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