to go back into the studio to record their fourth album, Kohntarkosz.
This is a very interesting rare archival recording. It’s not just you can close your eyes and being at the Marquee while watching Magma bringing the styles of Stravinsky, Opera, Jazz, Classical, and Progressive Rock to life with the Kobaian language, but having the power and the glory to witness something special with this that will make your jaws drop from start to finish.
The scream of “HAMATAI!” kicks everything off with the work-in-progress version of Kohntarkosz. The band begins with this intensive crescendo that erupts like a cannon blast for the audience to embark on going into the Egyptian tombs of the god himself, Emehntehtt-Re. You can imagine the crowd is stunned and in awe of hearing the strange language being brought to life for them and knowing this is a concert they will never forget.
Claude Olmos comes center stage as Klaus Blasquiz’s vocals reaches the higher arrangements with his vocals as Claude’s guitar goes into some harder double-edge swords on a bluesy sound and removing those spider-webs inside those darker tombs. Graillier and Bikalo share this alarming yet ominous Rhodes-like tunnel to make you be on the look-out for some of the traps that the gods might have done.
Christian himself follows in hot pursuit to create more danger as he puts you on this tightrope as pounds those drums like Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, and Billy Cobham combined into one. The last six minutes become even more dooming and intensive as Vander’s screeching vocals make your skin crawl while Claude does this Fripp-like movements for a brief second. But all of a sudden, it becomes a climatic frenzy as they come together to bring the club down to a thunderous cheering and applause.
Sowiloi is a mellowing ballad that has this feeling of Soft Machine’s Slighty All the Time that Magma tip their hats to. It then switches into a sudden change at the last two minutes as they go into a frenzy attack to go full throttle on yo’ ass! Sons et Chorus de batterie (Ptah) which translates to Sounds and Chorus of Drums, this gives Christian Vander a chance to sweat his heart and soul out on those drums.
It is tribal, pounding, swing, and some crazy improvisations that Vander himself brings to the audience. He is the mad scientist on the kit, but also a conductor. The last five minutes and fifty seconds in where he scats and sings in his operatic form, there are moments where he would go into this scale format as the rhythm goes really fast. There is another sequence where when he would hit the snare drum by the time he scats he would sound like a computer going haywire.
And after the explosive 25 minute improvisations, the audience went nuts and applauding for more of them to do another set. Jannick Top’s composition, KMX BXII Opus 7, is one of the rarest live recordings for him and his bass to fit the biggest pieces of the puzzle. Now you can hear some of the bits of the Kohntarkosz suite in there, but when Top plays, the band gives him free-rein. He uses the fuzz-tone sound and go into some heavy jazz-rocking lines that makes it sound like a rapid firing machine gun.
He plays through the spiraling staircases between Pekka Pohjola, Stanley Clarke, Geezer Butler, and Jaco Pastorius. As Jannick raises up the heat from the temperature, it goes up and up. I just wished in that moment that the crowd would have clapped along to the rhythm and tell him to keep going.
Also on here is another work-in-progress composition that was performed at the Marquee was the first movement of Theusz Hamtaahk. There were some parts of what Vander had also written for the trilogy and some aspects for the bizarre 1972 French Film, Tristan et Iseult, and a part of the album, Wurdah Itah. While the first movement wasn’t in its final shape, you could tell that this was where Vander wanted to go with the piece.
While the first movement was performed on a BBC Sessions they did for John Peel, prior to the Marquee. And then later in 1981 for the live album, Retrospektiw (Parts I + II), and recorded 18 years ago at the Trianon theater in Paris in honor of their 30th anniversary for the three movements including their groundbreaking album which would be the third and final movement, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh.
This is now my tenth time listening Magma’s live performance at the Marquee. And the sound quality is either an A or B quality from the archives, it’s a very interesting release to see what the band or Vander himself will come up with next for the next Archive release in the near future. So repeat after me, “Hortz fur dehn Štëkëhn Wešt/Hortz da felt dos Fünker/Hortz Zëbëhnn dëh Geuštaah/Hortz Wlasïk Kobaïa!”