AMN Reviews: Magma – Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré (2009; Seventh Records)

220px-Magma_-_Ëmëhntëhtt-RéMagma‘s second studio album since their rebirth in the late 1990’s, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré includes studio versions of studio and live pieces that the group has been playing since the mid-1970’s. For instance, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré I combines Ëmëhntëht-Rê (Announcement) from the Live/Hhaï and Rindë (Eastern Song) from the Attahk, while Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré II is based on Ëmëhntëht-Rê (Extrait n’ deux) and Zombies (Ghost Dance) from Üdü Ẁüdü, as well as Hhaï from Live/Hhaï.

Nonetheless, the recordings on this release are a reworking of those older compositions, with new material and a more modern approach. In contrast to the previous Magma lineup, Antoine Paganotti is replaced as lead male vocalist with Hervé Aknin, and Benoît Alziary on vibraphone is added. The centerpiece of the recording is the 22-minute Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré II, which features a powerful vocal workout from Aknin and female vocalists Stella Vander and Isabelle Feuillebois. Notably, the song structure is deceptively complex, but contains no shortage of catchy hooks. The last third of the song exhibits new versions of the pieces from Üdü Ẁüdü, in the form of chants.

Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré III, the other long piece, initially slows the tempo to an intense simmer, before building up to a crescendo. Like many Magma tracks, the vocals serve as additional instruments, rather than vehicles for words per-se. The remaining shorter tracks round the album out, with Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré I and Funëhrarïum Kahnt both containing dirges. As a consequence, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré is darker than 2004’s K.A., but no less vital.

Note: This is a retro-review for an upcoming Magma retrospective. Stay tuned.