Magma (band)

Magma (band)

Magma performing live in Strasbourg, France, 2007
Background information
Origin France
Genres Zeuhl, progressive rock, avant-rock, jazz fusion, art rock
Years active 1969–1983, 1996–present
Labels Seventh
Christian Vander
Stella Vander
Isabelle Feuillebois
James MacGaw
Benoit Alziary
Herve Aknin
Bruno Ruder
Philippe Bussonnet
Past members
Francis Moze
Jannick Top
Klaus Blasquiz
Didier Lockwood
Bernard Paganotti
Benoît Widemann
Teddy Lasry
Himiko Paganotti
Antoine Paganotti
Emmanuel Borghi

Magma is a French progressive rock band founded in Paris in 1969 by classically trained drummer Christian Vander, who claimed as his inspiration a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future" that profoundly disturbed him. In the course of their first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans — descendants of the original colonists — encounter other Earth refugees. Vander invented a constructed language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung. In a 1977 interview with Vander and long-time Magma vocalist Klaus Blasquiz, Blasquiz said that Kobaïan is a "phonetic language made by elements of the Slavonic and Germanic languages to be able to express some things musically. The language has of course a content, but not word by word."[1] Vander himself has said that, "When I wrote, the sounds [of Kobaïan] came naturally with it – I didn’t intellectualise the process by saying "Ok, now I’m going to write some words in a particular language", it was really sounds that were coming at the same time as the music."[2] Later albums tell different stories set in more ancient times; however, the Kobaïan language remains an integral part of the music.

Considered by many to be musically adventurous and imaginative, Magma makes extensive use of the choral format, their album Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh being particularly reminiscent of the classical composer Carl Orff, while Ẁurdah Ïtah reveals connections to Béla Bartók's piano music and "Les Noces" by the Russian master Igor Stravinsky. Magma's music is also highly influenced by jazz saxophone player John Coltrane, and Vander has said that "it is still Coltrane who actually gives me the real material to work on, to be able to move on."[3]

So many of the musicians who have played with Magma have formed their own solo projects and/or spinoff acts that the Kobaïan term Zeuhl has come to refer to the style of these bands and the French jazz fusion/symphonic rock scene that grew around them. Besides Christian Vander, other well-known Magma alumni include the bassist-composer Jannick Top and Daniel Denis, the founder of and drummer for the Belgian group Univers Zero.

In 1986, the French label Seventh Records was founded in order to (re-)publish Magma's and Vander's work. Over the years, Seventh has also released albums by related artists like Stella Vander, Patrick Gauthier and Collectif Mu.[4]



Excludes numerous compilations. The compilation "Spiritual" is pirated material lifted from other albums. Magma sees no profit from either this recording or from releases by the Charly and Tomato labels (primarily "Üdü Wüdü" and "Live/Hhaï").

Studio albums

Other material

  • 1972: The Unnamables (studio album released under the alias 'Univeria Zekt')
  • 1975: Live/Hhaï
  • 1977: Inédits
  • 1981: Retrospektiw (Parts I+II)
  • 1981: Retrospektiw (Part III)
  • 1986: Mythes Et Legendes Vol. I (compilation)
  • 1989: Akt X - Mekanïk Kommandöh (earlier studio recording of Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh from 1973)
  • 1992: Akt I - Les Voix De Magma (From August 2, 1992 at Douarnenez)
  • 1994: Akt IV - Theatre Du Taur Concert, 1975 (From September 27, 1975)
  • 1995: Akt V - Concert Bobino 1981 (From May 16, 1981)
  • 1995: Akt VI - Concert Bobino 1981, DVD
  • 1996: Akt VIII - Bruxelles 1971(From November 12, 1971 at Theatre 140)
  • 1996: Akt IX - Opera De Reims, 1976 (From March 2, 1976)
  • 1998: Floë Ëssi/Ëktah (EP)
  • 1998: Simples
  • 1999: Akt XIII - BBC 1974 (From March 14, 1974 at the London BBC studios)
  • 2001: Trilogie Theusz Hamtaahk (Concert du Trianon), CD + DVD
  • 2006: Mythes et Légendes Epok 1, DVD
  • 2006: Mythes et Légendes Epok 2, DVD
  • 2007: Mythes et Légendes Epok 3, DVD
  • 2008: Mythes et Légendes Epok 4, DVD
  • 2008: Akt XV - Bourges, 1979 (From April 17, 1979)
  • 2008: Studio Zünd: 40 Ans d'Evolution (12 disc box set, includes Kobaïa to K.A. plus Archiw I & II)
  • 2009: Live In Tokyo 2005

Discographic notes

Magma's Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy is composed of three movements : Theusz Hamtaahk (first appearing on the Retrospektiw (Parts I+II) album), Ẁurdah Ïtah, and Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh.

The Köhntarkösz trilogy is composed of K.A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria), Köhntarkösz and Ëmëhntëhtt-Rê (originally presented in snippets on bonus tracks on the Seventh Records CD reissues of Live/Hhaï and Üdü Wüdü).

The Unnamables was recorded as Univeria Zekt and is widely considered to be an easier listen than most of Magma's recordings.

Ẁurdah Ïtah may technically be a Christian Vander solo project, in that it was composed entirely by him, bore his name during its original release as the soundtrack for the film Tristan et Iseult, and did not feature all of Magma's then-current musicians. It did bear the Magma logo, however, and Vander has referenced it as a Magma album.

After Hhaï, the focus shifted away from the spiritual/epic poem aspects of their music. Although the songs of Attahk and Üdü Wüdü are written in Kobaïan, it is not yet fully clear how these fit into the earlier story structure Magma had built. Several songs from these two albums, however, are incorporated in Ëmëhntëhtt-Rê.

Les Voix and Floë Ëssi/Ëktah were performed by Vander with a completely new lineup. The style is somewhere between the classic Magma sound and the more jazz-influenced music of Vander's post-Magma band, Offering.

Inedits is a bootleg quality recording with live performances of pieces that were, at that time, not previously recorded on studio albums. Many of the tracks, however, have now been given a matured, polished version as parts of 2004's K.A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria), although the Inedits compilation, much like the early studio Mekanik Kommandoh, remains of historical interest to die-hard fans, interested in the genesis of Magma's compositions.

Simples is a compilation of Magma's rare single releases, including several epics reworked to a length and degree of simplicity that the band had originally hoped would garner them radio airtime during the 1970s. Magma's first four singles were: Kobaia/Muh (1970), Hamtaahk/Tendei Kobah (1971), Mekanik Kommandoh/Klaus Kombalad (1972), Mekanik Machine/Kohntarkosz (1974), the five in italics being compiled on Simples.

Kohntarkosz Anteria or K.A. is the first recording of a lengthy work written 30 years before, bridging the gap in the Kobaïan saga between MDK and Kohntarkosz. Magma's lineup was different for this disc; the only original members were Christian and Stella Vander. Reviews were almost unanimously positive, many considering K.A. the equal of any of the '70s classics.

Ëmëhntëhtt-Rê also features music largely written during the mid-1970s, especially Zombies (the extended, live version of which included what became Part III of the 2010 album), Hhaï and two earlier segments released as Ëmëhntëht-Rê (Announcement) and Ëmëhntëht-Rê (extrait 2)(note spelling difference).

Critical reception

The band has a number of high-profile fans. Prolific drummers Zach Hill and Ian Mosley have cited Christian Vander as their favorite drummer. Punk rock singer Johnny Rotten[5] and prolific metal musician Kristoffer Rygg[6] have both stated that they're huge Magma fans.

In the 1980s, British born World champion snooker player Steve Davis declared himself a passionate follower of the band since his youth and used some of his winnings to promote a series of concerts by Magma in London.[7]

Antoine de Caunes wrote a biography of the band. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has often admired Magma and recently mentioned Magma as the best concert performance for the decade (2000–2010).


External links

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