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Magma - Magma [Aka: Kobaļa] CD (album) cover





4.05 | 413 ratings

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4 stars I'm not entirely sure why Magma's debut LP is sometimes called a Jazz Rock album. It's true the horn section gives the music a looser, jazzier vibe, but make no mistake: this is unadulterated Zeuhl from the first note to the final coda...repetitive, structured, and totally unnerving.

The music lacks the macabre Teutonic intensity of later Magma classics. But even with the outspoken Coltrane influence it's a poor fit in the Fusion cubbyhole, and weird enough to need an imaginary word in a fabricated language to describe it. The album might pass for traditional Jazz on planet Kobaļa, but here on Earth this is alien stuff, even more so when suddenly grounded by pastoral flutes and the unexpected acoustic guitar at the top of Disc Two.

Never mind the tongued-tied, extraterrestrial song titles (and how are we supposed to pronounce a word like "Sckxyss", anyway?). What's actually being fused here is an operatic blend of classical references, jazzy accents, and an Avant-Rock eccentricity any fan of early Zappa or The Residents should immediately recognize.

Pick a track at random, and prepare to be (happily) confounded. The neo-classical beauty of "Naü Ektila", interrupted at intervals along its 13-minute length by thrilling passages of syncopated piano-and-sax mayhem. The shrieking introduction to "Stöah", sung (not the right word) like an inmate in Bedlam shredding his fingernails on the infirmary chalkboard. And after 82-uneasy minutes the album ends (in "Mūh", a song title sounding like a heavy object hitting the back of your head) with cliff-hanger abruptness, chanted as always in that coarse but compelling and otherworldly tongue.

In a single word: bizarre?and promising further madness to come. This was an album not only ahead of its time in1970, but totally outside of it.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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