AMN Reviews: Magma – Ẁurdah Ïtah (Remaster) (2017; Seventh Records)

Magma has slowly been traversing its back catalog over the last several years, remastering its older and classic releases. Ẁurdah Ïtah is the latest of such efforts.

The album was initially released under Christian Vander‘s name as the soundtrack to Yvan Lagrange’s film Tristan et Iseult. It consisted of Vander on vocals, piano, and percussion, his wife Stella Vander on vocals, Klaus Blasquiz also on vocals, and Yannick Top on bass. About 15 years later, it was re-released as a Magma album and is considered to be the second part of the band’s Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogy. The stripped-down lineup provided a sparser, yet still distinctive, representation of Christian Vander’s compositional style. Notably, the phrasing is forceful and Wagnerian, but in a chamber rather than orchestral sense. Thus, this is perhaps the least jazz-oriented of any early Magma effort, though liberal use of overdubs makes Ẁurdah Ïtah sound bigger than its quartet.

So, how does this remaster compare to the original? Overall it is clearer, in that it is easier for the listener to focus on each individual instrument.  This is particularly noticeable for Stella Vander’s vocals, which often get buried in the original mix. Also, a muddiness present in the rhythm section tracks is gone. The result is a punchier, more distinctive mix that allows the listener to further appreciate subtle instrumental interplay.

Perhaps most importantly, this remaster includes 25 minutes of unreleased material entitled Ẁurdah Ïtah Prima Materia. Recorded in early 1972, this single track served as the demo for the album.  Even more sparse than the 1974 recording, and without Stella Vander, the focus is on the male vocals (overdubbed), piano, and bass.  Percussion is mostly absent and when present drums are replaced by shakers and other more subtle instrumentation. The vocal phrasing diverges a bit from that of the formal album, as Vander and Blasquiz seem less sure of the words, slurring them from time to time. Some might think that enunciation doesn’t matter when one is singing in Kobaian, but it does make a notable difference.

While not absolutely essential, 2017’s Ẁurdah Ïtah is recommended for both collectors and more casual fans. The former will appreciate the raw energy of the demos, while the later will find much to like in the remix.