Magma — Köhntarkösz
(Seventh Records REX VIII, 1974/1988, CD)
by Rob Walker, Published 1995-11-01
For the recording of Köhntarkösz, the Wurdah Ïtah quartet was augmented with two keyboardists and a guitarist, giving the band a much more flexible lineup. With Vander and Jannik Top also contributing keyboards, the band is able to create some of the most intricate and dynamic music ever recorded under Magma's name. Vander unquestionably reaches his compositional peak here, fulfilling the musical goals he'd been exploring since the first album. The epic title track, split in half over both sides of the album, is the embodiment of everything that makes Magma's music so remarkable. Melodically sublime and harmonically unfathomable, the music is dark and intensely fierce while maintaining a sense of ethereal beauty and haunting mystery. The simple three note ascending motif, which serves as the unifying element of the piece, is supported by countless harmonic and rhythmic variations, allowing the most repetitive element of the music to also be the driving force in the development of the composition. The voice continues to evolve as the primary melodic instrument, here avoiding lyrical content and simply singing syllables a majority of the time. The emphasis is now clearly on the music as the main vehicle for the Kobaïan narrative, the specific details of which have understandably become much more enigmatic. The two short companion pieces on this album, closing out each side as a sort of coda, presumably each highlight some element of this story. On "Ork Alarm" Jannik Top uses his cello combined with dramatic vocals to create a dark and frantic mood which rises to a furious climax. Contrasting that is Vander's "Coltrane Sundia," which closes out the album with a beautifully peaceful acoustic piano and guitar theme.
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