Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best Magazine 1973 - The Superb Return of Magma

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    The “Underground week” organized at the end of May by “Le Souterrain” and “Rock pas gaga” at the Ba-ta-clan closed with Magma and Zao.
    Zao is that band formed by Francis Cahen, who was Magma’s pianist until the summer of 72. He is supported by another former Kobaian, Jeff Seffer on saxophone. Jean-My Trunong is on drums, plus a violinist and a powerful black lady on vocals. During his tenure in Magma, Cahen provided the most warmth to the band – in the jazzy sense of the word. He seems to be carrying on the same trail with Zao’s music. Zao plays long numbers, dominated by a repetition-induced hypnosis, but tempered by the flexibility and underlying swing which the singer conveys. Thus, Zao managed to create beautiful moments as the sax and violin improvised freely while the very efficient rhythm section and the piano-vocals alloy continued to kick in. The Ba-ta-clan audience therefore witnessed the promising début of a band which, we hope, will survive amid the French desert.

    In his usual opening address, Giorgio Gomelsky pointed out that this venue, Magma’s first concert in Paris, one year to the day after the last one, had attracted a large audience, testifying to the encouraging existence of a permanent crowd of supporters.

    Now, to the show: both the band’s pillars are still there, Christian Vander seated like a king behind his drum kit and Klaus Blasquiz, Magma’s voice, standing next to a table with several different percussion instruments at hand. Klaus Blasquiz and Christian Vander are now backed by a bassist, an organist and a pianist. Surprise! The guitar player is a familiar figure, Claude Olmos, who played in many a French band, including Alice. Another worthwhile novelty: one to three female singers – according to the number performed. In line with the band’s dual direction, the show was split in two parts: the first part provided a chain of long or shorter pieces, such as “Soï Soï Soï”, which illustrated the band’s steadiness and the soloing abilities of such and such. For instance – as commonplace as such a statement can be – Vander’s long solo was breathtaking. One seldom hears such a bewitching build-up of some kind of a hammered melody, just to be violently and unremittingly destroyed. That first part confirmed the richness of Magma’s contrasted repertoire, mingling sudden changes of keys and comings and goings between the heart of Africa and that of Europe. But the second part, fully dedicated to the grand “Mekanik Kommandoh” (and I mean grand), really took us to higher ground. A long and a marvelous piece: first the introduction, then the wait, the momentum, then the buildup, then heat, and finally fire… “Mekanik kommandoh” by Magma is truly one of the greatest things ever heard by any international musical ensemble. Choruses are superbly used, pressed ahead in their paroxysmal race by the instruments, led by the drums. It is a now fully-matured piece of work, to which one hopes that the audience will respond with equal maturity. Magma battles on against incomprehension. Let us hope that this Ba-ta-clan concert, which never once verged on the abstruse, will participate in bringing them victory. Anyway, Magma’s weapons are more impressive than they ever were.

    Christian Lebrun