Home > Music > Magma – Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré (2009)

Magma – Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré (2009)

53% new material!

Not that it really matters. Despite being one lengthy song, I can still recommend that this be a person’s first Magma album. For those people who end up listening to it first, there’s no familiar material from the band’s mid-1970s work to diminish (for a hardcore zeuhl fan, read as ‘massively increase’) the apparent value of this album. Technically, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré is a series of several songs from that general period of the band’s career, but the tracking of the CD does not reflect this – the album is split into four movements that, unlike on many previous albums by the band (Köhntarkösz not included), do not generally correspond to one ‘song’. Everything is gapless, so if I had mastered the album, I would probably have put everything on one track.

Enough about the technical details of the CD. Magma’s general condition in the 2000s is best described as “resurgent”, and Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré is the perfect example of this. Magma hasn’t changed their signature sound – jazz fusion with operatic vocals (MDK and Wurdah Itah are actually outliers in that they are more martial sounding). However, everything sounds better than before – this album has better production and mixing than Magma’s ’70s work (which was generally quite well produced in its own right), and the Vanders have decades more experience with arrangement under their belt to inform their decisions.

Arrangements are important; Magma is all about their songwriting, which separates them from some of the more improvisation driven jazz fusion. Compared to Köhntarkösz (and partially owing due to its pseudo-compilation nature), the songwriting on this album explores a greater variety of moods and ideas. It’s also more vocal driven – with a smaller percentage of its runtime devoted to improvisation and chaotic buildup, soloing, etc. This is particularly notable if you’re familiar with other recordings of the songs on here – “Hhai”, for instance, has gained dozens of lines of lyrics since its first formal appearance on Live/Kohntark back in 1975, and the first half of the first track (“Announcement”) is at once richer and more polyphonic than it appeared on said album. Obviously, the reduced soloing makes these arrangements more repetitive and ‘ritual’ than usual, but for someone who’s looking to dive into the vocals, pianos, drums, bass (the basic elements), this is probably acceptable compromise. Hardcore fans have probably fought crusades over whether the instrumental work of such Magma alumni as Didier Lockwood and Teddy Lasry makes the recordings they’re on the definitive versions.

You’ve probably noticed the references to all these rerecordings by now. Yes, Magma is one of those bands. They can get away with it because the jazz-oriented nature of their music leads to revolving ensembles and therefore significant changes in sound every few years. The way the band plays the material on this album is probably different from how they play it at the time of this writing, amongst other things. Christian Vander has a tendency to heavily revise the songs he writes. The aforementioned “Announcement” initially contained a section of droning ambiance after its iconic vocal introduction, whereas on here, it transitions into ‘Rinde’, which first appeared on Attahk (released in 1978). See what I mean about recycled material? It almost makes this album count as a compilation of rerecordings, but as I said earlier, the content is fundamentally good, and arranged with new material in a way that enhances it. It’s definitely a reasonable way to start listening to Magma.

 

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