Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review - Magma, Wetland, New York - 1999

From the Village Voice. Girogio's comment at the end of the article is really funny because Magma ended up playign at the Knitting Factory in both 2001 and 2003.


Explaining Magma to nonbelievers is likely to prompt much eye-rolling. OK, there's this prog band, they're French, and they invented their own language. (Kobaian, the better to express an endearingly anachronistic futurism centering around the outer-space Eden of Kobaia.) But any doubters at Wetlands last Tuesday got their asses whupped. At their first NYC appearance in 26 years, Magma put on a dazzling display— ridiculously ambitious, utterly in control, rocking as hell. Lengthy pieces— they played four songs in about 90 minutes— ended in enormous, ecstatic crescendos. Drummer, founder, and guiding spirit Christian Vander— whose portly frame, ruddy face, odd hair, and facial contortions made him resemble a monk gone to seed— seemed tentative as they opened with "Köhntarközs." But the piece combusted after about 20 minutes, or roughly the halfway point. Later the seven piece— drums, keys, guitar, bass, and three vocalists— had fans singing along. In Kobaian. Less obsessive onlookers marveled at an emotional and spiritual expressionism rarely associated with prog.

Perhaps even more than other '70s Euro art rockers, Magma make for difficult description. Not jazz, though Vander's a Coltrane freak; not rock, though the guitar and bass are miles more wrenching than fusion; certainly not classical, despite the pomp and the "operatic" vocals. The singers wrung arresting choral effects from hisses, whispers, frantic chanting, and baroque wails. When their melodic lines doubled the keys or guitars, it maximized the high-end impact— a good thing, given Vander's attack and the brawny bass lines slammed out by Philippe Bussonnet. One beauty of Kobaian is that since the language is inaccessible, all attention is focused on the overall sonic richness. "It is not music for short attention spans," went Giorgio Gomelsky's introduction. "Anyone with a short attention span should go to the Knitting Factory." At the merch booth, $30 brass belt buckles depicting Magma's bat-wing esque logo sold out. Sun Ra, wherever you are, eat your heart out. Jon Fine

1 comment:

  1. I attended this Wetlands show. It was, in fact, a "dazzling display"...disturbingly good, almost hypnotizing. Yes, I got my ass "whupped" at this one alright. Big time.

    I recorded this one and The 2003 Knitting Factory NYC show as well. Note: I am not the long-time DIME member as noted in the Sugarmegs post. Actually, I am happy to trade any of the many shows I recorded.