The Bodhisattva Beat
Music and Life

Magma: Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré

Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré: 2009

Magma being what it is, comparisons to other bands often don’t apply. Even at its weakest, this band outdoes most others, at least on a creative level. So Magma can only really be judged against Magma. The other thing to consider is that the “Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré” concept is not exactly fresh. Portions of it have appeared on other albums, and have been performed live for years now. So, should this really be considered a “new” album? I have decided to say yes. The way I see it, Christian Vander finally got around to completing something that he had been working on for a very long time. The familiar segments have been tweaked, gaps have been filled in, and new music composed to balance the whole. The wait was definitely worth it, because this could be magma’s best album. Those who know will understand that is no small statement.

I already know that after reading that last statement many will say, “What about Kobaïa, Köhntarkösz and especially Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh?”  Indeed, classics all. The difference is that these were made in the era of extreme experimentation, which is also a large part of the appeal. The pure energy of the creative juices that were flowing still resonates to this day. Many other artists have embraced Zeuhl as their genre of choice since then. At this point, what was once experimental has now been honed over time. No one has done a better job of perfecting it than its creator. The original vision has been streamlined to such an extent that it is now on the level of the opera it was originally intended to emulate. This is not to say it is really that much more accessible to a mainstream audience (however more palatable), but the execution in on par with most major symphonies. Just because I made that comparison, don’t think the other aspects aren’t there. There is still a strong jazz element, blistering bass, and of course Christian’s virtuosic drumming.

Christan Vander, along with Stella, have once again gathered amazing group of musicians. Some are new, and some have been on the scene for a while now. It is obvious from listening that many hours were spent in the studio to get everything just right. The accompanying DVD bears this out. There are many segments of take after take being done for just a few seconds of music. Most people probably wouldn’t even have noticed the difference. Vander channels Zappa at times with his perfectionism, but he is not alone. The other musicians also often ask for another take, saying they can do it better.

I won’t go into the concept, as it can only be understood by doing some research, or by being able to read French. Honestly, that has always been the case with Magma. No one else on earth actually speaks Kobaïan (the language Christian Vander invented for Zeuhl to be sung in). Better to just let the music stand for itself.

This incredibly innovative form has now been brought to another level. I am in awe every time I listen to it. Every base is covered. There is delicate poignancy, and the most challenging complexity. And let’s not forget the vocals. The choruses are masterfully arranged and executed. All the voices are in top form, but Christian and Stella are still the standouts. The only difference being that these days they have traded in the shrieks for mastery of the craft. Even the repetitive parts hold my interest. It is just that good. The majestic beauty and precision of  “Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré” has never been matched (at least in Zeuhl), and will be hard to beat. It is an instant classic, and my choice for best album of 2009.

Tauhd Zaïa (Stella Vander) –  voices, percussion
Enör Zanhka (Isabelle Feuillebois) – voices
Staiïss Ësslëhnt‘ (James Mac Gaw) – guitar
Gëhnohr DüGohnn‘ (Philippe Bussonnet) – bass, piccolo bass
Hervé Aknin – voices
Benoît Alziary – vibraphone
Bruno Ruder – Fender Rhodes
Zebëhn Straïn dë Geuštaah (Christian Vander) – drums, voices, piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, percussion

Venux Deluxe (Francis Linon) – recording, mixing, and mastering

Also Featuring:
Emmanuel Borghi – piano
Himiko Paganotti, Antoine Paganotti, Claude Lamamy, Marcus Linon and Pierre-Michel Sivadier – voices




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5 Responses to “Magma: Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré”

  1. Great review, HT! I haven’t heard the album yet, but I’ll be sure to get it as soon as possible. Micky is quite a big Magma fan, so it will be a worthy addition to our collection. BTW, yesterday I signed up for the Patron Program at NEARfest. Can’t wait for June to come!

  2. Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré was a wonderful experience, I’m glad it proves a surprise even for the usual suspects er.. I mean fanbo… Fans, that’s the word! It was so, in the sense that I was in trance from the first listen (something that can obviously be called “love at first hearing”). Otherwise, while it’s much more darker, and brings forth some classic fragments like “Hhai” and “Zombies”, I think I ultimately like K.A. more – although it has to do with the moments that are similarly blissful, if even a bit more.

    One interesting remark came both from James and Alex (harmonium.ro), on PA, who attended Magma’s concerts (before the release of the album), and felt afterwards that the studio itself is not exactly the same (obviously, not refering to the formal surface, but deeper into the chemistry). Nevertheless, they both find the album excellent, so I’m not sure anymore how to interpret their sayings.

    Anyway, I also picked it as the best of the year – one too mediocre year in prog and its branches, for me to be able to choose between this and something of the same calibre.

    • Ugh…I meant “it proves a surprise for others than the usual suspects…”. Didn’t revise my comment.

      • I understood you Viktor. I can also see the point about the live performances. I saw them do some pieces of this at NEARfest, and it was wonderful. But Magma live is an experience in itself. You can’t help but get wrapped up in that energy. Rarely can that be conveyed in the studio. That’s why I focused on the painstaking workmanship that was put into this.

        I actually found a lot of really good stuff this year, but this is way above the rest.


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