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Thread: Magma - where to start ... recommended albums / tracks for a newbie?

  1. #1

    Magma - where to start ... recommended albums / tracks for a newbie?

    OK - so I've finally jumped in and bought the Köhnzert Zünd box set, but although I like their stuff in general, I know very little about Magma & their history.

    There is so much stuff in this box set & presumably in their studio albums - none of which I own - that it's all a bit overpowering!

    So ... where to start? Should I listen to this lot in a particular order / which dics are the highlights & do I need to listen to some of their studio albums first?

    I know that the journey is going to be fun - I just need advice on which route to take.

    Also, any good / easy to digest "History of Magma " books worth having / are the Mythes et Legendes DVDs decent audio / video quality - oh, and does anyone have a good web link for "An idiot's guide to Kobaïan"?

  2. #2
    There's an extensive amount of allsorts information about them available online, from shallow fanboy reports to hardcore academic analysis, highbrow criticism and praise in equal portions - so there shouldn't be a problem in digging. Magma were/are the underground progressive rock cult phenomenon to speak of from the "golden age", and the more you engulf yourself the more you come to understand that.

    Studio albums to check out for starters: Köhntarkösz (1974), 1001* Centigrades (1971), Wúrdah Itah (1974), Attahk (1978) and K.A. (Köhntark Anterïa) (2004). If you enjoy [U]any[/U which one of those, you'll eventually want to hear their entire output.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
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  3. #3
    Option 1 :
    Chronological , this gives you a good idea over the development of Zeuhl and the first one is kind of important to understand the Magma Saga if you want to dig deeper
    Option 2 :
    Start with MDK , the essential Magma record and explore from there
    Option 3
    Choose randomly and enjoy
    Option 4
    Try to see them in concert or get the mythes et legendes live at Le Triton DVD series. Always impressive to have the visual aspect of Magma
    Last edited by alucard; 01-07-2019 at 10:54 AM.

  4. #4
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    It might be easier to start with some of the later live stuff on the tube, and the work yourself backwards.
    Except from Merci and the Bobino period, everything is rewarding if you give it the time (and even those have qualities).
    Dont expect to get Magma the first couple of listnens, but when you are there...

    The tracks here surfaced in 1975 and 1976.


  5. #5
    I believe the best way in is via Kohntarkosz or Udu Wudu. My first serious exposure to Magma was Mekanik Destruktiv Kommandoh, and that put me off for quite some time. The brass/crazy operatic voices extravaganza was a bit too much for my stomach. I still think that MDK - despite parts of insane glory - is a marred masterpiece because of this reason.

    It is surprising how long it took me to really connect with Magma on the sentimental level, the gloom and force of the music did not appeal easily to me, although I understood their greatness on an intellectual level.

    And then, listening one day to Kohntarkosz's magnificent intro, it suddenly made sense. Then it wasn't a band that someone else dictated how great they were. Then I began to connect on my own and love the music, and the man (why not?) behind it.

    Nowadays the perverted, underrated disco/funk/fusion/gospel masterpiece that goes with the name of Attahk is my most played Magma record.

  6. #6
    NEARfest Officer Emeritus Nearfest2's Avatar
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    I always felt that "K.A." was a good entry point. Some of the classic stuff is pretty hardcore. "K.A." is a bit more melodic and polished, but still excellent.
    Chad

  7. #7
    I hope this may help- I wrote it for Sea of Tranquility:

    https://www.seaoftranquility.org/sec...icle&artid=281

    PS. No question, start with Hhai Live.
    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  8. #8
    I'm going to suggest that you ignore what everyone has said on this thread so far, and decide what you like best in the box set, then come back with a "what's most like..." type of question.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    I hope this may help- I wrote it for Sea of Tranquility:

    https://www.seaoftranquility.org/sec...icle&artid=281

    PS. No question, start with Hhai Live.
    ^ I know did, and it worked for me
    Then I went to India for half a year (with 3 tapes and a walkman, with HHAI taking one side of the 6 sides)
    Then I came back to find my friend raving about MDK which I tried and just couldn't get my head around for a long long time.
    But of course then it just clicked and the rest is history (major fanboy here)

  10. #10
    That "Intro to Magma - The First 20 Years" looks perfect - thanks!

    And many thanks for all comments so far .... I guess my main problem / confusion is in trying to map which studio albums are covered across the 12 live albums in the box set, when I don't recognise any track names. Time for some homework!
    Last edited by zzorchering; 01-07-2019 at 12:11 PM.

  11. #11
    I started with MDK, and that honestly put me off for awhile, I thought it was boring and repetitive, especially since I was very new to the style of music and had yet to "get" it. I put the band off for a little bit, and then I believe I tried Wurdah Itah, and that one sealed the deal. There's much more variation on that album than in MDK while still maintaining the classic Magma feel, and I've been obsessively hooked since. As for the live disks, Retrospektiw I-II and Magma Live Hhai/Kohntark are immaculate. There are also some tracks only played live that haven't been recorded in studio, such as Theusz Hamtaahk, Retrovision, and Lihns. The Live Hhai/Kohntark discs have different names for songs because of some copyright issue, Kohntark is Kohntarkosz and Kobah is Kobaia. Enjoy it all, Magma is a bottomless pit of enjoyment.
    A vie, a mort, et apres...

  12. #12
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazz2896 View Post
    Magma is a bottomless pit of enjoyment.
    sigworthy !

  13. #13
    Here's my suggestion: don't start with Merci. It was recorded in 1984, and it sounds like it, too. Everything you know about what happened to Yes, Genesis, ELP etc during the 80's (e.g. pop song arrangements, drum machines, etc) applies to Merci. It's a decent record, for what it is, but if you're looking for zheul, this isn't the place to go.

    I always liked the in the 2003 NEARfest program, in the band's biography, where it's noted that Merci had a more mainstream sound, but any success it would have generated as a result was undercut by the fact that it was a concept album about death.

    Beyond that, I'd say good starting point would be K.A. and/or Köhntarkösz. Köhntarkösz Part Two, the studio version, was the very first thing I ever heard by Magma, and it immediately turned me into a fan. But I've been told "different" (Relayer was my first Yes album, and it had a similar effect on me) so it may not work as effectively for you. (shrug)

  14. #14
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    not surprising that you're getting a bunch of different answers here, Magma really are that kind of band. once you listen to the first few CDs of that boxset things will become a bit clearer, I think

    all I can add is that despite being their most famous album, MDK is really not a great starting point. I don't think its particularly better than their other 70s discs but it does veer into one particular aspect of Magma's sound that might put off a newcomer.
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  15. #15
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAMOOL View Post

    all I can add is that despite being their most famous album, MDK is really not a great starting point. I don't think its particularly better than their other 70s discs but it does veer into one particular aspect of Magma's sound that might put off a newcomer.
    I agree with this completely.
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  16. #16
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    Personal choice based on what is in the box I'd go with

    Hhaï live (1975) remastered
    Köhntark

    followed by

    Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy (Le Trianon 2000) remixed

    then move onto

    Retrospektïw 1-2-3 (1980) remastered

    lastly

    + 2 CDs (Zelekt Zünd) audio from the Mythes et Légendes DVDs (Le Triton 2005 & 2011) remastered
    + 2 CDs from the Alhambra concerts in Paris, 2009 unreleased
    Ian

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  17. #17
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Some worthwhile reading about the band on this page:

    https://www.gepr.net/ma.html#MAGMA

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    Studio albums to check out for starters: Köhntarkösz (1974), 1001* Centigrades (1971), Wúrdah Itah (1974), Attahk (1978) and K.A. (Köhntark Anterïa) (2004). If you enjoy [U]any[/U which one of those, you'll eventually want to hear their entire output.
    ^ This.

  19. #19
    Estimated Prophet notallwhowander's Avatar
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    So, Hhaï Live didn't light the spark for me, so I don't know if I am in any way typical. I dove straight into the deep end and bought the three-disc box: Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogy (Le Trianon 2000). This did light the spark for me. It took me a few years to digest the set and move on in my explorations, but I'm devoted now.

    However, if you want to do it a little cheaper, take 40 minutes and watch one of the sets on YouTube.



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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    I hope this may help- I wrote it for Sea of Tranquility:

    https://www.seaoftranquility.org/sec...icle&artid=281

    PS. No question, start with Hhai Live.
    This was super handy, and a nicely written and passionate synopsis of an initially daunting discography- thanks for that!

  21. #21
    I started with Üdü Wüdü, simply because it was the first one I found. I turned out fine, but I don’t know if I’d recommend someone else start with that one, especially since we have a lot more options these days than “wait for one of their albums to turn up at the record store.” I agree that Attahk really is a good starter; short, catchy songs, yet still contains everything that makes Magma Magma.

    Of course, you could also take the “trial by fire” approach and dive in with MDK, their most fully-realized work, if not necessarily their most accessible (do note the six minutes straight of Christian Vander screeching like a crazed maniac in the second half). Then again, having heard some of their live work already, you’re primed for this. You’ll be fine.
    Confirmed Bachelors: the dramedy hit of 1883...

  22. #22
    This was super handy, and a nicely written and passionate synopsis of an initially daunting discography- thanks for that!
    Thanks! My take: if there is one composition that epitomizes Magma more than any other, it is Kohntarkosz. I think Vander views it as his masterwork, much more so than MDK, and for me it is the point of reference around which all other Magma revolves. There is so much going on in the composition- the fact that Vander never ever plays on the beat, so it is disorienting- you need to pay close attention to his drumming, as it is truly amazing, no matter what version you listen to. I honestly believe this is the song to introduce people to Magma.

    This version is great:
    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  23. #23
    Champion of Nothing Nicky Cupcakes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    Thanks! My take: if there is one composition that epitomizes Magma more than any other, it is Kohntarkosz. I think Vander views it as his masterwork, much more so than MDK, and for me it is the point of reference around which all other Magma revolves. There is so much going on in the composition- the fact that Vander never ever plays on the beat, so it is disorienting- you need to pay close attention to his drumming, as it is truly amazing, no matter what version you listen to. I honestly believe this is the song to introduce people to Magma.

    This version is great:
    Magma is a band that's been on my "to listen to" list for a while now. I had never given them any dedicated time because I feared I would find it impenetrable - what little I've heard has been enjoyable musically, but knowing that a story is unfolding in lyrics that I can't understand always turned me off.

    However, the end of that song was amazing (I listened to the studio version, not sure if this particular live version differs) and leaves me wanting to hear more.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Nicky Cupcakes View Post
    Magma is a band that's been on my "to listen to" list for a while now. I had never given them any dedicated time because I feared I would find it impenetrable - what little I've heard has been enjoyable musically, but knowing that a story is unfolding in lyrics that I can't understand always turned me off.
    I think you'll soon get used to it now you've made a start. The energy, vibrancy and soul of Magma's vocals connects with me more than those of most bands singing in English, regardless of the fact that I only ever have the vaguest idea what they are singing about.

    I'd echo those who suggest Kohntarkosz as a point of entry to the studio albums.
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  25. #25
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Or just jump into maximum suspense & power:



    Or get insane trying to count the rythm here at 4:25 and even crazier from 6:00


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