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





4.05 | 413 ratings

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4 stars Magma - Kobaia (1970)

Perhaps the most progressive album ever released (on it's time of release)!

For a vinyl collecter like me it's hard to get vinyl versions of Magma and when two reissues of Kabaia and 1001 Centigrats appeared I directly ordered them. Since I found Magma's '75 live album and Attahk I was convinced Magma was a major progressive force that would be a real contribution to my progressive collection.

Later in their discography Magma became known for their dark operatic vocals, dissonant sound, their concept and original structures. Leader of the group, classical trained Christian Vander, is a master of the drum-kit and a lot of the experimentation of the band is created from a rhythmical basis that is highly innovative. On the debut of Magma, which came to be because of Vander who wanted to fill the gap that was created when jazz-musician Coltrane died, a lot of the recognizable Magma-element are present. New for some people will be the jazzy sound of a lot of tracks on the album, which later was less apparent then on the debut. There are also no females choirs, but the striking vocals of Claude Engel and Vander do create that proto-gothic operatic climate.

It's hard to find a band that could be compared to the sound of the debut of Magma, but somehow Soft Machine's Third comes close. Both have a jazz-rock based sound with avant- garde influences, and both are double lps with different disciplines on the four different sides of the double lp.

The recording of this album is acceptable for 1970, but not perfect. Other albums by prog- bands like the Gentle Giant debut, Trespass of Genesis and some others sound slightly better.

It is almost unbelievable how progressive this piece of art is. First of all it's a full double album with 82 minutes of music, contrary to most debut albums that ran for 38 minutes (at the time). Magma is influenced by jazz-rock, minimalistic music, avant-garde, bombastic classical music, Orff music and concept albums. The instruments played are guitar, piano, drums, bass, vocals, saxophones and flutes, trumpets and percussions. On this release there are no electric key instruments, which is quite rare for a seventies prog album.

On side one we get to hear the title song Kobaia. An interesting jazz-rock track with a nice free-jazz instrumental part in the middle section. The dark shouting in this middle section make clear this is a very serious affair. The other two tracks are also very jazz-rock-like, but the avant-garde is introduced during the songs. Side one get's four stars.

Side two is my favorite part of the album. This side is the most progressive rock-like side of the album and has three more then excellent compositions. Sohļa starts with a great atmosphere created by flute and bass. The song is heavy and the instrumental passages change quickly and abrupt. Every note is inventive here and the climate is very intellectual. The emphases on the rhythmical dominance during the track (and the other two tracks on this side) is very strong and shows Vander as a genius who knows how to use his experiences as a classical trained percussionist to create atmospheric progressive music. Sckxyss is a short track that keeps the progressive climate running, whilst Auraė shows how much ideas one can use for just one song! Again rythmical and dissonant melodies that create a hard to digest, but very rewarding composition.

Side three is a bit more easy going. The side begins with mainly relaxing and beautiful Thaud Zaļa with some acoustic moments and nice flutes. Naü Ektila is an up-tempo jazz- rock track with some improvisational freedom. The drums are very expressive.

Side four is the avant-garde moment of the album. If you survived the test till now, you will now find that a this last phase of the album is very hard to digest. The atmospheres are quite abstract and the music is sometimes minimalistic, abruptly changing in bombastic and never constant for a long time. Some parts I really like, but since I've only listened to this album about five times, I don't understand all parts of the tracks presented. Fans of avant- garde should never miss this out however.

Conclusion. As said before, one of the most innovative and thus progressive albums of prog-history. The music is hard to get into, but very rewarding. Furthermore it's one of the most brave offerings of music of this period of time. Almost no catchy moments, no likable choruses, no open sound. Since the album is not yet perfect I will not give it the five star rating, but to understand the progressive genre in it's completeness you'll have to have this album! Therefore it is a must have for fans of eclectic prog, Zeuhl, jazz-rock and avant-garde. Four stars.

friso | 4/5 |


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