28 June 2010

Magma Monday 1

Welcome to Just Another Magma Monday. Once a week, your obd’t narrator and occasional blogger will trawl the expanses of his Magma collection to discuss something of Zeuhl-ish importance. Whether it’s the studio albums, the best of the AKT archive releases, one of the sundry live DVDs, or a choice artifact from his ‘unofficial’ collection, one thing is for sure…for this writer, Magma iss de hundin!

This week, sit back and relax as we take a look at…a little personal history.

For this, the first weekly Magma Monday post, I thought I’d delve into a little personal history. That way, at the very least, you have a little bit of an idea where this writer is coming from…how I discovered them, how I came to enjoy their music, et cetera. It’s not as long and bumpy a ride as one might think, so this opening installment may be a little on the brief side, but hopefully you’ll bear with a little self-indulgence. You should, after all…you’re a prog fan ;-)

I’ve honestly been a Magma fan since 2003. If we take the Wayback Machine, we’ll find out that I became a fan after seeing them live for the first time at NEARfest 2003 in Trenton NJ. This would make it obvious, one might think, that I discovered them as a result of the announcement in 2002 of their headline status for the following festival. And while this would be a neat and clear explanation, it’s not true. I know I heard the band before then…they were included on the 5-CD boxed set Supernatural Fairy Tales, and it was either ‘Troller Tanz’ or ‘Zombies’ from Üdü Wüdü (I just checked, and it was in fact ‘Troller Tanz’). And I have to admit that at the time I was the furthest thing from enthused, and was fairly certain when the band played in 2003, I’d feel the same way.

It’s amazing that live music can change things so radically, because when they hit the stage in 2003 to play the entirety of their the forthcoming album, Kohntarkosz Anteria, I was in a defiant, ‘show me’ mood. And by the time they had finished the first movement, I was ready to dress all in black and have a hawk logo necklace on at all times (OK, the dressing all in black part was easy, but you get the idea). One show…not even one song live, was all it took for me to get what the band was presenting. Suddenly the music made sense…the martial beats, the chanted vocals, the gradually building tension through the minimalism, the heavy jazz and spiritual influences…it was all there, and all I’d have to do was look back at the albums to see how it grew and developed and changed over the course of 30+ years.

Since then I’ve been lucky enough to see them a second time, at another NEARfest (this time far closer and more intimately), and if fortune smiles enough I may be able to see them a third this fall in Washington DC. I’ve bought the whole studio album collection, some of them more than once. I’m slowly working on picking up the DVDs (they’re pretty expensive as they’re all French imports), and the live releases from Akt will be next. Magma’s a band with a huge discography when you work in all the live albums that have been released, some of them in one or two countires only. They’re a band well worth searching out, because every album is different from the ones around it, and their growth and evolution, while perhaps not always to my liking, was a natural thing.

Over the course of the next however many weeks, we’ll be looking at all kinds of Magma music. We’ll certainly hit all the studio albums, and as I acquire the releases on Akt, we’ll look and listen to them as well. The DVDs will get their time in the sun as well, and we’ll look at how they differ from one another wherever possible (NB: I am not a musicologist, nor am I entirely encyclopaedic about things…an anorak I may be, but I’ll get it wrong too, and I hope you’ll be patient with me when I do). And yes, on occasion I may even look and listen to a bit that is packed away in a dusty box on a dusty hard drive that came from who knows where of one or another snapshots frozen in time.

There are some things I won’t do. If you’ve been listening to Magma for a long time, you’ll know the band has been fluid in membership. I won’t get into that. I also won’t get into some of the other things that have been occasionally swirling around the band from time to time. I’m being circuitous, but that’s because this will be the only time I even hint at this. It’s not of interest to me, it’s got no bearing on my enjoyment (or occasional lack thereof) of their music, and it will simply not come into play.

And with that, I’ll cut this installment off, and leave you waiting for one week, when we start things off for real in the only way that makes sense…a look at their 1970 debut double album, Magma/Kobaia.

I hope you’ll join me.

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