19 July 2010

Magma Monday 4: Theusz Hamtaahk

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 re
lax as we take a look at Theusz Hamtaahk, the 3 CD boxed set of Magma performing the Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy at the Triannon theatre in Paris on 13/14 May 2000.

As I think back on the trials and tribulations I went through in deciding to finally purchase this set, I wonder what exactly was wrong with me at the time. After all, we are talking about someone who didn’t blink some 10 years earlier at spending 40 to 50 dollars US for copies of three Renaissance albums that were only available and in print in Japan at the time (but that’s a story for another post)…nor did I have issues with spending close to 30 dollars a piece for 2 of the 4 Mythes et Legendes DVDs a couple years later. Hell, I didn’t even have a problem spending the 65.00 US at the time to purchase a copy of Kenso’s Live in USA DVD (a price that’s now up around 80.00 thanks to exchange rates).

But the Trilogie boxed set…for some reason, that would be a totally different story.

The 3-CD boxed set came out in 2001, and I’d become a covert to the cause, as it were, 2 years later. At NEARfest 2004 I started looking seriously at the boxed set, thinking to myself ‘Self, here is a way to get three Magma albums you don’t yet have, in one fell swoop, and get live takes on them as well. Buy!’ And I would pick it up, turn it over…and then put it back down. The same thing happened in 2005. And then again in 2006…at least through the first 2 bands. Finally, before Riverside took the stage, a friend of mine pulled me aside and said ‘Bill, if you don’t buy that (redacted so as to not offend sensitive eyes) Magma boxed set right now, I’m going to take your wallet and buy it for you!’

Suitably chastened, I bought it. And I didn’t regret it. Of course, I then proceeded to leave the boxed set in the theatre and had to run back in to get it, nearly running over a somewhat surprised Mike Portnoy, but that’s neither here nor there, and realistically is one of those stories for another time yet again.

Let’s take a look at the set, in case you’ve never seen it:

My box is sadly a little crushed these days, having survived but barely 2 moves in about 2 years. But it’s a glossy little box, a little larger than the mini-LP style sleeves inside. The Magma logo is gold foil stamped on the front, the back is printed with a list of the material presented within, and the spine is printed to look like three of the Seventh Records jewel cases, one for each disc. It’s a classy looking boxed set, to be sure.

Inside the box are two booklets. The smaller features photographs from the performances, as well as track listings and performer/production credits. Had this set come in a jewel case, this would be the basic liner notes booklet. It is the second book that is far more interesting, as it is the libretto for the performance; all the lyrics to Theusz Hamtaahk, Ẁurdah Ïtah and Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh, in their original Kobaian, for your reading and singing along pleasure. Sadly there’s no translation, but that’s just as well, as these are albums intended to be listened to as is, with the listener being moved by the sounds of the instruments and the voices of the singers.

Each of the three albums inside are encased in sleeves of similar design, with a treated band photo in differing primary hues. No track listings are included on any of the three albums, though a list of who plays on each release is includes inside the gatefold, with tiny pictures of each musician next to their names. Everything fits fairly firmly in the box; there’s not a lot of room for things to slide around a lot.

The performances are the area most readers are going to be interested in, and I have to say that at the time I purchased this, these are preferred recordings for me. As time has gone on I think other performances have eclipsed at least one of the three suites (Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh, for which I prefer currently the Epok II DVD), but the rendition of Theusz Hamtaahk in here is still the one I reach for when I am in the mood for that particular piece. Of course, it usually follows that I want to hear the rest of the trilogy in succession by that point, so this boxed set still gets a lot of play.

I don’t want the above paragraph to imply that the performances of Ẁurdah Ïtah and Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh are poor here; I do think that a few more years of playing together leads the band to be much tighter, their playing more telepathic and powerful, on the Epok DVDs filmed at le Triton. However, when one considers the length of time this particular band had been playing this particular set of material, the performances here are nothing short of astounding. It’s only been in the last 10 years, really, that Magma has become more of a constant focus for Christian Vander again, but in 2000, to have a band convene for a series of concerts playing this material to the level of quality here is amazing. Vander’s playing is as impressive as ever, and there are reasons James Mac Gaw and Philippe Bussonnet remain essential parts of Magma to this day. I do rather wish that the encore material from these shows ('Hhaï') had been included, but as it’s not part of the trilogy, I can accept their exclusion.

As I look back, nearly 10 years on from the release of this set of concert recordings, I can state that there are perhaps better places for a Magma fan new to the band in a live context to dig in. There are none quite as inclusive for the same price, however, and once you factor in the libretto of Kobaian lyrics (and believe me, it does help in some of the faster sections to understand what words are being sung, even if you don’t understand the words), there aren’t many places that are as ‘user friendly’ as this. I just wish I had picked up the box sooner :-)

Join me again next week for another trip back into the Magma Vaults, as we look at the bonus discs packed in to the recent Studio Zünd: 40 Ans d'Evolution boxed set. As always, thanks for spending some of your Monday with Magma and me, and I’ll see you next week!

CD 1 - First Movement: Theusz Hamtaahk
1. Malawëlëkaahm − 6:28
2. Sëwolahwëhn Öhn Zaïn − 6:42
3. Dëümb Ëwëlëss Dölëhn − 3:52
4. Zeuhl Wortz − 2:28
5. Gorutz Waahrn − 3:15
6. Tü Lü Lï Ë Üi Dü Wiï − 1:08
7. Se Lah Maahrï Donsaï − 2:31
8. Slibenli Dëh Theusz − 5:21
9. Zortsüng − 3:09

CD 2 - Second Movement: Ẁurdah Ïtah
1. Malawëlëkaahm (Incantation) − 4:21
2. Bradïa Da Zïmehn Iëgah (L'initié A Parlé) − 2:35
3. Manëh Fur Da Zëss (Ensemble Pour Le Maître) − 1:42
4. Fur Dï Hël Kobaïa ( Pour La Vie Eternelle) − 5:38
5. Blüm Tendiwa (L'Ame Du Peuple) − 5:49
6. Wohldünt Me¨m Dëwëlëss (Message Dans L'étendue) − 3:08
7. Waïnsaht !!! (En Avant !!!) − 3:11
8. Wlasïk Steuhn Kobaïa (Ascension Vers L'éternel) − 2:44
9. Sëhnntëht Dros Wurdah Süms (la Mort N'est Rien) − 6:00
10. C'est La Vie Qui Les A Menés Là! − 4:32
11. Ëk Sün Da Zëss (Qui Est Le Maître) − 2:37
12. De Zeuhl Ündazïr (Vision De La Musique Céleste) − 6:11

CD 3 - Third Movement: Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh
1. Hortz Fur Dëhn Stekëhn West − 10:16
2. Ïma Sürï Dondaï − 4:13
3. Kobaïa Iss Dëh Hündïn − 2:07
4. Da Zeuhl Wortz Mëkanïk − 7:20
5. Nebëhr Gudahtt − 7:39
6. Mëkanïk Kömmandöh − 8:05
7. Kreühn Köhrmahn Ïss Dëh Hündïn − 1:30
8. Da Zeuhl Wortz Waïnsaht (Hymne De La Zeuhl Wortz) − 1:53
9. Untitled (Joyeux Anniversaire) − 5:41

Christian Vander − Drums
Emmanuel Borghi − Piano
Stella Vander − Vocals, Piano, Percussion
Antoine Paganotti − Vocals, Piano
James Mac Gaw − Vocals, Piano, Guitar
Claude Lamamy − Vocals
Jean-Christophe Gamet − Vocals
Julie Vander − Vocals
Isabelle Feuillebois − Vocals, Percussion
Philippe Bussonnet − Bass
Fred Burgazzi − Trombone
Ronan Simon − Trombone
Benoît Gaudiche − Trumpet
Yannick Neveu − Trumpet

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