30 August 2010

Magma Monday 9

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 something special and a little unique…I won’t reveal it in these opening paragraphs, so please read on to find out what our focus is this week.

So, I admit that I can get out of the loop somewhat.

Case in point:

You may or may not know that above and beyond having a large collection of albums and CDs, I was once a collector of what are known in the trade as RoIO’s…Recordings of Indeterminate Origin. Lots of people call these pirate recordings, which is a misnomer as they aren’t copied from anything that was officially released. Some people call them bootlegs, which I tend to feel still refers to the same thing…a bootleg copy of an official release. In any event, these are concert recordings, often stealth taped, though in some cases bands will either allow board feeds, or a board tape will leak due to a less than honourable person working the recording or mixing desk. Currently sitting on one of the hard drives in my PC are 72 separate Magma concert recordings, dating back to 1970 and all the way up through 2008 or so. Not a large collection, by any stretch of the imagination, but a decent one.

What does this have to do with being out of the loop?

Well, read on.

Last night I was reading through the Kohntarkosz blog (I’ll post a link at the bottom)…something I’ve not had much chance to do recently. As I read back, unto June posts, I came across something that caused my eyes to bug out just a touch. The headline read as follows:

Now on (website name redacted) - Magma - The KA Rehearsals – 1973

*insert picture of Yr. Obd’t Blogger’s eyes bugging out*

Now, I knew that the KA material dated back that far…it was, after all, intended as the first movement in Magma’s second trilogy, leading into Köhntarkösz and finally into Ëmëhntëhtt-Rê. And while I am not surprised that excerpts from the demos and studio sessions exist (after all the same exists for Wurdah Itah and Mekanik Destruktiw Kommanndoh), I’d not necessarily heard of them existing. So finding out that they do, and are now out and about in the wild, was enough of a surprise to me to merit a little bit of sleepless night until I could get them…ahem…acquired.

The fact that I am writing about them here obviously should infer that I do have a copy now.

There’s a lot of music here that will sound incredibly familiar. Tracks 1 and 3 feature a good bit of the opening sections of the first movement of KA, and the melodies, rhythms and vocal arrangements already sound very well formed, to the point that sections that featured solo male vocals do so here too. The biggest difference, I think, is the use of organ versus just piano or Fender Rhodes. As pointed out elsewhere, Magma stopped using organ sometime in 1973, but it was still part of their current battery of instruments. I don’t know that I’d ever really accept organ in Magma just because it is such an alien instrument to the sound I am familiar with, but it does add a fullness and richness that might have otherwise been somewhat missing. We then shift into about a minute of the opening to the second movement, and here the organ makes far more sense. This is massive sounding, dark and eerie and almost evil. There’s a presence in this piece that the final studio release simply cannot match. We get 2 takes of this section, the longest lasting just under 90 seconds, but again, all the familiar elements are here.

‘Les Musiciens du Bord du Monde’ follows, excerpted from the second movement of KA as well. This is the longer vocal section with piano backing. Again I am amazed at how much of this was already formed and ready 37 years ago. I do wonder why we couldn’t have seen it released then…

It seems an odd point, this, to have a break in things. But we’re moving into a second section of the set of demos, and it makes sense. For the first 7 tracks (5 musical, 2 studio chatter), bass was handled by a gentleman named JP Lambert. By the time we get to ‘Om Zanka,’ a more familiar name took over the bass chair in Magma…a guy named Jannick Top. While I can’t complain whatsoever about Lambert’s bass playing, the difference between him and Top is like that of night and day.

‘Om Zanka’ opens the third movement of KA. Rhodes chimes away, and Top’s bass flows from the speakers like some slithering primordial beast. This is a brilliant sounding excerpt (a version of this piece would appear on Magma’s Inedits album from 1977 with Bernard Paganotti on bass) with great Vander drumming and quiet vocals. Again, melodies are in place, arrangements are already pieced together, and really, it seems to have only been a matter of time before the whole piece could have been assembled. Much like KA I and the intro to KA II, we get two takes of this track, showing slight differences in positioning of cymbals, differences in how bass parts were played, et cetera, around the finalised structure.

The next major excerpt on this set of demos is ‘Gamma Anteria + Alleluia,’ nearly 8 minutes of the third movement of KA leading toward the end of the suite. The organ parts are an interesting addition as they have been throughout this set of demos, and again we are seeing a piece that is so very close to what Vander finally did when releasing KA in 2004. The vocal lines are markedly different, yet retain enough familiarity to see where they were eventually going to lead. Much like ‘Om Zanka,’ a version of ‘Gamma Anteria’ was released long before the whole suite was finished; it too was included in 1977’s Inedits album, this time with JP Lambert playing bass. This is one of the more enlightening pieces on this set, simply because of the differences wrapped around the familiar core. Like most of the recordings here with Top on bass, sound quality is very, very good.

The set is closed out with 2 takes on the ‘Alleluia’ section of Movement III, totaling just under 2:30. This is followed by a 12-minute take on Movement II, made up of ‘KA II’ and ‘Les Musiciens du Bord du Monde.’ This is perhaps the most telling section of this set of demos, as we have what is essentially a complete movement here to compare to the final studio version. I love the stately manner and grace of the 2004 rendition, while being unable to deny the sheer energy and power of this 30+ year earlier version.

For someone like me, a fairly new (in the grand scheme of things) Magma fan, things like this are amazing for the insight they give into the creation of this music. They also make me a little sad, knowing how close we came to seeing this album out over 30 years previous. Would it have impressed as much then? It’s so hard to say. I’d like to think it would have, but at the same time, part of the power of KA is the fact that it was ‘new’ Magma released 20 years after their previous studio album. New material or not, it was proof positive that the band remained vital and desiring of new success, and that’s something we’d never have gotten had the album been finished in 1973. A bit of a catch-22, really…

You’ll notice that I’ve redacted the name of the website these are on. It’s easy enough to find, as I’ve provided all the clues you need to find them yourself. I won’t entertain requests for them; I have said that this blog will not have downloads or share out music, and I won’t be starting here. However, they are out there, and as such I feel they are fair game to discuss. Find them at your own discretion.

KA (1973) - 01 - KA I (9:16)
KA (1973) - 02 - Discussion (2:12)
KA (1973) - 03 - KA I (9:23)
KA (1973) - 04 - KA II (Intro) (1:03)
KA (1973) - 05 - Discussion (0:55)
KA (1973) - 06 - KA II (Intro) (1:28)
KA (1973) - 07 - Les Musiciens du Bord du Monde (8:36)
KA (1973) - 08 - Om Zanka (3:27)
KA (1973) - 09 - Transition (0:17)
KA (1973) - 10 - Om Zanka (2:45)
KA (1973) - 11 - Transition (1:39)
KA (1973) - 12 - Gamma Anteria + Alleluia (7:49)
KA (1973) - 13 - Discussion (0:05)
KA (1973) - 14 - Alleluia (0:29)
KA (1973) - 15 - Alleluia (1:57)
KA (1973) - 16 - KA II (6:31)
KA (1973) - 17 - Les Musiciens du Bord du Monde (6:04)

Total : 1:03:56

Kohntarkosz is, for me, the best English language source for Magma and Zeuhl info. If you’ve got me bookmarked or subscribed to, you should do the same for Marc’s blog! Find it here:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool to see how the "Allelujiah" sections fitted in to later versions of Kohntarkosz, for example!