Home > Music > Magma – Kobaïa (1970)

Magma – Kobaïa (1970)

folderThe striking thing about Magma’s debut (self-titled or named “Kobaïa” depending on what pressing you have) isn’t that it’s rather more standard jazz fusion oriented than the band’s later albums. If you want to guess, give the Christian Vander penned tracks a few more listens; I can wait.

Back? Good; a lot of my fans get stuck in the bottomless tiger traps their second time here. Vander’s material for this album anticipates Magma’s future in a way I wasn’t expecting when I first listened. On the other hand, Kobaïa is still more of an ensemble effort than most Magma albums, although Vander’s collaborators sometimes rose to play considerable roles in the band’s direction. The difference here is most likely that someone like Teddy Lasry has a different idea of what constitutes “zeuhl” than, for example, a Jannick Top, although how much of that is up to it not really having been invented by 1970 is up for you to decide.

The existence of this album does help reveal that Magma’s direction didn’t burst forth from nothingness. The first thing you’ll note is the emphasis on rock instrumentation and supporting brass. These earlier incarnations of Magma pull on a greater variety of instruments than later ones, with one crucial exception – vox here are usually rather basic. No massed choirs here, and the actual mixing pushes the (admittedly prevalent) singing towards the background. While this album doesn’t sound like later ones, as previously mentioned, some of the songwriting here is notably similar. “Auraë”, in particular, often feels like a prototype for the militant, regimented work that I most strongly associate with Magma. The other side of this is that Magma never fully abandoned their usage of jazz elements in their music, so if you ask me, it’s just the emphases that make Kobaïa come off as a radically different experience.

With this in mind, the best and most pointed criticism of Magma’s debut I can make is that it sometimes comes off as haphazard in comparison to what would follow. This is a double album from a band that tended towards single albums, and some editing might’ve come in handy. In general, things aren’t as rigorously planned and thought out as they are on later albums, but that does mean that the later stuff incorporates fewer ideas and could possibly drive them further into the ground than fits your tastes. This might be a bit more general of a trend for musicians than just Magma, but it is very important to note, especially if you’re new to the band and are looking for an entry point.

Highlights: “Aïna”, “Auraë”, “Nau Ektila”


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