For almost a half-century, Magma has influenced dozens of bands (Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, etc.), spun off several others (Weidorje, Zao, etc.), invented their own language (Kobaian), and created a unique category of music (Zuehl). While they were not the first jazz/rock-oriented group to combine those influence with classical music, their remain one of most notable and idiosyncratic.
Count me amongst the few Magma fans who prefers the version of the band that emerged in the late 1990’s over that of the original, classic lineup on the early 1970’s. That said, if you’re still reading, this new EP is still well-worth your time and money.
Apparently, Magma’s leader, Christian Vander, was never satisfied with the original 21-minute arrangement of Rïah Sahïltaahk that appeared on 1971’s 1001 Degrees Centigrades. Thus, over 40 years later, he has set out to rectify the situation.
And the result? There are plenty of familiar passages throughout this 24-minute version. However, Vander has broken up the original single-track piece into seven separately-named tracks. Also gone are the horns of the 1971 recording, notably the distinctive bass clarinet of Yochk’o Seffer. In the place of the brass and woodwinds, we get guitar, vibraphone, and female vocals. All in all, not a bad tradeoff.
But when listened back-to-back, a few textual differences become apparent. The 2014 version is tighter, less jarring, and not as abrupt or shrill. This is probably due to the said lack of horns, as well as Klaus Blasquiz not taking part in the recording. In the balance of Vander’s influences, Coltrane wins out over Wagner, despite omission of the saxes.
Also, due to modern technology, this EP has a cleaner, clearer mix than the original. Regardless, the soulful joy that is Magma at its best shines through into the digital era. One of the band’s better efforts of their modern incarnation.