Magma: Félicité Thösz
What an amazing thing it is when a classic, innovative band like Magma decides to kick the career back into gear. The reboot can be traced back to K.A. (a.k.a. “Köhntarkösz Anteria”) in 2004, and blossomed with “Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré” in 2009. I will concede that these were both finalizations of previously unfinished works. What can’t be ignored is what a masterpiece “Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré” turned out to be. The bar was raised extremely high and would have been a good choice for the final act. It would seem that Christian Vander is not yet ready to retire either personally or the band that has inspired some, baffled many and scared even more.
For me any new Magma is a blessing. There are some albums I like better than others but none disappoint. “Félicité Thösz” was giddily snapped up from the vendor’s table as soon as it caught my eye. Noticing that the running time was just a bit more than half an hour was the first clue as to what the CD contained. Clearly there was no intention of an attempt to top or even match the previous release. The music inside also proved to be something different. As different as one Magma piece can be from another, that is.
Apparently some of my friends had the privilege to hear “Félicité Thösz” performed live during the last tour. The consensus seemed to be that it was good, only a not quite as exciting as might have been hoped. I played it for the first time while driving through the mountains of Pennsylvania and instantly fell in love. No, it’s not as exciting as “Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré” or even “K.A.”, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
In my last Magma review I spoke of how mature and the polished the original Zeuhl sound had become. That remains true even if the music itself is not as intense. Don’t be fooled at the beginning by “Ëkmah.” The lighter side of Magma dominates this album. Much of the time the music is actually uplifting. Anyone who knows the bulk of the Magma catalogue shouldn’t be all that surprised. Remember “Spiritual” from “Attahk”? As crazy as it sounds, “Félicité Thösz” is a feel-good Zeuhl album. All the proper elements are in place with the exception of darkness. Stella’s vocal on “Tëha” may have just been inspired by a sunrise. Seriously! Sorry gloom and doom fans. Vander does what Vander wants and it sounds like he’s happy.
Perhaps because of the positive bent the music is not as challenging as what some fans may demand. At times pure Zeuhl even gives way to more recognizably symphonic composition. Just because this could be Magma’s most accessible release to date doesn’t change the fact that it is still more complex than 99% of everything else released this year. I get it. Most of what my friends and I have been currently raving about isn’t exactly tunes to skip in the park by. Well, this isn’t that either. It does however make me smile.
Put aside all expectation and just enjoy. What is expected from Christian Vander et al is perfectly crafted music that sounds like nothing else. That is what “Félicité Thösz” provides in a tight little package. And it is honestly, dare I say, fun. Is there really such a thing as bad Magma?
Stella Vander – chant, choeurs, tamborin
Isabelle Feuillebois – chant, choeurs, grelots
Hervé Aknin – chant, choeurs
Benoît Alziary – vibraphone
James Mac Gaw – guitare
Bruno Ruder – piano
Philippe Bussonnet – basse
Christian Vander – batterie, chant, piano, clavier
Featured on “Les Hommes Sont Venus”
Stella Vander – chant, choeurs
Isabelle Feuillebois – chant, choeurs
Hervé Aknin, Sandrine Destefanis, Sylvie Fisichella, Marcus Linon – choeurs
Christian Vander – clavier, glockenspiel