24 June 2009

CD REVIEW: Magma, Studio Zund (Seventh Records, 2008)

The mere thought of a 12 CD boxed set of Magma recordings is sure to cause most prog fans to have a fit. On one side, ardent fans of the zeuhl genre likely will be salivating at the idea of a big black box emblazoned with Magma logos, filled to overflowing with musical goodness. On the other hand, there is a more than insignificant portion of the prog fanbase who greets the name Magma with hands over the ears and tongue sticking out like they’d just taken poison.

Yes, it’s fair to say that Magma is a polarising band.

Studio Zund is an impressive release to be sure. Yes, it compiles in one convenient package all the original Magma studio albums, from Kobaia in 1970 through Kohntarkosz Anteria from 2004. None of the releases have seen any remastering or sonic tweaking (I am not sure how much any of them really needed it…they are products of their period, and to my ears have sounded pretty good historically), but for the fan who wants everything to look the same presentation wise, you just can’t go wrong. Each album is in a nice card digipak, with all edges in red and black, numbered chronologically on the bottom in red, and with nicely reproduced cover art. Inside each album’s packaging, you get a thick, beefy booklet with notes from Christian Vander himself (along with another author whose name escapes me, as I only have one disc with me today as I write this review) that go into the recording and writing process of each release. I love that…I love getting an artist’s take on the process of creation, and for a band so identified with a singular musician and philosophy, such notes are almost essential.

What will draw in the most attention is the 2 CD Archiw set, which compiles a number of interesting historical recordings. We get the first demos from 1970, sourced from vinyl (yes, it’s pretty obvious, as there’s pops and crackles in the recording; not enough in my opinion to detract from the listening, but it is there. Fair warning), an early take on
Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh with just rhythm section and a vocal guide track, the original sound track from the film 24 heures seulement recorded that same year by the line-up playing on the first album, and a version of “Eliphas Levi” with drums. For me, again, these historical recordings are enlightening. I do not know that they would be so for others, but considering how frequently I go searching for material like this (old demos, et cetera), it’s nice to have them in one place along with the rest of the catalogue.

As a Magma fan, purchasing this boxed set was an easy decision to make (though this has not always been the case…ask any of my friends how hard it was for me to finally bite the bullet and purchase Trilogie au Triannon a few years back). Considering that the boxed set contains 12 CDs, the cost is minimal really. It does make the albums I already own duplicates, but I am sure that I can find good homes for the ones that I’ve just purchased again. As this set only covers the core releases, things like
Mekanïk Kommandöh (the other early version the band has released officially) are not included, nor are the official live albums or any of the official bootlegs released on Akt Records over the years.

So, who is Studio Zund aimed at? I’m not sure there. Hardcore fans probably have everything on here save for the material on Archiw I & II…and for them, I’d wager a $100 + price tag for 2 discs is probably a bit much. As I’ve not gotten the whole studio discography yet (and several of the ones I do have I have as officially purchased downloads), it was easier to justify the purchase, and have the bonus of the unreleased material. What I can and will state is that this is one of the most attractively designed, well thought out boxed sets I have seen in recent years (tho the Henry Cow boxes probably beat this on sheer volume and unreleased material standpoints), and pretty essential for presenting the catalogue of one of the most influential, important bands in all of progressive music.


1970: Magma (reissued as Kobaïa)

1971: 1001° Centigrades

1973: Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh

1974: Ẁurdah Ïtah

1974: Köhntarkösz

1976: Üdü Wüdü

1978: Attahk

1984: Merci

2004: K.A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria)

2008: Archiw 1 & II

Musicians (likely a far from exhaustive list)

Christian Vander – drums, vocals

Claude Engel – guitars, flute, vocals

Francis Moze – electric bass, contrabass

François Cahen – piano

Teddy Lasry – soprano sax, flute

Richard Raux – alto and tenor sax, flute

Alain "Paco" Charlery – trumpet, percussion

Klaus Basquiz – vocals

Jeff Seffer - Saxophone, Bass Clarinet

Louis Toesca – Trumpet

Jannick Top — Bass

Jean Luc Manderlier — Piano, Organ

Rene Garber — Bass Clarinet, Vocals

Claude Olmos — Guitar

Stella Vander — Vocals

Muriel Streisfield — Vocals

Evelyne Razymovski — Vocals

Michele Saulnier — Vocals

Doris Reinhardt — Vocals

Gerard Bikialo - Pianos,Yamaha Organ

Michel Graillier - Pianos, Clavinet

Brian Godding - Guitar

Alain Hatot - Saxophones, Flute

Patrick Gauthier - Piano, Synthesiser

Bernard Paganotti - Bass, Vocals

"Lisa" - Vocals

Lucille Cullaz - Vocals

Catherine Szpira – Vocals

Tony Russo - Trumpet

Jacques Bolognesi – Trombone

Benoit Widemann - Grand Piano, Rhodes, Mini-Moog, Oberheim Polyphonic

Guy Delacroix - "Earth" Bass, "Air" Bass

Guy Khalifa - Vocals

Francois Laizeau - Drums, Drum Programming

Marc Eliard - Bass

Liza Deluxe - Backing Vocals

Simon Goubert - Synthesizer

Phillipe Slominski - Trumpet

Christian Martinez - Trumpet

Michel Goldberg - Saxophone

Freddy Opsepian - Trumpet

Christian Guizen - Trombone

Alex Ferrand - Vocals

Jean Luc Chevalier - Guitar

Paul Bayle - Saxophone

Denis LeLoup - Trombone

Arrigo Lorenzi - Soprano Sax

Maria Popkiewicz - Backing Vocals

Jerome Naulay - Trombone

Zaka - Percussion

Michel Graillier - Rhodes Piano

James Mac Gaw — Guitars

Emmanuel Borghi — Piano, Fender Rhodes

Frédéric d'Oelsnitz — Fender Rhodes

Philippe Bussonet — Bass guitar

Antoine Paganotti — Vocals

Himiko Paganotti — Vocals

Isabelle Feuillebois — Vocals

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