Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stephen Patterson's Story of "How I Discovered Magma"

This is how I, Stig, 26, from North East England, discovered Magma...

In 1989, I was six years old. Much to everyone's surprise, not least my own, I put down my Nintendo controller and took a surprise interest in my father's vinyl collection. Vast amounts of gorgeous cardboard covers housing music I neither knew existed nor slightly understood. His taste was (and is) reserved yet quite diverse, with bands like Rufus, Average White Band, Weather Report, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Steely Dan, Buckingham Nicks era Fleetwood Mac nestling together quite happily. I came across a record which felt, to the touch, slightly different from the others, rough and old, with drawings of Old English characters on it - it was 'A Trick of the Tail' by Genesis. I will never forget the first time I heard the opening section of 'Dance on a Volcano', with dark and light smashing together. Utilising all my six years of acquired knowledge and wisdom, I guessed this album was recorded centuries ago, and this was what the cool kids were doing in the middle ages.

Of course, my poor grasp of history was quickly corrected, but that revelation set me on a track I have not stopped following. That the music I would seek out would need to be challenging, well developed, evocative and timeless.

Growing up amongst the explosion of Grunge, and later Britpop, I was completely out of touch - deep in exploration of Genesis, King Crimson, Gong, Mike Oldfield, Van der Graaf Generator, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Steve Reich, Can, Neu, Faust and all of the projects and groups that surround the outer and inner circles of this bloated and undefinable genre that is progressive music.

If you are reading this, then I'm sure you've been to a record fair or two. I travelled to London when I was 16 to visit some friends and on a spare afternoon found myself in Greenwich, at a small record fair in a church. I dashed for the jazz, prog, canterbury, psych, kraut - (words which collectively mean 'interesting' to me) - skimming the many covers I knew so well to find that one Gentle Giant or Henry Cow record I had been searching for - there was a strange man hogging the space, velvet jacketed with experienced eyes and ears, he asked the vendor something along the lines of:

"I'm looking for Magma, I've looked everywhere. Do you have ANY Magma? I'll buy anything you have by them"

Never underestimate how intriguing a stranger at a music fair wanting something VERY badly can be. He was asking everyone and this was a small fair. A band I'd never heard of? Stirring such interest in this man? I started skimming the boxes ahead of him and couldn't find anything, but one guy had a live album called 'Hhai'. I sighed. I hated hearing live albums as an introduction to material and especially a new band, but I couldn't pass it up.

I returned with a number of records from that fair, and as I knew nothing about Magma, they were at the bottom of the pile. In that pile, I was first exposed to 'Ceux de Dahors' by Univers Zero, 'The Power and the Glory' by Gentle Giant and 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' by Brian Eno and David Byrne. I loved them all. Could this live album by a band I knew nothing about possibly live up to this excellent set of purchases?


It's one of those moments where your perception of something is just *very* slightly altered and will never, ever be the same again. Kohntarkosz struck me as music painted with an entirely different palette, a set of colours I had never heard, and the energy. Masses and masses of pure fucking energy. I'm not talking about dense arrangements, heavy distortion or fast tempos - this was palpable energy, ferocity.. without pretension, I almost instantly felt the world around the music - The musicians flow effortlessly on and around the grid, but what a rigid grid it is. This is Jazz, I thought - but with almost hidden structure. What is presented to an audience of virgin ears is chaotic logic with unimaginable beauty.

I could tell you about the first time I heard the Theusz Hammtahk, how I fell in love with Offering, but none are as vital as that first time I heard 'Kohntarkosz'.

Magma iss de Hundin!!!

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